No food hits home like Hispanic food. The heavy influence of cumin and coriander remind me of Pakistan because this particular spice and herb are added in every traditional Pakistani dish. At times when I walk down the streets of LA past food carts selling tacos and burritos, I imagine I’m in Karachi. The familiar smells wafting in the air punctuated by the occasional traffic and honking of cars (it is downtown after all ) are enough to wake up nostalgia.
Sure, there are differences between the cuisines but at the base of it all is cumin and coriander. I almost wonder why Hispanics don’t make curry.
I went to Porto’s Cafe in Burbank about a year ago with my best friend. It’s a very popular Cuban cafe in LA. I love to Yelp for popular items, and the stuffed potato balls at Porto’s was something that we needed to try. It’s called Papas Rellenas, which are deep-fried balls of mashed potatoes stuffed with a meat filling. Both my friend and I spent a good ten minutes talking about how they tasted so Pakistani and that we had to go home and make these. It was a long while before I actually did make them. But they’re actually very simple to prepare because the flavor combinations don’t need any guessing.
If you are more into visuals, check out how I make this!
- 5 medium potatoes boiled and mashed (I used russet potatoes)
- ½ of a medium onion (finely chopped)
- ½ large red bell pepper or 1 medium red bell pepper (finely chopped)
- 1 green bell pepper (finely chopped)
- ½ pound ground beef
- ½ of a jalapeno pepper (optional)
- 1½ tsp ground cumin
- ¾ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp pepper
- 6 tbsp tomato sauce
- 2 eggs beaten with a tbsp of water
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- Boil potatoes in salted water until fork tender, Peel the skin and mash them well with a few tbsp of milk at a time until very smooth and fluffy (it shouldn't be too sticky so be careful with the milk). Be sure to add enough salt to the mashed potato.
- In a saucepan, sautee onion and peppers for a few minutes until soft.
- Add the ground beef and stir until beef has brown.
- Add in the spices and stir for a minute.
- Next, pour in the tomato sauce and let simmer for five minutes. The meat filling won't have too much sauce because the liquid will make it difficult to stuff the potato balls.
- To make the potato balls, take about two ounces of mashed potatoes and flatten it in the palm of your hand in a disk
- Now take about a teaspoon of meat filling and place in the center of the flattened potato disk. Make sure you don't add too much filling because we need to wrap the filling inside the potato,
- Slowly take the edges of the potato and pull them over the filling and smooth it into a ball. If your filling is not covered, just take a little bit of mashed potato and glue it onto the filling.
- Now take each ball, dredge it in flour, dip it in egg and finally coat it generously in bread crumbs.
- Once all the balls are coated, chill in the fridge for at least an hour to ensure they don't fall apart while frying. (You can also prep them a day in advance up to this point).
- Once ready, deep fry them until golden brown.
- Drain on paper towel and enjoy! This makes 20 medium-sized potato balls.
Be sure not to add too much milk to the mashed potato at once. While forming the balls, the mashed potatoes shouldn't be too sticky (watch how I made this in the video).