Sopapillas, also called sopaipillas, are deep-fried dough pockets served in many Latin American and South American countries, and in Spanish-speaking regions of North America. They are a simple bread traditionally made from wheat, leavening and shortening, then cut into circles, squares or triangles and fried in hot oil until they puff. Deep-fried bread is no New World innovation -- versions of sopapillas existed in European and Middle Eastern kitchens. The Spanish word for this delicacy is "sopaipa," a term that derives from the Mozarabic language of medieval Islamic Spain, where the fried bread was likely first introduced.
Hardcore sopapilla connoisseurs devour the puffy pillows warm, with a squeeze of honey. They may be dusted with cinnamon sugar, flavored with anise syrup, spiced up with red or green chilies, or stuffed with refried beans, scrambled eggs, taco fillings or cheese. Many Latin-themed restaurants routinely serve a basket of sopapillas as dessert. They are popular enough in Texas to be one of two official state pastries. One thing is certain: Well-made sopapillas are as irresistible -- and probably as fattening -- as potato chips.