Mexico City Street Food – Pambacitos

In another post, I shared the story and a recipe of pambazos, a chorizo and potato sandwich made with a bun of the same name, usually covered in a red sauce, then pan-fried.  Pambacitos (diminutive of pambazo), as the name indicates, are smaller, and also somewhat different, because the dough is not baked, but directly deep-fried from raw, and then filled with chorizo with potatoes, or other preparations (as shown at the top of this post.)  Similar to tacos de suadero, pambacitos are a unique antojito (little craving, snack) originated in Mexico City, and more specifically, I feel like nowadays only some people from the neighbourhoods of Tacubaya, Roma, Condesa or Escandón would know of them, thanks to a small family business called “Los Pambacitos” (Avenida Progreso #61, Col. Escandón). 

On their website, they explain that “Los Pambacitos” started in 1947, as an initiative of a lady named Joaquina Salinas; she was the superintendent of a building housing a pharmaceutical company on Benjamin Franklin Avenue, in the borough of Escandón, and lived in the basement.  Doña Joaquina got permission to sell her freshly fried pambacitos at night, out of her basement window, and with the help of her four daughters, the pambacitos became well known in the neighbourhood; the ladies kept their business there for many years and, although the business was officially called “los Pingüinos” (“The Penguins”), everybody called them “los pambacitos de Benjamín Franklin” for their location. 

In the 1960s, the building was sold and became a school; the pambacitos business moved around a couple of times without much success, with two of the daughters, Mari and Lupita, eventually returning to the neighbourhood.  In 1976, they finally settled down on Progreso Avenue, a street parallel to, and just one block from, Benjamin Franklin Avenue.  Many old customers remembered them, and continued to call them “los pambacitos de Benjamín Franklin” even though the address had changed. 

Lupita continued managing the business, which remained there for over thirty years, and it is the one I knew from the 1980s, when I was still living with my parents not too far from there.  I remember it was always crowded, and you could see the huge vat of oil where raw dough ovals were dropped, coming out as golden brown buns that were transferred to a counter where all the fillings awaited: red mole, shredded beef, beans, pork rinds, and of course, the classic chorizo with potatoes. 

In 1991, Lupita’s niece, Yolanda, took over the business, adding stuffed jalapeños and cheese to the list of fillings, as the website explains.  In 2005, a property – which included the “Los Pambacitos” location – was turned into a hotel parking lot, so Yolanda reopened her business (now with a counter and chairs, to dine in) just across the street.  I found a YouTube video from 2018, featuring Doña Yolanda and the restaurant, as well as some nice pambacito close-ups:

That same year, Yolanda’s sister in-law and nieces took over and started a new chapter in the family business, where they continue to offer these one-of-a-kind fried treats.

Searching for recipes, I found one for “Stuffed Pambazos” on page 108 of a book I have mentioned before: “Frida’s Fiestas – Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo” by Guadalupe Rivera (Frida’s step-daughter, and Diego Rivera’s daughter) and Marie-Pierre Colle. 

The recipe describes these pambazos as 4- to 5-inch ovals (bigger than the Benjamin Franklin pambacitos), and stuffed with chorizo and potatoes.  The pambazos are also mentioned on page 99 as being fried at La Casa Azul – Frida’s house in Coyoacan – by local specialty cooks, hired by Frida during busy holiday times, particularly in December of 1942.  Although that means that the recipe for deep-fried pambazos is at least from the early 1940s, Doña Joaquina had the originality to offer a variety of fillings in addition to the traditional chorizo and potatoes, and also made them smaller, in a convenient snack size, probably so customers could afford to try more than one flavour in the same order.

I have adapted the recipe from the book to try and reproduce the fried snacks as I remember them from the 1980s, small and with and assortment of flavours, just like the ones from “Los Pambacitos de Benjamín Franklin“.

Fried Stuffed Pambacitos –

Pambacitos fritos y rellenos

Printable recipe: Fried Stuffed Pambacitos

Ingredients (for 18)

1 ½ cups (225 g) all-purpose wheat flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cream of tartar
5 tbsp (50 g) non-hydrogenated margarine, or butter
2 eggs
¼ cup milk, as needed
Enough oil for deep-frying, preferably safflower or peanut

Fillings, to taste, such as (click on highlighted text for recipes): fried chorizo with cooked cubed potatoes, poblano pepper strips with cream, and cooked shredded chicken in red mole :

To serve: washed and shredded lettuce; and Mexican sauces, for example: green tomatillo, red de árbol, and guacamole (click on images, for recipes):

Once stuffing dishes, lettuce and sauces have been prepared, set aside. 

To prepare buns: Sift flour together with salt, baking powder and cream of tartar, into a bowl (photo below, left).   Add margarine (or butter) to the bowl (photo below, right): 

Mix fat and sifted ingredients, until no clumps are visible, to a sandy texture; add eggs to the centre (photo below, left).  Beat eggs in the centre, then incorporate, adding milk, one tablespoon at a time (photo below, right):

Continue mixing and gradually adding just enough milk to achieve a soft dough, not sticky; I used three tablespoons of milk for this batch.  Knead dough very lightly on the working surface dusted with flour, then roll to a thickness of approximately a quarter of an inch (half a centimetre).  Cut circles using a round cookie cutter or rim of a jar of approximately 2.5 to 2.75 inches in diameter (6.3 to 7 cm), as shown in the photo below, left.  Using hands or rolling pin, slightly flatten each circle to form ovals of 3 inches (7.5 cm) in length (photo below, right):  

Gather any leftover dough, and repeat, to obtain about 18 ovals.  The ovals may be prepared in advance, kept on covered trays until ready to cook, or stacking layers separated with parchment paper (photo below, left) and packed in sealable plastic bags or containers (photo below, right):

The packed dough ovals may be kept in the fridge overnight, or in the freezer for up to three months (fry from frozen).  

Deep-fry the dough ovals right before serving time.  There is a lot of finesse involved in the science of deep-frying, but just a few simple steps are needed: 1) Use a type of oil with a high smoking point, such as safflower or peanut.  2) Choose a small pot to use as little oil as possible; pour oil in pot, making sure there is at least a one-inch (2.54 cm) depth.  3) Warm up oil over medium/high heat to 375ºF (190ºC); if a food thermometer is not available, watch for the oil to glisten and start forming pandurate ripples, a point called “shimmering”; if it starts smoking, turn down the heat.  4) Fry the buns in small batches; when gently immersed in the oil, the buns should immediately sizzle, produce bubbling, and cook fairly fast (photo below, left).  The buns will swell with hot air inside; flip as soon as they float, and allow for the other side to brown (photo below, right):

As soon as they are golden brown on both sides, transfer to a tray lined with paper towels:

Open the buns along one side with a serrated knife to create a pocket, and fill with the different dishes available, to taste:

I prepared a serving on a plate with a bed of shredded lettuce, with three pambacitos, as shown at the top of this post, from left to right: chorizo with potatoes, poblano pepper strips with cream and a slice of fresh cheese, and shredded chicken with red mole:

Offer salsas on the side, for each person to add some, to taste.  In the photo below, notice the fluffy crumb in a close-up of a pambacito filled with chorizo and potatoes, with a dollop of guacamole: 

My homemade pambacitos were so good, with just the right size, texture and medley of flavours to bring back memories of “Los Pambacitos de Benjamín Franklin“, a truly unique Mexico City street food from “La Escandón.”


For your convenience, click on the images below to check out products available on Amazon™.  DISCLAIMER: Any reviews included in this post are my own, for items I have purchased, not provided by any company; as an Amazon Associates Program affiliate, I might receive a commission for any purchases originated from the links, at no extra cost to you (thank you to readers who have bought other products starting with a click from my links!):



I am sharing my recipe at What for Dinner? Sunday Link-Up # 312 with Helen @ The Lazy Gastronome.


I am also sharing my recipe at Thursday Favourite Things #487, with Bev @ Eclectic Red BarnPam @ An Artful MomKatherine @ Katherine’s CornerAmber @ Follow the Yellow Brick HomeTheresa @ Shoestring Elegance and Linda @ Crafts a la Mode.


I am bringing my recipe to Full Plate Thursday #534 with Miz Helen @ Miz Helen’s Country Cottage.


I am joining Fiesta Friday #378 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday.

23 thoughts on “Mexico City Street Food – Pambacitos

    1. I try to keep the temperature of the oil below smoking as much as I can; I keep a large brown paper bag at hand, and I cover the pot with it if it starts spattering (my mom’s trick to absorb steam and avoid condensation falling back into the hot oil). I do reuse the oil but in a planned fashion and I do not keep it for very long, so I only deep-fry when there is no other choice, and I try to group fried dishes, starting with the mildest, say, these buns, then maybe quesadillas or breaded items, and finish with the strongest flavours, such as fish.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I deep fry only when there is no choice; I have never seen these pambacitos other than at this small business in Mexico City, that’s why I had to make them.

      Like

      1. Over time I have gotten better about using the right oil and trying to keep it from smoking, so for me now, it is the thought of wasting all the leftover oil; I usually line up a few dishes that require deep frying, and try them from mildest to strongest, to take advantage of the setting.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s