Order of salteñas from Rollie's--SO good...
Order of salteñas from Rollie's--SO good...

Why Orange County Is the Capital of Bolivian Cuisine in the Western United States

I was surprised to read last week's installment of "Ask Mr. Gold" in our sister paper LA Weekly. In it, someone asked the Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic of he knew where to buy salteñas, the legendary empanada originally from Argentina but long claimed by Bolivians as their national dish, a turnover of ground beef or chicken, raisins, rice, hard-boiled egg and broth in a shell as immaculately contoured as a sculpture.

Mr. Gold's response? Beba's--not the Anaheim location, but its second branch in the San Fernando Valley. Which means--WE'RE NO. 1 IN BOLIVIAN CUISINE IN THE WESTERN UNITED STATES!

As I noted to Mr. Jonathan Gold, Orange County has three Bolivian eateries--the aforementioned Beba's, Rollie's Bakery in Tustin and La Rancherita in SanTana, a panadería that sells salteñas and pan boliviano. Sure, three restaurants do not make a bounty, but that's more than most states can boast.

But how OC came to have a relative preponderance of Bolivian eateries is a fascinating story that I scratched at last Wednesday. That's when I interviewed the owners of Rollie's as part of a demonstration for a oral-history class I'm teaching at Cal State Fullerton. Husband-and-wife team Roland and Ebie Guerra told my 25 students that many Bolivians live in Tustin, specifically in apartment complexes near their eatery--but that's all we'll reveal right now. Details to come . . . in the meanwhile, celebrate our crown with some salteñas at Rollie's!


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