Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: Craving for a Great Empanada

Craving – Merriam-Webster defines it as “an intense, urgent, or abnormal desire or longing.”

We all have these bouts of unexplained urges to experience or get a taste of something that may not even be readily available.  In my case, I get these urges almost every week.  From the insane desire to do something totally improbable for anyone deeply tied up in logical & linear thoughts, like feasting on mussels – or its human anatomical lookalike – to an incredible drive to bite into something that is so simple but so flavorful — just like the Ilocos empanada (Vigan and Batac versions).

Yesterday, I got hit by nagging urge to eat empanada.  Much to my disappointment, there were no stores in the vicinity of the office that sells this great snack food.  My hunger had to be sated by Amber’s pancit malabon and pichi-pichi.  Not a bad substitute but the longing for empanada was still there.  The desire to have an empanada was so intense that I decided to start looking for recipes on how to prepare the delicacy from the Ilocos provinces.  I found some links and recipes on some blogs and I think I have mustered enough “courage” to attempt my interpretation of the dish — how hard can it be?

Well, the last time I had the Ilocos empanada, it was last year at the Mall of Asia.  I saw how it was prepared and it appeared simple enough to attempt.  I have to admit though, I am no expert fry cook.  I do well in the dishes with sauces.  I do well with soups.  For some reason, I can never perfect my frying — except for my beef burgers, which are not exactly fried.

The object of my craving...yum

I am thankful that I found a great blog about the empanada.  Clicking through the links, I found out that the most critical difference of the Ilocos empanada versus the commercially available empanada is its use of rice flour instead of the usual all-purpose flour.  I originally thought of doing my attempt to cook this dish using all-purpose flour because I did not know where to get rice flour.  I am convinced that I am destined to cook this; I found rice flour in the baker’s supply store at StarMall on my way home last night.  Now I’ll have one authentic ingredient in hand when I do it.  The PVC pipe roller has nothing to do with the empanada’s orange color – of course, silly – it was all from achuete or annatto seeds.

As for the sausage or longaniza that goes in as filling, I think I will go with the kind sold by Mrs.Garcia meats.  Their longaniza might deliver a close enough taste to the last empanada I ate last year — guesswork.  I can also try the garlic longaniza from Cabanatuan but I don’t know where to get them in Metro Manila.  I have to stick with what I have.

For now, I will try to do some more reading on the dish so I won’t forget anything this weekend.

If I can’t travel all the way to Ilocos, I might as well bring the taste here in my home.  This Sunday I will cook.

Good luck…to me.

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