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The Caribbean Kitchen

Pasteles en Hojas (Wrapped Meat Pies)

You can find Pasteles en Hojas (Wrapped Meat Pies) all over the caribbean and surrounding coasts, even if each country has it´s own native name and ingredients.
They are known as pasteles en hojas, tamales, hayacas or ayacas, queque, cuchén, Batön or Mattoke.
We know that cooking food wrapped in banana leaves comes from Africa (Luombo) and today we can find these practices in some of our countries called as carne al Vaho. French call this way of cooking "Concasse" which may lead to believe that it could have been, first a lesson taken from the french after their african colonialism, or second, a native response to customs of the french colonialists.
The meat pie in Africa is made with yuca (cassava) or green bananas without the meat filling. It was used to accompany meat plates. If they are made from yuca they are called Batón de Manioc and if made out of green bananas, Matooke.
At this point, we have to remember that in the Caribbean you will find green plantains, ripe plantains, green bananas and ripe bananas, all over the culinary experience.
Pasteles en hojas is a complete meal. The vitamins are in the roots and vegetables and the protein in the meats.
They are called pasteles  in Brazil and could be made from either yuca or green bananas and wrapped in banana leaves.
In Venezuela, Perú, Bolivia nd Argentina, they are called tamales and are made of corn and wrapped in corn husks, except in Venezuela were they´re wrapped in banana leaves.
In El Salvador and Costa Rica, hey are made from corn and wrapped in banana leaves. Mexico shows a very interesting example when we consider that the people from the coast, in Oaxaca and Yucatán make their tamales with corn and wrap them with banana leaves, while the eople from Hidalgo, Corunda and Monterrey, wrap theirs with corn husks.
Cuba calls them tamales and makes them out of corn and wraps them in banana leaves. In Puerto Rico, the original paseles en hojas were made with ripe plantain and wrapped in banana leaves.
Today, in Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, you can find a great mixture of roots and vegetables like yuca, yautía (tannier) and green bananas in the pie.
In most of our countries, this tradition is brought from the indians, but in the Dominican Republic, we couldn´t find any historical data except that it was introduced in the early 20th. Century in San Cristobal, in the South of the country, apparently, brought in by french haitians.
Today, we can find them all over the country and with special highlight at christmas.
It takes a long time to prepare pasteles but we encourage you to try them.
You will never forget the experience!
 
Federico García-Godoy, Dr. Odont., MS

Cooking wrapped in banana leaves is very nutritious and a way of "poach" or "steaming". Try it with meats and fish too.
The values offered by Nutrition Data to plantains is as follows:

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