41st National Empanada Festival

September 11-13 in Famaillá, Tucumán

Empanadas (turnovers) are a traditional food that is savored with relish throughout Argentina, and in Chile and Uruguay as well, regardless of the type of crust or filling used. The most famous Argentine empanadas are the ones from the Northwest, which are filled with hand-minced beef or chicken, and different garnishes according to the province.
They are fried in lard, or baked in a mud oven that is so hot that a paper put inside bursts into flame. There is a bit of rivalry between the province of Salta, where the filling includes potato, and Tucuman, where it does not. But for the past 40 years the National Empanada Festival has been held in Tucumán – in Famaillá, a town 35 km from the provincial capital. Here, in the Luis Sandrini auditorium, a jury of folk singers and chefs decides who will be the winning empanada cook of the year, and the fairgoers are free to try the output of all the contestants to see if they agree with the verdict. Tucumán empanadas are famous for being especially juicy. This is achieved by hand-mincing the meat very finely, adding a bit of boiled egg to the mixture to help retain the juice, not completely precooking the filling so it can finish cooking inside the crust, and taking the empanadas out of the pot or oven at the right moment. A typical Tucumán empanada is filled with minced beef, hen or chicken meat, or tripe, as well as green onion, cayenne pepper and cumin.

Other worthwhile experiences not too far from Famaillá: a stay at a ranch that produces artisan cheeses in Tafí del Valle, a visit to the Pachamama Museum in Amaicha del Valle, and a look at the ruins of the pre-Hispanic town of Quilmes.