Baleadas are one of Honduras most characteristic and famous foods. A baleada is a wheat flour tortilla, generally quite thick, filled with mashed fried beans and folded in half. This simple flour tortilla can be also filled with a broad variety of other ingredients. The final result is a tortilla filled with food, often sold on the street, easily held in the hand and eaten on the go.
Origins of Baleada
There are many stories and urban legends that explain the origin of the name of this dish. One of these tells the story of a woman from San Pedro Sula who sold wrapped tortillas. She was well known for her delicious cuisine. One fine day she was fired upon with several bullets (balas in Spanish). Some say she died of her injuries, other say that it was not serious because she recovered soon and returned to selling tortillas. Since then the workers began to say I'm going to the baleada (the shot woman).
Another story comes from La Ceiba. In 1964 when Teresa, 20 years old woman was abandoned by her husband and decided to take a loan to start up her business of selling tortillas to keep their five children. The business was located near the railway line where the train went to employees of Standard Fruit Company, which quickly became customers. The dish soon became the favorite of the company workers, passersby and people working nearby but it had no name. Once a customer who was eating made a funny comment “beans are bullets, cheese is gunpowder and the tortilla is the gun” and since then everyone called them baleadas.
Others say the name originated because when people were biting tortillas the bite pressure made the whole beans “fire” by the sides of the tortilla, many said that they seemed to be bullets. And this fact all began to call the new dish “Baleada”.
Types of Baleada
- Simple baleada (sencilla baleada) is usually an oversized flour tortilla (about 8 to 12 inches in diameter) filled with mashed refried red beans, sprinkled with queso duro (a hard salty cheese) and queso crema (a type of cheese that can be described as a blend of heavy cream, cream cheese and sour cream)
- Special baleada (baleada especial) contains all the ingredients of simple baleada and scrambled eggs
- Super special baleadas can include vegetables like avocado, plantain, hot sauce, chismol, bell peppers, onions or hot peppers. They might include pork or beef, which could have been processed, cubed or slow cooked to provide a versatile meat that is easily made into baleada filling.
- In the region of Ocotepeque and Olancho the special baleada is prepared with all the above ingredients and grilled meat (carne asada).
- In the Bay Island of Utila, off the coast of La Ceiba creole (criollo) cheese and pickled onions are added to the beans.
The baleada has been portrayed as one of the most common and affordable foods in Honduras, and has even been distinctly named the the poor man's burrito. It is not surprising then that it became one of the most popular street vended food, similarly as the development of corporate fast food in many other parts of the world.