These small fried beef empanadas are quick and delicious. They can be served as an appetizer or an afternoon snack. Use wonton wrappers as a delicious shortcut.
By Denise Browning
Thinking of something quick to make for your next get-together or party? These fried beef empanadas (pastel de carne) will both save you time and make your guests quite happy. The secret for preparing them quickly is to use wonton wraps instead of making the dough from scratch.
In my home country of Brazil, traditional fried beef empanadas can have either a half-moon shape (often used for the smaller sized empanadas) or an envelope shape (typical for the jumbo size). They are one of the most popular pastries to serve as party appetizers, as well as for quick snacks. Beef empanadas are available from street vendors (where they are frequently served with chilled cane sugar), at cafés, bakeries, and specialty shops known as pastelarias (empanada shops).
Although the origin of empanadas (pastéis) is controversial, there is strong evidence that points to Asia, meaning that empanadas likely developed from Chinese eggrolls and Japanese gyozas. Both were adapted to whatever ingredients were available in Brazil during World War II, and then sold by Japanese immigrants and their descendants, beginning in the state of São Paulo. They were such a hit that they quickly started being marketed both at empanadas shops (pastelarias) and at street markets all over the country.
- 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
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- ¼ medium yellow onion, small diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound ( 454 g) lean ground beef, thawed
- Salt to taste (about ¼ to ½ teaspoon)
- ? teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar or fresh juice of ½ lime
- 2 Tablespoons chopped green olives (optional)
- 2 Tablespoon chopped cilantro or parsley
- 1 (12-ounce or 340 g) package wonton wraps
- 1 large egg white
- Enough vegetable oil for frying
- In a medium non-stick skillet, heat the oil and sweat the onion over medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionaly. Add the garlic and let cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionaly (NOTE: The purpose is to cook the onion and garlic, NOT to brown them). Increase heat to medium-high and brown the ground beef, stirring every now and then. Stir in both the salt and pepper, and then the tomato paste. Stir in the vinegar or lime juice. Let ground beef cook, uncovered, for about 5-7 minutes or until cooked throughout, stirring occasionally. Stir in the olives (optional) and the chopped cilantro or parsley. Let cool a bit before filling the wonton wraps.
- Place the wonton wraps on preparation surface. Fill each with ½ to 1 Tablespoon of the cooked ground beef mixture and brush the egg white around the edges.
- Overlay another wonton wrap on top on the filling and seal edges well, pressing firmly with your fingers. Using a fork, make a pattern over the edges.
- Heat a frying machine or a heavy-bottom pot to 350 degrees F (about 180 degrees C). If you don't have a thermometer to measure the temperature, dip a small piece of a wonton wrap into the heated oil. If you hear a sizzling sound, the oil is ready. Fry the filled beef empanadas, a few at a time, turning them while frying so that they brown evenly on both sides. The first and second batches will take about 3-4 minutes while the next batches will only take 1-1/2 to 2 minutes to fry because the oil will be hotter. They should be lightly golden and crisp. They will darken further once they are draining on paper towels.
- Transfer empanadas to a baking sheet lined with a double layer of paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Serve empanadas hot by themselves, with ketchup or rosé sauce, or accompanied by guaraná soda, cane juice, or beer.