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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