Empanadas de Mejido: Ecuadorian Sweet Custard and Raisin Empanadas
Growing up in Ecuador, empanadas were usually my go-to street food. Street vendors used to line the streets selling hot churros, sliced green mangoes with salt, raspaditos (shaved ice with a slew of sweet syrups and condensed milk) and other goodies. When my mom ran errands on the weekends and I tagged along, we always gravitated to empanadas when it was time for a snack.
In Guayaquil, my favorite empanada was the Empanada de Viento - a fried variety with a smidge of queso fresco for filling, doused with granulated sugar. However, Empanadas de Mejido, which are popular in the Sierra — the Andes region of Ecuador — have an equally special place in my heart. These empanadas remind me of long car trips from Guayaquil to Quito during school break, when nothing felt better than making a pit stop at a tiny restaurant along the road and ordering some empanadas de mejido, followed by a Fritada (a traditional Ecuadorian pork fry dish) and some Coca-Cola.
Empanadas de mejido are fried empanadas with a sweet and savory filling made of eggs, sugar, cheese and raisins. This filling is cooked down, becoming custard-like and creamy in texture, and though the combination of ingredients is somewhat unexpected, the medley works perfectly together. Once fried, and while still hot, the empanadas are sprinkled with a very generous portion of granulated sugar. Biting into them while still warm is an utter delight: crunchy and flaky on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside.
Give in because it is hard to eat just one!
For the dough:
1/2 pound (2 cups) all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup (2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
For the filling:
8 ounces queso fresco, or any soft, unsalted cheese
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying