This is a very labor-intensive dish… the very same reason why most people in Puerto Rico buy their “pasteles” from someone who has the experience and the patience to make these. In our yoga center, Mai, Mili and Katy are the pasteles experts. They even make them to sell to anyone who’s interested in a delicious vegetarian version.
Pasteles hold the essence of the Puerto Rican holiday dinner… a Xmas season without pasteles is like a day without sunshine, a beach without sand… you have not eaten true Puerto Rican holiday food until you have one of these.
The whole deal is this MASA made from green banana and yautía filled with a soy-based stew. Then it’s all wrapped in a banana leaf that will actually give the masa some of its flavor. It’s very characteristic and you can find banana leaves in the refrigerated or produce section of a Latin supermarket. Pasteles without at least a piece of banana leaf miss something.
This is a yautía… in Cuba, yautías are called malangas. However, in Puerto Rico we call malanga a completely different tuber. Do not confuse them. I looked up in the internet and apparently it may also be called tanier = tannier = tannia. Don’t know where, but if you can’t find them by the yautía name, any of other those might also work. Yautías come in two varieties – white and purple. You will need yautía blanca or white yautía for this dish.
PASTELES IN BANANA LEAVES
12 green bananas 1lb white yautía ¾ cups milk 1 ½ tsp salt 2tbs sofrito 2 tbs annatto oil
Filling: ½ cup textured soy protein – in cubes, soaked in filtered water for about ½ hour 1 small potato, cubed small 1 cup cooked chickpeas or garbanzo beans 2 cups mixed vegetables ½ cup raisins (optional) ½ cup sliced Spanish stuffed olives 3 tbs sofrito 2 tbs tomato paste 2 cups water 1 tbs olive oil 20-25 pieces of paper to roll pastels Banana leaves – cut into rectangles of 10” x 8” approximately Cotton kitchen twine
- Peel the banana and yautía and shred them using a food processor or a machine called Champion. I have seen this machine also be used at Iron Chef America competition.
- Add the sofrito, salt, annatto oil and milk to the banana and yautía mixture. Mix it all well to create a homogenous smooth mixture. The annatto oil will provide a bright yellowy/orangey color to the mixture. Set aside.
Now we make the filling…
- In a large saucepan, cook the olive oil along with salt, sofrito and tomato paste. Add the garbanzo beans, soy protein, potato and water and cook everything for about 15-20 minutes.
- Add the mixed vegetables and the raisins, if using. Cook everything for about 15 more minutes. Once everything is cooked, add the olives.
Now we assemble the pasteles…
- Place a banana leaf on top of the pastel paper (it’s similar to butcher’s paper).
- Take a little bit of the sauce of the soy mixture and wet the banana leaf.
- Take a large cooking spoon and spoon about a spoonful of masa in the center of the banana leaf. Using the spoon, form a well in the center of the mixture and place about 2 tablespoons of the soy/vegetable mixture in the well. Carefully fold the leaf over, in order to cover the filling with masa on all sides. DO NOT over stuff them.
- Fold the paper like a letter and fold in the sides to create a compact package. Tie them with cooking twine. Be careful not to tie too tightly.
- Repeat this procedure until all the masa mixture has been used. You can now freeze or cook them when you are ready.
When you are…
- Place a large pot of salted water (as if you were to prepare pasta). Boil the pasteles for about 45 minutes until the masa is cooked. If you froze them, place them directly from the freezer onto the boiling water and boil for about 1 hour.
- Drain them well when you take them out of the water… it’s not nice to have a puddle of pastel water in your plate when serving yourself the rest of the Xmas dinner. Many people, including me, enjoy pasteles with a drizzle of ketchup on top.