It looks like a fried baseball wrapped in aluminum foil, which suggests many Americans would dismiss the papas rellenas as just another odd immigrant food.
But take heed, New Year’s Eve revelers: This little known Colombian specialty is a renowned hangover remedy for Charlotte’s growing Hispanic community.
It actually tastes good, too, which stands in contrast to goofy American hangover cures like pickle juice, raw eggs and charcoal.
Manuel “Manolo” Betancur makes papa rellenas at Las Delicias bakery on Central Avenue and he swears they ease the aftermath of heavy drinking. (They cost about $3.)
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Betancur is a native of Colombia and he says the papas rellenas are a tradition there in small towns. “If there is to be a big celebration, the vendors gather in the middle of town and sell them to the people who drink,” he says. “Some people eat it before they start drinking and some after. Both is good. I can tell you it works.”
The papas rellenas is a mix of potatoes, eggs, special seasonings and beef. It’s fried like a doughnut and can be eaten like an apple. There are chicken and chili versions, and Bentacur says some communities put a whole boiled egg in the middle.
“It’s the mix of potatoes, beef and fat that stop the hangover,” he says.
Experts seem to agree, noting a greasy meal before drinking helps slow the rate of alcohol absorption. In fact, two table spoons of mashed potatoes with a lot of butter is cited specifically as a good anti-hangover remedy by the Web site Medical Daily.
“Gastroenterologists suggest eating fatty foods doesn’t necessarily ‘line your stomach’ per se, but it may provide a better foundation for your stomach to handle alcohol,” says Medical Daily.
Another option suggested by the site is to drink olive oil.
If Americans prefer such disgusting remedies, Las Delicias offers one that may qualify, Bentacur says.
It’s made of cow’s blood, intestines and rice, and is sold alongside the papas rellenas in a steam cabinet to the right of the bakery’s cash register. A lot of the stuff at the bakery is exotic looking, but the steamer is where you’ll find the real mysteries: Specialty items customers want made to the specifications of their home country.
“I call it the hangover corner,” Bentacur says, noting everything in the steamer qualifies as a greasy hangover cure. “Americans should try the blood sausage, but I think they are afraid of it.”
Finding papas rellenas
Las Delicias is at 4405-C Central Avenue. It’s open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. New Year’s Day. Details www.lasdeliciasbakeryclt.com or 704-568-2120.