So quintessential is the empanada to Chileans that upon visiting Chile, you are likely to be asked, “te gusta la comida chilena, te gustan las empanadas?” (Do you like Chilean food, do you like empanadas?) They are a staple of the national holiday in September, but are eaten year-round, and for many families these are a traditional Sunday meal or a starter before a lunch.
Though many Latin American countries have empanadas, they each have different doughs and fillings. Chile’s empanada dough is wheat-based, and the traditional filling always contains pino (ground beef cooked with onions and cumin). Hard-boiled eggs, olives, and raisins are found throughout, though by request of picky eaters, some cooks will make a few without this or that, depending on taste.
Traditionally, empanadas were baked in a community oven, and people used distinctive patterns of fold¬ing and crimping so they could identify and take home their own. The proper way to eat an empanada is to hold it upright, break off the top cachito of dough and eat it first, using that time to let the empanada vent some of its steam. If it drips down your arm, well, that’s just part of the experience.