pastel en hoja | plantain and beef pocket
Like a tamal but with different ingredients, you cannot have a Dominican/Puerto Rican Christmas without these.
“A comer pastel, a comer lechon, arroz con gandules, y a beber ron, que venga morcilla, venga de to’ “
Like the popular holiday song indicates, the holidays are not complete until you’ve had the following: pastel (beef pocket)/lechon (pork) / arroz con gandules (rice and peas) / ron (rum) / morcilla (blood sausage).
Blood sausage is not my jam, but pasteles are. Its important to note, that depending on what Latin American or Caribbean country you hail from, the word pastel can also mean cake or pie. But Dominicans know, when you say pastel you’re talking about pastel en hoja. The hoja (sheet/leaf) in this case comes from the banana leaf the pastel is wrapped in to give it flavor. In Latin-American countries there is a variation that exists where the ‘pocket’ is wrapped in corn husks, again for flavor.
The reason pasteles are so special, is because someone has to teach you how to make it. If you grew up eating these, chances are you’ve been to a ‘pastel party’ where you go to a friend or relatives house and spend all-day drinking, snacking, and making these bad boys.
At the end of the afternoon or evening, everyone gets to eat and then take some home to freeze and have over the next couple days. Or to sell to families that long for the taste of home during the holidays, but have no time to making this labor-intensive food.
My advice? Call a couple friends and have them bring a bottle, before you dive solo into making this tasty treat. Totally worth it.