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Empanada Mamma spices up the downtown Farmers Market with South-meets-South American pastries
“Pork n’ Beans”—made of Carolina Gold Rice and Sea Island purple cape beans; “Em’s Cuban” stuffed with savory slow-roasted pork shoulder, country ham, Swiss and American cheeses, and homemade chow chow; a turkey Reuben; and a grilled eggplant with beet hummus—these are just a few of the mouth-watering creations Carolina’s sous chef Emily Hahn offers at her Charleston Farmers Market stand, Empanada Mamma. But how did this New England Culinary Institute grad wind up serving the traditional South American dish? The journey started at a fly-fishing lodge.
“I met a past Top Chef contestant, Melissa Harrison, through another friend. She was exploring her love of farming, cooking, and travel in what she called her ‘culinary oasis,’ Patagonia, Chile,” recalls Hahn. “I decided that if I could get paid to do what I love and travel, my application to the Martin Pescador Fly Fishing Lodge could not be sent any faster!” Working at the lodge with chef Anna Jansen and local Chilean women, she learned how to make the meat pastries that came to the country with Colonial Spaniards in the 16th century.
Upon returning to Charleston, Hahn noted the growing popularity of street food and decided to put her skills to the test, creating Empanada Mamma. After a successful farmers market run last season, the chef is back this year as a full-time vendor. And while she loves to serve up South American flavor, Hahn’s empanadas have been influenced by Carolina’s cuisine, too. “I like to put a Southern, Lowcountry spin on my filling,” she says.
Whatever spin her hot pockets take, Latin or Holy City style, one thing is for sure: Hahn is just like any loving mamma, always hoping to send those who sample her cooking away with big smiles and full bellies.