The guilty delights of fried dough are shared in pretty much every country around the world. While some cultures fill their specialty with meat and others with cheese, some eat them savory and some sweet, all appear to realize that deep-frying dough is a recipe for success. The French have beignets; there’s youtiao in China and pakora in South Asia; and there are hush puppies and funnel cake in the United States. One of the favorites across Latin America is the buñuelo.
One restaurant in particular has taken its love affair with dough balls to a whole new level.
The Colombian buñuelo is made from a flour-based dough containing eggs, milk and fresh cheese, which is fried until the crust becomes crunchy and the center soft and spongy. They may not be much to look at — somewhat akin to a brown, fuzz-free tennis ball — but the taste is pure cheesy, savory deliciousness. Traditionally eaten as a treat at Christmastime, buñuelos appear on the menu year-round in cafeterias across Colombia as a breakfast snack or served with hot chocolate or coffee.
One restaurant in particular has taken its love affair with dough balls to a whole new level, earning the record for making the world’s biggest buñuelo — also, some of the most delicious too, with fresh cheese made on-site. At the family-owned El Peregrino restaurant in Sabaneta, the smallest municipality in Colombia, just outside Medellín, they regularly serve up buñuelos weighing in at a decidedly normal 220 grams (8 ounces), a hefty 800 grams (28 ounces) and a whopping 4 kilograms (9 pounds). Last year, the record-breaker clocked in at a monstrous 40 pounds.
Want to try to match them? Here’s a recipe for some (normal-size) buñuelos, courtesy of mycolombianrecipes.com.
- Vegetable oil for frying
- ¾ cup (100 grams) cornstarch
- ¼ cup (30 grams) yucca flour or tapioca starch
- 1½ cup (180 grams) finely grated queso costeño (a Colombian white cheese). If you can’t get your hands on it, try using a mixture of feta cheese and queso fresco.
- 2 eggs
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- Pinch of salt
- Place all the ingredients (except the oil) in a medium bowl and mix well using your hands until the dough is soft.
- Using your hands, form small, fist-size balls.
- In a deep pot, heat the vegetable oil to 300 F (150 C) — warm, not very hot. Carefully drop the balls in the oil; they should roll over slowly as they float, to cook evenly.
- Cover the pot and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the heat up and fry until golden brown.
- Remove from the oil and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve and enjoy.
Videography and editing by John Jarlen Quiroz and Angélica Toro; produced by DeMente Fotográfica; text by James Watkins.
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