Don’t mention an empanada around the Oropeza brothers.
For Alex, Patrick, and David Oropeza, empanadas are too often compared to the salteña, the Bolivian specialty that holds the spotlight at their restaurant, Bolivian Llama Party (BLP for short). Both are golden brown mounds of dough—one crimped, the other braided—and are ubiquitous across South America (empanadas in Argentina and salteñas in Bolivia). But that’s the extent of the affinity. The brothers maintain that the salteña is much more complex.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
“There’s no magical salteña machine where you just insert dough and filling and it comes out a salteña,” David says, scoffing at the ease of making empanadas. “That doesn’t exist.”
The process is anything but simple: from start to finish, it takes three days to make a single salteña. Patrick, the chef of the three brothers, spent several years learning the craft in Bolivia.
“Every part is handmade. Every part is a step. Everything requires some labor, and in that labor comes all the flavor. It tastes like someone’s mom made it,” Patrick says.
The three-day process begins with the filling—a cow foot, meat, and gelatin concoction—which is boiled for 12 to 14 hours, along with carrots, onions, celery, and aromatics. As the mixture begins to boil, someone is stationed beside the gargantuan pot, in charge of making sure all the gelatin is released. Once set, the meat-infused gelatin is sliced into squat hunks and slipped into the folds of the salteña dough—a dough that must be made in a hot environment with as little water as possible. The dough is tightly sealed (any residual air could result in leakage or explosion in the oven), a lone braid strung along the top. Trays of the swollen pastries are placed in the oven and baked; the result is a plump, crunchy exterior, encasing a hot, soupy mess inside.
“It’s kind of Bolivia’s sushi,” Patrick says. “It requires a lot of training, thinking on the fly of how to fix things. A lot of it is technical, experience-driven, and very hard to do.”
Bolivian Llama Party originated as a street stall selling hand-carbonated sodas and roasted corn slick with chili sugar and compound butter—a way to make a little extra money to fund an album David and Patrick were recording. “It was terrible the first time, but we kept going,” David remarks, laughing. They decided if they were going to keep it up, they would provide NYC with a sampling of their Bolivian ancestry.
“The first thing we do on a trip to Bolivia is eat salteñas. We dream about the next time we’re going to eat salteñas,” Alex says. “Nobody knows what salteñas are in major areas in New York. There are no places in Manhattan, no places in Brooklyn. The only places are in Queens, so it sounded like it was something we could do.”
After a stint at street fairs, the brothers eventually launched at Smorgasburg market, much to the delight of New Yorkers who had never quite seen anything like the salteña. The brothers garnered a huge following: lines began spiraling from the tiny stall, and people walked away with a hot, meat-filled pastry, softly biting into the crisp dough. Fast forward a few years later when Bolivian Llama Party opened its first brick-and-mortar shop in Turnstyle, the underground food hall cushioned in the 59th Street-Columbus Circle subway station. In May, the team welcomed another location in the revamped Gotham Market at the Ashland in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
Salteñas ring in at at $6, with the most expensive at $8. The Chimba, filled with tender chunks of chicken and bone broth, is as comforting as a bowl of chicken soup. Others bulge with strips of beef, pork belly, and double-smoked brisket. While salteñas are traditionally filled with an olive—pit included—and a hard-boiled egg, Patrick only slips in a small piece of egg. Salads, sandwiches de chola (meats topped with pickled carrots and chicha-soaked onions, bookended by two soft buns), and yuca fries crowned with cheese, are also on the menu.
“I think, for the longest time, we’re going to be one of the only Bolivian places [in New York],” Alex says. “It gives us the opportunity to translate the food through the lens where we’re not fusion or traditional—we’re just BLP.”
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.