The Baleadas and its many variants is now the gastronomic product that identifies Hondurans to the world and deserves to be elevated to the status of “national dish” , and even deserves a day dedicated to it!
The origin of this tasty dish is fought amongst several cities in Honduras, although all are in the northern part of the country, marked by the influence of the banana companies who started in Honduras in the late nineteenth century. Historically, these communities enjoyed culinary influences both indigenous and Spanish.
Starting with the wrap, and according to information collected by the historian Julio Cesar Zepeda, early foreign banana companies & their executives brought their own cooks, most of whom were from India and Pakistan. They were cooking western-style foods for their employers, but also cooked traditional meals with Chapatis and other types of Naan. According to research by Zepeda, chapatis were shared with the local population by these foreign chefs with the Tortilla resulting from modifications to the recipe over time, such as using margarine instead of butter, or the addition of milk or coconut milk instead of water, as the tortilla baleada today is consumed. So although it may have an Asian influence it is a distinctly Honduran food adapted to the palate of the Honduran people.
There are also many stories and urban legends that explain how this dish got its name. One is the story of a woman from San Pedro Sula who sold wrapped tortillas. She was well known for her delicious cuisine. One fine day she was fired upon with several bullets (balas in Spanish). Some say she died of her injuries, other say that it was not serious because she recovered soon and returned to selling tortillas. Since then the workers said “I’m going to the baleada” (“the shot woman”).
Another story comes from La Ceiba. In 1964 Teresa, a 20 year old woman, was abandoned by her husband and decided to take a loan to start up her business of selling tortillas to keep their five children. The business was located near the railway line where the train carried employees of Standard Fruit Company, who quickly became customers. The dish soon became the favorite of the company workers, passersby and people working nearby, but it had no name. But one day a customer who was eating made a funny comment “beans are bullets, cheese is gunpowder and the tortilla is the gun” so everyone started calling them baleadas.
Still others say the name originated because when people were biting tortillas the bite pressure made the whole beans “fire” by the sides of the tortilla. Many said that they acted to like bullets so they began to call the new dish “Baleada”.
The baleada has also crossed borders successfully. In 1983 a Honduran named “Chalo” opened a restaurant called “El Triangulo” which made the first sale of Baleadas with the name “Flour Tortillas” in Puerto Barrios , Guatemala and then in Santo Tomas de Castilla. This Catracho (nickname for a Honduran) delicacy spread throughout the city to such a degree that today “Flour Tortilla” is one of the typical foods that identifies the Izabalense(?) throughout Guatemala.
A quick and satisfying breakfast, lunch or evening meal, baleadas are thick flour tortillas folded over a variety of fillings. The most common filling for baleadas is a simple mix of beans, cheese and the Honduran-style sour cream known as mantequilla. More elaborate fillings include meat, eggs and avocado. Customize to your taste. For a fast snack, you can use store-bought flour tortillas. But for authentic flavor, make your own. It’s easy!
4 to 6 servings
- Flour tortillas (recipe below) — 8
- Refried beans — 2 cups
- Crumbled queso duro, cotija or feta cheese — 1/2 cup
- Mexican-style sour cream (cream agria) — 1/4 cup
- Heat an ungreased griddle, comal or skillet over medium flame. Meanwhile, heat up the refried beans in a saucepan, stirring in a little water.
- Place a tortilla into the skillet and heat it on both sides to soften it up. Place the tortilla on a serving plate. Smear some refried beans on one half of the tortilla, sprinkle it with some crumbled cheese and drizzle it with a little sour cream. Fold the tortilla in half over the filling.
- Repeat with the remaining tortillas and serve hot.
- Other Baleadas Fillings: Scrambled eggs; cooked and seasoned ground beef or pork, sliced avocado, pickled jalapeños, or repollo coleslaw (see curtido recipe).
- Tortillas de Harina (Homemade flour tortillas): Flour tortillas in Honduras are a little thicker than those of their Mexican friends to the north. Making your own at home is easy, but it does take a little time. You’ll fall in love with the results:
- Flour — 2 cups
- Baking powder — 1 teaspoon
- Salt — pinch
- Water or milk — 1/2 to 3/4 cup
- Butter, lard or oil — 3 tablespoons
- Mix together the flour baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of the water or milk to form a dough. Work in the butter, lard or oil until smooth. Add more liquid or flour as needed to form a smooth dough that isn’t too sticky.
- Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside to rest for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat an ungreased comal, griddle or skillet over medium flame. Cut the dough into 8 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball. Roll each ball out into roughly an 8-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick.
- Place a dough round onto the hot comal and cook for about 1 minute on each side, or until the tortilla has browned spots and is lightly puffed. Set aside and repeat with the remaining dough rounds.