Now that I have shed the light on the greatness of the humble baleada, let me introduce you to its delicious cousin: the pastelito.
Pastelitos are actually called pasteles, but in Spanish you can add an “-ito” or “-ita” to the end of words to make them cuter. There is apparently no other reason for it, just to make it sound cuter. Hence, pasteles becomes pastelitos. You can say both words and they will know what you are talking about. But I like to use pastelito, because I like cute things like Hello Kitty, baby sharks, and diminutive word endings.
When I try to describe what a pastelito is to people, first I start at the “like an empanada” level. If you know what an empanada is, a pastelito is very similar. If you don’t know what an empanada is, then I move on to the “like a pizza pop with non-pizza filling”. If you don’t know what a pizza pop is, then I feel bad for you (because they are basically the greatest microwave food ever invented) and move on to a better explanation.
A pastelito is a deep-fried wheat flour dough pocket, usually filled with such things as:
- Ground beef & rice– double-check that the ground beef is cooked in these ones, as often they get thrown in the fryer with raw meat in them and it sometimes doesn’t get all the way cooked.
- Chicken – in Honduras it is common to eat chicken cartilage, so you will probably find some of that in there with the meat. I couldn’t handle it at first, but now I’m at pro at chomping on it.
- Fish – I don’t know what they put in the fish ones but it’s red, there are fish bones in it, and I don’t care for these ones at all.
I usually go for chicken, which is what is in the photos. You can see there are some little carrot shreds (islanders are not too big on getting the 5-10 veggies a day) and other than that, there is just some of the ubiquitous ‘Complete Seasoning’ (ie. seasoning salt + MSG) that they put on literally everything and makes it all taste magically delicious.
While I espoused the wonderful drunk-after-the-bar-food quality of baleadas, pastelitos are more of a breakfast food. You can usually find them sitting in a glass cube display with a heat lamp over top. They are crispy and amazing if they are fresh, but if they’ve been sitting out all day, take a pass on them.
If you want to impress your friends with your island knowledge, you have to know the right way to eat a pastelito. The crimped outside edge is what you hold onto while eating it, and then you throw it away (feed a stray dog!) when you’re done. It’s designed to be eaten with dirty hands, so you can have breakfast even if you can’t find a sink and soap! If there is something more ingenious than that in a Honduran breakfast food, I don’t know what it is.