If you haven’t tried Saya Salteña yet, you’re in for a serious treat. This was our first time trying this Bolivian delicacy, and it was absolutely delicious. If you don’t know what it is, think of it as an empanada of sorts!
We got to try four different flavors (spicy beef, beef, spicy chicken and chicken), and they were all scrumptious. The spicy beef was our personal favorite though. The flavor profile was definitely unique, and we mean that in the best way possible.
It was savory and sweet with a touch of spice that was unnaturally addicting. Enough from us though. Maria, the chef owner, was kind enough to answer some our questions so without further ado, we’re gonna let her take over.
Please tell us about yourself and Saya Salteña.
I’m a first generation Bolivian, and I arrived in 1999 to study Engineering but my passion for food took over. I’ve always wanted to be able to showcase my culture through cooking, and I’m so happy that I’m able to do so.
I started my catering company, Creative Catering DC, in April 2015 and created the salteña product as part of the menu. Since COVID, we all had to change our business models and adapt to this new way of doing business, that’s when I started really pushing Bolivian food. So basically COVID pushed my to open Saya Salteña and so far I’ve been receiving very positive reviews and I am so thankful for everyone’s support!
When did you first discover your love for cooking? Do any specific food-related memories come to mind?
I first discovered my passion for cooking at a very young age. I used to hang out in the kitchen, sitting in the baby chair just to smell and see all the different recipes being created. My first memorable food related experience was getting tomatoes and herbs ready for llawja, a classic Bolivian spicy sauce.
Did you develop your own salteña recipe or was it a variation on a family recipe you grew up eating?
Our current recipe is a fusion of my cultural heritage and culinary knowledge obtained in my 12 years in the food & beverage industry. Salteñas are a staple in Bolivian cuisine and culture, from eating them on a Saturday or Sunday mid-morning snack (or like some like to put it the “bolivian hangover cure” ) or having “salteñadas” for get togethers, birthday parties and even baby showers. It takes three days for us to make our salteñas, and they’re all handmade.
Are there any Bolivian restaurants in the DMV area that you recommend?
Currently, we are the only established business in Washington DC that sells authentic salteñas. Bolivians are the second largest community of Latin American’s after Salvadorians in the DMV!
Although there are a lot of home-based pickup food options, there are only a few full fledged restaurants in the area; one comes to mind though, Lusmilas, which is located in Fairfax, Virginia.
Have you worked in the food industry prior to Saya Salteña?
Prior to opening my catering business, I managed multiple restaurants in hotels, private associations and a large catering company since I graduated from GW School of Engineering in 2005.
How can people order your food?
You can currently order from our website www.sayasaltena.com/shop for pickup – you have a choice between baked or frozen salteñas – but we also partner with Grubhub, Ubereats, DC To Go Go and Door Dash.
Which flavors do you offer at Mess Hall? Do you have a personal favorite?
We are currently offering spicy beef, beef, spicy chicken, chicken & vegan, and my personal favorite is the spicy beef.
Are you planning on opening your own location in the future?
We’d like to expand and open our own restaurant in DC, but in the meantime, we’re doing pop-ups at local breweries like 3 Stars Brewery. Follow us on instagram to stay in the loop on events and the like!
For those of you interested, their pickup location is Mess Hall, 703 Edgewood Street NE. They’re open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30-3PM and Sunday from 10:30-2PM. Orders that are placed after 2PM will be available the next day, and you can contact them with questions and/or concerns at (202) 803 – 7943. For those of you looking to indulge in bulk (12-24), you can get a 10% discount with code 12FRZN at checkout.
On top of salteñas, they offer cuñape (cheesy bread made from tapioca starch and cheese), vegan peanut soup, alfajores (shortbread cookies with dulce de leche), llajwa (spicy tomato sauce), sandwiches and more.
Alright Nomsters, we hope you enjoyed reading all about Saya Salteña on our latest. Definitely make sure to pay Maria a visit, and let us know how you felt about her food by leaving us a comment here post-nom sesh. For more on DC eats, make sure to browse this time and give us a follow on both @nomtasticfoods and @nomtasticdc. Until next time, friends!