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Empanadas a hot seller at the Urban Park Farmers' Market

La Cueca uses traditional family recipe from Chile to make these handheld delights

One of the hottest places to get take out in Timmins is only open once a week. Their product has a Latin flair, can be eaten on the go and is simply delicious.

Welcome to La Cueca, which has a booth during the Farmers’ Market in the Downtown Timmins Urban Park every Thursday.

La Cueca is a family run operation that celebrates Chilean cuisine by making and serving traditional Empanadas.

“I have been here since November of 2007. I moved here from Chile,” said Catalina Albert. “My dad started working for the mining industry. Then I went off to university, got my nurse’s degree and now I’m helping out here with the Chilean tradition.

“It’s called La Cueca. It’s named for the traditional dance we use to celebrate Independence Day.”

A brief history lesson: Chile’s Independence Day is called Dieciocho, which means eighteen in Spanish. It is so named because Chile’s fight for independence from Spain began on Sept. 18, 1810.

The La Cueca booth features the Chilean flag and is brightly decorated in the nation’s colours. Customers are always greeting with warm, friendly smiles and can get their empanadas either hot, to eat immediately, or cold, for reheating later.

About a decade ago, Timmins residents were introduced to Chilean empanadas.

“We started this 10 years ago. We took it to the (Timimins) Multicultural Festival and then we decided to come for the market,” Albert said.

“It’s a traditional recipe in my family for generations. My grandmother’s making them. My mother’s making them. I’m just trying to keep it alive.”

The empanada has a light pastry on the outside, with a mouth-watering meat and spice mixture on the inside.

“The empanada is like a big patty with meat inside, cooked overnight,” she said. “So, it’s nice. It’s been juiced up for some time. It has onions. And something really odd that some people don’t think would taste good in there is raisins. But it really adds a super nice flavour to it.

“It’s made in the oven. Nothing is fried. People love it. You don’t need a fork or a spoon or anything like that. It’s ready to go. You just bite into it.”

La Cueca is already a huge hit with Urban Park regulars, as Albert explained while at the Farmers’ Market earlier this season.

“This is our second Thursday. We have people lined up starting at 11 a.m., (when the market opens),” she said. “The first week, we sold out within one hour. This week, we sold out within 50 minutes. So, it’s been great here.

“We’ve been making about 60 every time we’ve come. Next week, we’re going to make a hundred, just to give those people a chance who are coming out at 12 and they can try.

“We only sell at community events and at the multicultural once a year. We will be looking into other ones. But for now, we’re here every Thursday.”

She is not surprised that Timmins residents love their empanadas.

“They’re tasty. They’re portable. They’re filing,” Albert said. “You can just eat it on the go and not worry about having a place to sit. They are just so super convenient.”

As for the recipe, well that’s for family eyes only.

“It’s a secret,” she says, laughing. “There’s some cumin, some paprika, a little bit of salt and pepper, some garlic. But mostly I’m just cooking everything together, following all the right steps at the right time. It just brings everything together so nicely.”

Albert and her entire family enjoy living in Timmins.

“I love life in Timmins.,” she said. ”I found love in Timmins. I’m married. We have children.

“I love it. It’s going to be my forever home. I love being part of the community here.”

La Cueca is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Downtown Timmins Urban Park Farmers’ Market every Thursday.

Be sure to come early because they sell out quickly.