Tuesday, September 10, 2013

La Empanada Llama

We can officially add Peruvian cooking to our list of favorite ethnic eats. Just last week I got I got a chicken empanada from La Empanada Llama lunch stand at the Empire State Plaza. That empanada was so memorable that I had to track down the restaurant and share my find with J. 

I remember reading about the new La Empanada Llama storefront located in the Crestwood Plaza in Albany (same plaza as Spinner's Pizza) and can't believe I didn't make it a point to stop by earlier. J and I got to the place a little before closing time and and the restaurant was sadly empty except for the life size stuffed llamas. We decided to order a small feast to go which seems to be the norm vs. dine-in. 

Since empanadas are the specialty, we ordered one of each kind: beef, chicken, chorizo, and spinach and cheese. For little hand pies, these puppies were packed with flavor. The dough is light and flaky yet not too greasy from being fried. J's a "meatatarian" and the spinach and cheese was his favorite.  My favorite was the chorizo and cabbage empanada, which was different from the bright red and spicy Mexican chorizo that I'm normally use to. I was taken aback by the bites of raisins in the beef empanada but the sweetness worked so well with the spiced beef, corn and rice filling. As for the chicken, I can see why it's a Farmer's Market bestseller. It's cooked in a traditionally aji amarillo sauce, a Peruvian yellow chilli pepper, that is midly spicy but not as sharp as jalapenos. It's a good starter empanada, even for my co-worker who normally isn't adventurous and she loved her first time trying something new. Needless to say, not one bite of any of these empanadas was disappointing. It was a good balance of flavorful filling to crust. What we discovered is that there's so much more to La Empanada Llama than its signature empanadas.

J and I thought we should round out our dinner of empanadas with something a bit more substantial and added a small order of chicken stew. I didn't expect much but was surprised with how light the flavors of white wine and cilantro were. Maybe it was forgotten, but a side of rice would have been a nice accompaniment. 

Lastly, just for kicks we added an order of pork tamales. Tamales are one of my favorite things to get at Mexican places; even the frozen Trader Joe's ones are a hit in my book. I was expecting a corn husk but was so surprised to find the tamale wrapped in banana leaf! I'm no stranger to banana leaves since it is also popular in Vietnamese cooking and it was nice to see it used here. Banana leaves impart a distinct grassy, floral flavor and made this tamale all that more unique. This is probably one of the most unique finds I've come across in awhile, at least here in Albany. 

Let's not forget about dessert. We ended on a sweet note with a slice of flan that was not too sweet and a nice eggy custard. I was expecting Peruvian flavors to be similar to Mexican flavors but found it to be much more distinct. I'm loving discovering new flavor profiles and authentic flavors, and can't wait to try more. Plus all the llama decor is just too fun and adorable, how can you not stop in?! -R


No comments:

Post a Comment