France has French fries, Belgium has fries with mayo, Canada has poutine and America has home fries, waffle fries and hash browns. Everybody loves fried potatoes. But the potato originally comes from Peru, and sure enough, Peruvians have a trick up their sleeves too: deep-fried meat-stuffed mashed potatoes with hot sauce.
You can try it at El Tesoro del Inca in southern Irving. Papa rellena is the name. Clogging your arteries is the game. The mashed potatoes are formed into a giant fritter, like an all-potato hush puppy the size of a fist. Inside, there is a pocket of ground beef and a smattering of other fillings, like an olive and chunks of hard-boiled egg. The whole thing is topped with a blanket of sliced red onion.
Papa rellena is an appetizer, but it might as well be a full meal. Truth be told, El Tesoro can be a bit stingy with the filling, but what’s there is delicious, and so are the golden-fried potatoes. It’s addicting.
And if you need a little somethin’ else, El Tesoro’s hot sauce is a big surprise. Here are the steps to eating hot sauce with your papa rellena at El Tesoro del Inca.
- Laugh at the pale beige "Creamy Italian Salad Dressing" color of the hot sauce.
- Pour some on your next bite, chuckling at what a silly, tan hot sauce this is.
- Like a scene from a Warner Bros. cartoon, eyeballs pop out, tongue breathes fire, chorus of electric-guitar-strumming angels welcome you to Hot Sauce Valhalla.
- Douse everything on your plate with more hot sauce.
- Wonder if you can buy a gallon jug of this hot sauce.
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Two caveats about getting your deep-fried meat-stuffed hot-sauce-drenched mashed potato. First, El Tesoro is a place where you really ought to speak Spanish, or visit with a Spanish-speaking friend. Second, if you’re thinking about getting the papa rellena as an appetizer and then moving on to a main, maybe think twice. This is a ton of fried food, and El Tesoro is generous with its main course portions.
But hey, maybe the digestive sacrifice is worth it. It ain’t every day you find a place that will take ground beef and an egg, stick them inside mashed potatoes, ball the whole thing up, throw it in the deep fryer and slather it with onions.
Most of the other DFW outlets for papa rellena are Cuban restaurants, including Havana Café on the east side. Often you’ll find smaller, empanada-style portions. Head to Irving if you want to go whole hog, or, uh, whole potato.
El Tesoro del Inca, 733 N. Belt Line Road, Irving. 972-313-9495, eltesorodelinca.com. Papa rellena $6.