Sunday, September 27, 2009

Baleadas and homage to Doña Iris

Baleadas. Addiction. These two words go hand-in-hand.

Baleadas, as you can see above, are essentially a wheat-flour tortilla folded over refried beans, shredded queso duro (a salty, hard cheese), with a smear of mantequilla (most Spanish speakers will think this is butter, but here in Honduras, it's more like Salvadoran crema). Sounds simple, right? Not too special, right?

Well, this lady, Doña Iris, is a freaking MAGICIAN, because she makes the best flour tortillas in town. They are thin and light and stretchy and you really have the right balance of tortilla to beans (not too bready, not too beany). Also, she works at lightning speed and is really a lot of fun to watch. Out of the picture to the left is her husband, who tag-teams with her, handing her things she needs, bagging up the baleadas "para llevar" (to-go), and collecting the money. Really, the tortilla is the best part of the baleada (which is why making them at home with store-bought flour tortillas truly pales in comparison) and it really makes it worth buying from those who do it right. And Doña Iris does it right.

Doña Iris apparently started selling her baleadas, like many women in Comayagua, on a streetcorner. According to my roomies who have been here a while, she did well enough to eventually be able to rent a storefront. Now, every few months, she adds something to it... another set of tables and chairs, a fan, and now, a TV! This is definitely a testament to her success, but even more impressive is that one baleada sencilla (just beans, mantequillla, and cheese) costs 5 lempiras. That's like 30 cents. Think about the volume you have to sell to turn that kind of profit. Also, baleadas are considered more of a breakfast food or mid-morning snack. That means Doña Iris closes for the day by around 10:30 or 11 am. Think about that sales volume in only about 4 hours. Damn, she's good.
Baleadas also come in many different varieties (especiales, as you can see on the sign). You can get them with scrambled egg in them, with chorizo (sausage) , chicken, and even slices of avocado. That means for a few extra lempiras, you can come up with something much like a pretty hefty breakfast burrito. Oh, did I mention there's usually hot sauce to shake on it if so desired?
Pretty much all of Honduras is addicted to baleadas. Here in Comayagua, there is even a business called HiperBaleada that makes their money on the true addicts who need home delivery of baleadas. Their baleadas (hyper-sized) are about the size of a dinner plate, or a small pizza folded over. The tortilla is thicker and sometimes feels a little like pizza dough, too. It's an interesting concept, but I'll take Doña Iris's any day.

Here's an English-language website that has a little more info on how to make baleadas, although it's pretty easy:

The site also includes other Honduran recipes for your perusing:
Happy noshing! More food updates to come :)

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