BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippine — Crisp, flaky, and filling – I’ve always known empanadas as a deep fried, pie-like snack of Spanish colonial influence that often come wrapped in parchment like a fist-sized candy or packed in brown paper bags like pandesal. They can come in any flavor from savory cheese, chicken, and tuna filling mixed with potatoes, carrots, peas, and raisins, to sweet mango or pineapple pureed or mashed.
Despite living in the Little Paris of Negros where empanadas can be bought off food carts and door-to-door vendors, I have never once seen nor tasted empanadas that I can simply pop into my mouth like popcorn—devouring at least five without my noticing until DNX went to Jinky’s Kitchen.
Jinky’s Kitchen, Buns and Homemade Retailing, a curbside food hub at Capitol Heights, Bacolod City, prides itself in its empanaditas a spin-off of the age-old empanadas created by Jinky Sarrosa right in her own kitchen during the idle and stifling times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the name suggests, empanaditas are smaller sorts of a regular empanada akin to how ensaymaditas are for ensaymadas. Jinky’s Kitchen, which began with just Curry Chicken and Papa’s con Chorizo little pockets of goodness, took off alongside the rising curve of the pandemic in May of 2020 and now has 11 [going 12] empanadita flavors, a growing menu of ‘hunger buster’ sandwiches, and a food cart on the way.
“What can I do on my own?” was the question that pushed Sarrosa during the dull days of the pandemic to set up the cozy and inviting hub right in the pocket of her own home, converting her room and the garden into a kitchen and a pick-up area with a glass covered counter—now a dining place to serve walk-in customers. She found herself playing around with the idea of doing something “different” out of her strong love for empanadas, cooking, and entertaining guests ever since she was younger.
Coming from a line of good Negrense cooks and business moguls, Sarrosa finished a degree in Culinary Arts and had a wealth of experience in the industry inside and outside the Philippines.
Together with her family, she established La Tia, the first Taqueria in Bacolod at the turn of the century. After a time, she left for the States to serve in several management posts at Holiday Inn, curating and creating the menu as a youngblood fresh out of culinary school.
Sarrosa returned home to the sweet pastures of Negros less than a decade later to help with the family’s security provider agency. Yet, no matter where the sugarcanes bent, she was always drawn towards cooking and so, she put up a fine dining restaurant for a while. When the pandemic struck longer than expected, she took a risk on her empanaditas and created Jinky’s Kitchen that was easier to market and franchise to the Negrense crowd but most of all one that would allow her to just “cook for people ” as she pleased.
As the head of Jinky’s Kitchen, Sarrosa oversees all the cooking, marketing, and accommodating. Sarrosa shared to DNX she “never skimps” though her empanaditas are small, each one is packed with a different burst of flavor than the last, some having even 12 spices in them; true to her principle of ensuring her customers only come to relax and be filled.
She makes everything by hand and from scratch, from the filling and dough of their famous deep-fried pockets to the spread of their hunger buster sandwiches that are relatively new to the menu. She sources the ingredients and makes the breads, kani and tuna spreads, buttermilk chicken, and the mustard onions for the Hungarian sausage sandwiches herself. She is also very detail-oriented and particular in the kitchen, having each prepped component or menu item labeled with their creation dates and stored properly. All in pursuit of her principle of ensuring that her customers only come to relax, eat, and enjoy.
Though their hunger buster sandwiches are only available at their curbside hub, they sell frozen packs of their renowned empanaditas at Belcris Foods in Dumaguete, KMart, and Lopues East. Come August, Jinky’s Kitchen can be enjoyed at SM’s Food Court where they will be selling their delectable empanaditas at a food stall brandishing their new logo created by Sarrosa’s unica hija.
Jinky’s empanaditas, unlike the empanadas we grew up with, may be small in size but they pack a whole lot more tastes and memories from the early mornings or noons when the air is wafted by the the crisp dough of fresh off the fryer empanadas.