Street Food of Guatemala: The best empanada and aroz con leche drink in San Pedro, lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

Day 14, Central America trip, Dec 2012
Day 12, Lake Atitlan, San Pedro  village, Guatemala

I’ve been at the lake for over 10 days and always hesitate every time I pass by this street stall yet never fully get the courage to find out why this street vendor in San Pedro at lake Atitlan is always surround by a mop of customers. Unlike S.E. Asia where there are numerous street food stalls every corner you turn to. Of all the villages around the lake Atitlan, I think San Pedro received the most tourist/visitors, after Panajael. In my opinion, San Pedro locals are not much snackers, either due to economic reason or they just preferred more simple food than other parts of the world.

Big crowd waiting for their turn to purchase from this street stall


Don’t get me wrong, there are mom and pop “tienda” all over town (convenience stores) selling packaged chips and beers and the occasional cart that sell “el pollo y papa fritta” and that’s fried chicken and French fries. There are also handwritten sign in front of some door  selling tortillas (homemade, probably by some mom) or the fresh fruits or smoothie all over San Pedro la Laguna. I still practice the principle “eat only fruits that I can peel myself” up to this day. And my friends, that’s it, as far as munchie or snacking goes in this village. Hence, the town doesn’t have as many street stalls per capital as its S.E. Asia counter part.DSCN4355On top of that, I’ve never cared much for Mexican food (I always called them Mexican food) but truly, it should be Hispanic/Latino cuisine because we have a huge Hispanic/Mexican community present in California. Simply because I’m not a fan of ozzy rich melting cheese, rice and bean, which I now learn that it is more Mexican than Guatemala. On the other hand, my siblings loved Mexican food because they don’t have semi “lactose intolerant” like I do.

Her small simple table, street food stall with 2 jugs of drinks of the day and the fixing for the burgers or the empanada or tostada.


I typically gravitate toward either more rustic European or Asian cuisine so I didn’t try this lady’s street stall until I switched my morning class to the afternoon class at Spanish school (Casa Rosario). For morning lesson, we get fresh fruits and tamales during our break because the school director goes to the market daily to pick them up. For the afternoon, we get snacks from this lady in lieu of the fresh fruits. That’s me, above, holding a glass of aroz con leche, served hot (rice and milk) but I’ve been told by my classmate that it tasted like horchata (cold in the US or Mexico).

Her pot of empanadaDSCN4387

There’s nothing fancy about her empanada. Almost….and I say almost, because here in Guatemala, people make their own tortilla from scratch at home and have it multiple times a day, like breakfast, lunch and also dinner. It also comes in lieu of bread in restaurants unless it is a tourist restaurant or serves international cuisine. Bread is not a local staple here so it is like a zillion times much more expensive to eat bread than tortilla.

Side dishes to garnish the empanadas, tostadas or pan (burgers, meatless).


This street stall vendor’s empanada tasted like an Indian Mimosa, less that strong Indian curry aroma (it’s a win-win in my book since I don’t care much for Indian food) except that this is a better version of Indian Mimosa, less the strong Indian aroma and it came in a tortilla shell. I loved it.

My serving of double empanadas: 5 Quetzale/$0.67 USD


Anyone and everyone know that I loved fried food. I always say: anything fried tasted good! This lady’s empanadas has nothing inside excepted for cooked potato filling. Possibly a little bit of salt. She then garnish it with the chopped cabbage, a little fresh tomato sauce. Sometimes with cooked beets or any in season vegetable.

YUM! Kids, don’t do this at home. I’m one of the very few that can handle that much of her fresh chilly mix  (chopped jalapeno, onions & tomatoes). Even the locals were trying to stop me from eating that much chillies in the first place. Esta bien! Aisa can handles the heat!


Ever since I was introduced to her empanadas during the school break, I had her empanadas every single school day. I even had it twice on the first day since the morsels were so good that I actually savor the taste and had to return to the stall after I finished my lesson for a second round. In truth, the portion is really small and can only qualified as snack by US standard, unless you have a drink to compliment the snack which may help you feel full. I can’t handle the milk (dairy based) so I typically have just the double empanadas like everyone else, minus the drink.

Her 2 jugs of warm beverages, drink of the day.


This empanadas fixation totally remind me of the time I was gifted a new Panini grill for Christmas. I literally had Paninis 3 times a day, 7 days a week, for weeks, until I grown tired of it and reduced it to the rate of occasional usage afterward. I would still use it to cook other things but the Panini frequency definitely got reduced.

Either aroz con leche and a chocolate version.


I had the empanadas for 3-4 consecutive days, then decided to try her other offering – the tostada!


The tostada came with a flat, fried corn tortilla. Smoother with mashed avocado (guacamole), then top with mixed vegetables and some slices of boiled eggs.

Finally, today is my day. The street vendor finally has something “lactose intolerant” friendly for me to drink. I’ve been told there is no “milk” in this banana drink.DSCN4394Today, she serves: atol de platano, a traditional Guatemalan drink made of plantain bananas and sugar. I’ve been eating at her stall daily without drinking any beverage so I really liked her drink of the day, today. It is sweet, probably both from the sugar and the sweetness of the plantain yet a little tart.

Last, but not least, is the pan (aka vegetarian burger. She does not offer anything with meat)


That’s my Spanish teacher from the morning session (Faustina) holding the burger for my photo shoot.

Basically, the filling are similar from the other choice (tosada) except that it came in the form of bread. This is also a popular choice for the tuk tuk drivers as it’s more portable than the empanadas or tosada. I found the tosada hardest to eat on the street because it can gets pretty messy.

This is my burger. It can taste very rich and smooth because of the fresh avocado. Yummi!


Now that I have tasted all of her offering, I think the empanadas are my favorite. I wouldn’t mind snacking on it every day. If you’re in San Pedro lago de Atitlan, you must pay her stall a visit.

Hour:  She’s only open after 3:30 pm until night time, whenever she runs out.

Location: She’s at the end of the international restaurant strip, right in-front of the Mayab Spanish school sign, near the only museum in town.

Cost:  Average cost: 5 Q/$ 0.67 USD for the double empanadas portion. Drink extra.



  1. Hi again, =)

    Where are you right now? I’ve been missing you. Over the New Year weekend, I wanted to have breakfast at Panera Bread & wish you was here so we can hang out. Hugs…

    It’s been cold here since before Christmas, every morning, my car windows would be covered with ice/frost. Sometime pouring room temp. water over them wouldn’t help, must use hot water. Perfect weather for a cup of hot coffee with great company like yours. :~)

    Be safe & looking forward to hearing from you again, soon.

    Chi Van


    • Hi chi,

      I’m writing to you from San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. It is now 1:00 am Thursday morning, Jan 10th, 2013 and I’m waiting for my taxi to pick me up to the bus station – enroute Nicaragua next.

      Hoped you got some good rest for the New Year holiday? Can’t wait to go sit down over a cup of coffee and pastry to catch up with you.


    • Hi again,   Wow, you are traveling at 1 AM in the middle of the night? I would rather be in bed sleeping or if traveling, I want to be already inside a plan/bus sleeping already. :~)   Good to hear from you this often, my dear. Hugs… 🙂 I was worried that you don’t have internet access to communicate much.   Read your 2 other new posts, sorry you lost your camera cable but glad to hear you already got a replacement.  Thank you for all the pixs, info. & blogs/posts.  Feel as though I am traveling with you as I read & view them.  :~)   It’s getting late, I’d better get ready for bed now.  Take care.   Hugs…   Chi Van


    • My pleasure sis, in doing my best, to keep everyone abreast. Every single jaw dropping destination that I’ve visited, I always wish that you were here, to share the beautiful sight with me.

      Oh no, I may have misinformed you about the information. I decided to stay up (at the time of writing to you aka 1am) since I leave the hotel at 2am with a shared cab ride.

      I know very early AM departure is not ideal but its has an advantage. Your arrival to the destination will be during the day. Later departure have the opposite effect and some part of town, you do not want to arrive after 6 pm, lol.

      BTW, sometimes, there’s only 1 departure for the day or week. It’s take it or leave it option type of thing. Traveling trained me to be even more flexible than when I was at home.


  2. Hi Nat,

    Happy New Year! How are you lately? Not sick anymore, I hope.

    Thanks for the several email/update entries.

    Anyway, just want to send a quick yellow! 🙂

    Take care. Hugs…

    Chi Van =)

    Sent from my iPad


    • Thanks chi. Van

      Yup! I got over my sickness and keep traveling. As a matter of fact, I’m traveling to San Salvadore, the city of El Salvadore from Flores, Tikal, Guatemala tomorrow.

      Wow….did I see that you’re writing from your iPad? New Year’s gift? That’s exciting. Now that I’m traveling a lot, small, compact item like iPad really made a difference when you have like 50 lbs on your back.

      To be added to my “wish list”, lol.


Leave a reply:

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

You are commenting using your 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s