Immediately after tasting the thick, heavy, baked Argentine emapana, my friend took me the real fried version at a local Colombian restaurant, Mi Ama. Like El Gaucho only a few blocks away, Mi Ama was also located in a little strip mall, tucked back in a corner in between a taqueria and a hair salon. Easy to miss, if you don’t know exactly where it is.
Brightly decorated and engaging, but sadly empty for a Friday evening, we had the run of the place as well as the complete attention of the waitress, Loli, who was more than gracious in helping me learn about Salvadorean empanadas. We ordered some juices; guanabana with milk and maracuyá – passion fruit – which were a bit more filling than I wanted but incredibly tasty. The white board menu was calling to me with too many additional items, both Comida Colombian and Comida Peruvian, but we were on a mission and that mission was fried dough.
Made with an imported corn masa, these empanadas were approximately 2 1/2 inches long and stuffed with a combination of mashed potato, beef, and onion, mashed into a purée. Made with a cornmeal crust and seasoned with cumin and annatto, the resulting fried empanada proved to be rich and flavorful although I found the fine grind of the interior to mute the meat flavors, instead of emphasize them.
While the Argentine empanadas are served with a finely-cut vinegary chimichurri sauce of vinegar, parsley and red pepper, the Colombian accompaniment was a chunkier salsa offering that included scallions and more cilantro than I care for. Here sliced limes were also provided to give the acidic component to cut through the grease of the frying, but I didn’t necessarily find it necessary. Loli was very sweet to bring out a container of the filling so we could see how it was prepared as well as the Bijol powder they use for the seasoning and for the anchiote component.
Mi Ama Restaurant
14605 Prairie Ave, Lawndale, CA 90260
425 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014