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Learning to Make Baleadas and Pastelitos with Clinica Esperanza

P1010895My name is Elizabeth and I am volunteering at Clinica Esperanza as a nutritionist and registered dietitian (RD). I work in different rural communities collecting weight and height data from children and I also provide nutrition consultations to clinic patients. I was able to come to Roatan through the Canadian government and a grant bestowed to Partners in Education Roatan (PIER).

Clinica Esperanza really offers a well-rounded experience for volunteers. In addition to patient care and clinical experience, the clinic organizes social activities, potlucks, and events to learn about Roatan culture. Last week, a local staff member at the clinic taught a group of volunteers how to make baleadas and pastelitos from scratch. Baleadas and pastelitos are both a large part of Honduran food culture.

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A basic baleada consists of a tortilla wrap with refried beans, cheese, and cream. It can also include other ingredients such as chicken, egg, or avocado. A pastelito is a fried or baked  pastry filled with savory meat or sweet jams, it can be likened to an empanada. Around the clinic, there are many nearby restaurants that sell baleadas and pastelitos at very volunteer-friendly affordable prices! A baleada usually costs between 15 to 25 lempira or USD$0.75 to $1.25.

Irma, a Clinica Esperanza employee, started our baleada-making class with a large mound of flour. She added baking powder, vegetable shortening, and salt, then she slowly added water while kneading the dough. With so much experience, Urma never uses a recipe. She is able to know the correct amounts of ingredients just by feel and touch. It was as if she was cooking straight from her heart.

She separated the dough into balls of approximately two inches in diameter. The dough needed to sit for 10-15 minutes and then each ball will become one tortilla wrap. Now comes the tricky part! Flattening the dough requires a special technique of slapping the dough back and forth between your hands. Irma was able to do this so quickly and easily; however, after we attempted this technique, we realized it’s more difficult than it looks! I dropped the dough on the ground and another clinic volunteer dropped her dough in the garbage by accident!

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The flattened dough cooks very quickly on a pan. Afterwards, we were able to spread whatever ingredients we wished onto our tortilla wrap and after folding the wrap in half, voila! Delicious baleadas!

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In addition, Irma also showed us a dessert-style pastelito. Opposite to the deep-fried savoury type of pastelito that I had tried, this dessert pastelito was filled with caramelized pineapple and baked to mouth-watering perfection. I took a few pictures of these dessert pastelitos. Guess which ones Irma made and guess which ones the volunteers made… Hmm…

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Thank you so much to Clinica Esperanza for organizing such a fun cultural experience for volunteers. To learn more about my experiences volunteering in Roatan and discovering its food culture, you can follow my travel blog here: http://DietitianInRoatan.wordpress.com

– Elizabeth Lee, RD, Vancouver, Canada

4 comments

  1. Pingback: Making Baleadas and Pastelitos | Elizabeth Lee, RD

  2. Lauren Israel - September 12, 2013 8:53 pm

    I’m making baleadas tonight for our group that came to work at the Clinic. I searched the internet on how to make them and then remembered this great demonstration/instructions. Can’t wait to make them! Thanks for this 🙂

    • kelly - September 12, 2013 9:15 pm

      Have fun Lauren, say “hi” to everyone from us here at the clinic. For one week next week we have zero short-term volunteers, we are missing all the help!

  3. Leigh - September 13, 2013 4:37 pm

    This night was so much fun! Great write-up Liz. I will eat Irma’s baleada’s any time… but next time I will try to not accidentally throw one in the garbage can while trying to make the tortilla part 🙂 oopsies. #gettinwildwithbaleadas