Today we are heading to Chile to discover their love for a deep fried bread called sopaipilla.
What is a sopaipilla?
A sopaipilla, sopapilla, sopaipa, or cachanga is a kind of fried pastry and a type of quick bread served in several regions with Spanish heritage in the Americas.
A sopaipilla is traditionally made from leavened wheat dough (or a mixture of wheat flour and masa harina) to which some shortening or butter is added. After being allowed to rise, the dough is rolled into a sheet that is then cut into circular, square or triangular shapes. The shapes are 3 to 4 inches in size for the longest dimension (if intended for a dessert) or 6 to 8 inches (if intended to be stuffed for a main course). The shapes are then deep-fried in oil, sometimes after allowing them to rise further before frying. The frying causes the shapes to puff up, ideally forming a hollow pocket in the center.
How are sopaipillas served in Chile?
In Chile, sopaipillas (or sopaipas) are known to have been eaten at least since 1726. Although traditional Chilean sopaipillas (made in the central part of Chile) include cooked ground pumpkin in their dough, this is typically not the case in the South of Chile.
Depending if they are served as a pastry or bread, Chilean sopaipillas are traditionally served with either pebre (a sauce of chili pepper, onion, garlic and cilantro) or boiled in chancaca sauce (a homemade hot syrup cooked with panela, orange peel and cinnamon). The latter are called sopaipillas pasadas. They are also served with mustard, ketchup, hot butter, avocado, cheese or manjar (dulce de leche).
In Chile, sopaipillas are traditionally homemade and eaten during days of heavy rain. They are also enjoying widespread popularity as a street food. Chilean sopaipillas are round and flat, sporting holes pricked through the center of the dough, usually by a fork.
What is the origin of the word sopaipilla?
The word sopaipilla is the diminutive of sopaipa, a word that entered Spanish from the Mozarabic language of Al-Andalus. The original Mozarabic word xopaipa was used to mean bread soaked in oil, and derived in turn from the Germanic word suppa which meant bread soaked in liquid.
Fried bread might not sound like much, but the bit of cooked pumpkin added to these classic Chilean snacks set them apart. Don’t get them confused with the Mexican version, which usually is served with a drizzle of honey. These are generally eaten quickly on the go with a helping of spicy aji.
Party districts, student neighborhoods and markets abound with sopaipillas. Surely, there are Chilean students who have survived on just them and the frequent piscola as well. Also, sopaipillas seem to be the perfect absorbent for your stomach after a night on the town.
Now you can change up the recipe as well. Finding fresh pumpkin is a challenge if you are not living in Chile, so using other squash can also work. Some will forego the pumpkin, but to Chileans that just threatens the legitimacy of the fried dough. In the south of Chile, they tend to use lard, and may switch out the milk for water. This leaves them puffier, and very rich. The key is to play a bit and find what works for you.
The variants of sopaipillas
Even though Chile has its own special variation, sopaipillas are a common food across Latin America. In Chiloé Archipelago and neighboring zones, sopaipillas have a rhomboid form, they are usually sweet and served with jam or honey. They are a relevant ingredient in reitimientos, a traditional feast related to rendering fats after a pig slaughter.
In Peru, the name for this fried pastry is cachanga, and it may be either sweet or sour. Generally prepared during breakfast time, this traditional food of the Peruvian cuisine is prepared differently depending on the region, with one of the recipes involving the usage of cinnamon. The main difference between this form of sopaipilla and the other versions is that they are larger, thinner, and more rigid.
Sopaipillas in New Mexican cuisine are distinct from Latin American sopaipillas. New Mexican sopaipillas are pillow-shaped fried pastry dough. They are typically served as a bread, and used to mop up sauces, scoop up tidbits, or shredded into stews. They often serve as a quick meal by themselves, filled with savory ingredients such as ground beef. They are sometimes eaten as a dessert, drizzled with honey or anise syrup. But are often eaten this same way during the meal itself as New Mexican cuisine tends to be very spicy and sweet syrups reduce the sensations of heat.
Sopaipillas in Tex-Mex cuisine are similar to New Mexican-style sopaipillas, except that they are always served as a desert item, coated with cinnamon sugar and served with honey. Many Tex-Mex restaurants in Oklahoma and Texas will serve dessert sopaipillas as part of the complimentary “setup”: chips and salsa served before the meal, along with sometimes queso sauce, pickled vegetables and flour tortillas and sopaipillas served at the end of the meal.
Little known fact is that sopaipillas and strudel were together designated as Texas’ state pastries from 2003 to 2005!
This is a traditional Chilean snack, or maybe an appetizer. The truth is that it’s a snack eaten during winter time, especially when it rains. It is typical to arrive home after walking through the rainy streets of Santiago and sit down to have a cup of tea and eat a couple of sopaipillas. You can also eat ones sold by street vendors, but they usually don’t taste as good as homemade ones.
A well-made sopaipilla will be crispy on the outside with a softer center. Sopaipillas can be adorned with any number of toppings. The street vendor will likely have pebre (the favorite Chilean salsa). You can also top one with a sweet tasting caramel called manjar.
If Colombians got the arepa and Mexicans for their tortilla, Chileans got the sopaipilla. It is a very simple but a winner recipe. You are going to love these crunchy treats.
Sopaipillas (sopapillas, sopaipas or cachangas) are pumpkin-based flour tortillas fried in oil or butter that are typical in Chile, and have other variants throughout Latin America.
- 1 cup pumpkin purée
- 3 tablespoons butter (or margarine) , melted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ⅓ cup hot milk (not scalded)
- Frying oil
Pour the flour and the baking soda into the bowl of a stand mixer, mix and dig a well in the center.
Pour the melted butter in the center of this well and add the milk, salt and pumpkin.
Knead until soft and stretchy but not sticky.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll it to a thickness of ¼ inch.
Cut circles of 4 inches in diameter and prick them with a fork.
In a deep pan, heat a large volume of oil to 350 F.
Fry the sopaipillas 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Be careful they must be golden, but must not brown.
Place the sopaipillas in a large dish lined with paper towels.