Brazilian Pastel

Brief History (Click here to original reference)

Pastel is the name given to different typical dishes of many countries of Hispanic or Portuguese origin.

In Brazil, pastel is a typical fast-food Brazilian dish, consisting of half-circle or rectangle-shaped thin crust pies with assorted fillings, fried in vegetable oil. The result is a crispy, brownish fried pie. The most common fillings are ground meat, mozzarella, heart of palm, catupiry cream cheese, chicken and small shrimp. Pastéis with sweet fillings such as guava jam with Minas cheese, banana and chocolate also exist, but are not so common. The pastel is classified in Brazilian cuisine as a salgado (savoury snack). It is traditionally sold on the streets or in fast-food shops known as pastelarias. It is popularly said to have originated when Japanese immigrants adapted Chinese fried wontons to sell as snacks at weekly street markets. A common beverage to drink with pastéis is sugarcane juice called garapa.

So How did it get to Brazil?

Some historians believe it was an adaption of the Italian calzones, others believe it derives from the Indian samosa, which was introduced to the Portuguese earlier, but what most people believe in is that it’s a Japanese transformation of the  Chinese wontons. The fact is that it’s hard to know where it really came from when cultures are part of a melting pot like Brazil! Today Japanese descendants own the most famous pastel businesses in Brazil. They have started their business after escaping from Japan during WWII. Pastel was created as a “cheap snacks” deriving from wontons. Through their “Chinese businesses” Japanese migrants pretended they were Chinese so that they would avoid prejudice, since Brazil and Japan took different political points of view at the time and once they arrived to Brazil.

Recipes (Click here to original reference)

Preparation and Cook Time
  • Prep time: 35 min
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Cook time: 40 min
  • Ready in: 1 hour 15 min

Ingredients for Pastel
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
  • 1 medium onion (minced)
  • 3 green onions (white and green parts, chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 lime (juiced)
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Black pepper (to taste)
  • 5 cups vegetable oil (or amount needed for frying)

For the pastel dough:
  • 3 cups flour (all-purpose)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons lard (or vegetable shortening)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

Chicken Cooking Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, place the chicken breasts with the bouillon and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside, reserving the broth.

Prepare the Dough
  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, vegetable shortening, salt, baking powder, vinegar, egg, and vodka (if using).
  2. Mix 1/4 cup of the reserved chicken broth with 3/4 cup hot water. Gradually add this water mixture to the flour mixture, stirring well.
  3. Add enough liquid to make a dough, and knead dough gently until smooth, adding more liquid if necessary. The dough should be soft and smooth, but not sticky (add more flour if the dough is too wet). Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Prepare the Chicken Filling
  1. Shred the chicken finely (a food processor fitted with a plastic blade works well for this) and set aside.
  2. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and sauté the onions and green onions until soft.
  3. Add the garlic salt, oregano, chili powder, and cornstarch and mix well. Add the tomato paste and 1 cup of the reserved chicken broth and simmer, until mixture starts to thicken slightly.
  4. Add the shredded chicken and mix well, adding more chicken broth if the mixture seems too dry.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the cream cheese and lime juice until well mixed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the Pastéis
  1. Divide the dough in half and roll out one half thinly on a floured surface. Fold in half once and roll it out again, then let it rest for 5 minutes. The goal is to roll it out as thinly as possible (to about a 9- by 12-inch rectangle).
  2. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough in half lengthwise, then cut each half vertically into 5 pieces, so that you have 10 rectangles of dough. They do not need to be an exact size and you can make them bigger or smaller as you see fit.
  3. Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture on top of a rectangle of dough.
  4. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edges of the rectangle.
  5. Place another rectangle of dough on top, encasing the filling.
  6. Press the edges of the 2 rectangles together, then pinch them together with a fork all the way around. Repeat with remaining rectangles, then roll out the other half of dough and repeat.
  7. Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a heavy saucepan or deep fryer to 360 F. Fry pasteles in batches until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.

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