Although downtown's Bombolé Eatery serves empanadas, it's not the pan dulce or Mexican-bakery style of empanada you might be used to.
Open the doors for a blast of curry aromas wafting from the kitchen. Step inside to see a small, casual-chic space with Indian influences, including dark wooden tables with henna tattoo art.
Although the decor is modern and hip, the inviting vibe — created with dark wood and warm golden tones — matches the rustic cuisine.
"We want people to feel at home since it's a home cooking kind of meal," said Jackie Sharma, who owns Bombolé, Ike's Coffee & Tea, and Twirls Frozen Yogurt. "People have rice, dahl (lentils). It feels like you're coming to my house because that's what I would serve you at home. That's what I've been serving to my friends for the past ten years."
Jackie, a Honduras native, moved to Tucson about 25 years ago. She eventually married Deepak Sharma, an Indian man from Scotland.
Deepak's family would spend a month at a time visiting Tucson, while Jackie and Deepak would make occasional trips to Scotland.
"They have so many similarities and put in the same spices but with different names," Jackie said.
After over a decade of learning and tweaking Indian recipes from Deepak's family, Jackie decided to share her take on "Indian taste with a Latin twist."
"It's a fusion," Jackie said. "I make curry and then I wrap it in an empanada dough. It's the marriage of two cultures."
When it comes to stuffed pastries in the Indian context, you might be used to triangular fried samosas. Bombolé embraces the half-moon empanada as the vessel.
"It's just a plain flaky kind of dough, my own recipe, and everything is made here from scratch," Jackie said. "It works well even with sweet things. We will eventually expand to do some sweet things."
The crust has a light sweetness and a firm-yet-tender yield. The fillings are not as saucy as typical curries — as a result, the empanadas are not soggy whatsoever and soak up the sides of sauce.
Liberal spice use in the Aloo Matar and Matar Paneer samosas pair well with the traditional Mint Chutney. Rich, meaty Butter Chicken and Pork Curry receive a burst of brightness and heat from the Bombolé Cilantro Sauce, fresh with cilantro, lemon, and serrano pepper. The basmati rice, fragrant with cumin seed and onion, sops up the creamy Tikka Masala Sauce and comforting Daal.
While customers often buy five or six empanadas to go, another popular option is the Bombo Combo ($8.35). The meal includes one empanada, one dipping sauce, two sides, and a medium tea.
"I have my fillings on the side as well so people who can't eat gluten can still enjoy our fillings without the dough," Jackie said. "All of our fillings are gluten-free."
Furthermore, the lunch menu now also includes gluten-free dossas with your choice of empanada filling.
Bombole empanadas are also sold at Ike's Coffee and at the Eller College of Management. Furthermore, Bombole also began catering.
Operating hours are 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday - Friday. Hours may expand in the near future with a focus on beer and wine in the evening and boquitas.
Bombolé Eatery is located at 100 N. Stone Ave., Ste 102. Keep up with Bombolé Eatery on Instagram. For more information, visit eatbombole.com.
[The article was originally written on August 15, 2018, and updated on April 19, 2019.]
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he...