Piaggio's empanada
Piaggio's empanada

Dueling Dishes: Battle Argentine-Style Chicken Empanadas!

Filling a fried vessel is a great, almost universal idea: croquetas from Porto's, lumpia from grandma's, curry puffs. When we're talking empanadas, there are two major components to greatness: the casing and the filling. This round, we're taking a joint so confident with their stuffed pastries they name themselves Empanada Man. Our competitor will defend the luxe lonchera status quo, Piaggio on Wheels. And since they're both Argies, a third factor plays in: chimichurri. Sure, we've reviewed Argentine-style empanadas before, but those were other carajos.

Everyone eats with their eyes first, so the visual shell of an empanada is crucial to stimulating an appetite. Take Piaggio's, for example. Aside from the checkered sheet of color sopping up a trace of oil, it's evenly golden, with a border of noisy crust.

The Empanada Man, while also cooked-to-order, showed signs of struggle. Spots of browning and areas where it appeared undercooked were easy to point out. Suspicions were confirmed with a slightly doughy bite. Round one goes to Piaggio.

Next, we focus on the meat surprise, where I opted for a chicken version. What Empanada Man lacks in appearance, they leap ahead in filling. Kernels of corn, red and green peppers, onions and herbs are crammed into its pouch. Piaggio's simpler mix of meat, onions and herbs can been seen as classic or plain, depending on the beholder. Either way, the amount of actual stuffing was more apparent in the Empanada Man kitchen.

While it's easier to eat these minus the sauce (and the potential of staining your clothes), chimichurri normally accompanies all Argentine food, and for good reason. Olive oil, herbs and flavorings make for a drippy blanket, coating all the components, melding shell and filling into one rich taste. Piaggio's chimichurri green resembled a vibrant Crayola hue. I eyed individual leaves of parsley in a pale yellow pool of oil. On the other hand, the muddled puree of Empanada Man sat in a ramekin of an unappealing shade of green. It resembled, well, things you don't want to see or think about.

I'm torn between the two. The facts show Piaggio On Wheels outscoring Empanada Man, but more often than not, it's all about what's inside that counts. To avoid calling this a draw, this duel is won by your friendly neighborhood food truck....this time.

Piaggio on Wheels updates their schedule on Facebook, Twitter, and on their website.
Empanada Man is located at 20761 Lake Forest Dr., Lake Forest. (949) 855-9257.

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