This page is dedicated to all things traditional. Food, drink, music, dance, holidays, language. Attempts will be made to make this a comprehensive collection. Posts will be in the order in which we visit each country (as opposed to alphabetical).
Arepas (and empanadas):
Arepas (on the top and left) are a staple in Curacao and Venezuela. There is science to making these babies, and all I’ve been told is that you know when they are right. Every time I’ve seen them made, it’s with a two-thirds masa, one-third water ratio, then add a bit of once it’s been mixed together a bit. You knead the masa dough until it’s properly sticky- which is the hardest part for me to conclude. “Fine” arepas are small, light, and perfectly circular. I’ve watched Alex’s sisters argue over whose are better. Once formed, they are pan-fried until crisp on the outside-just a couple of minutes on either side. Then they are baked until the insides are done. Traditionally, arepas are stuffed with ham, queso fresco, and mayonnaise. They love their mayonnaise. We’ve also had them stuffed with scrambled eggs with green onions, chorizo and avocado, and onion and tuna. The image on the right is of empanadas. Also very traditional; stuffed with cheese, chicken, or beef.
Parilla, pinchos, and guasaca
Parilla are charcoal-grilled meats. They are popular! BBQ is the preferred method of cooking here in Maracaibo, and if you can get it grilled, it always has better flavor. Beef, chicken, chorizo, pork (ribs), burgers are most the most commonly grilled items. You can also purchase pinchos, (grilled meat on a stick) from street vendors, throughout Venezuela. Parilla is almost always accompanied by at least one salsa- which here, means sauce. I’ve had mustard base sauces, tomato/ketchup based sauces, herb and mayonnaise sauce, but my favorite is guasaca.
Guasaca: This is and avocado, cilantro, onion, tomato, and garlic (optional) salsa. Ingredients are blended or finely chopped. It is pictured above with grilled spicy chorizo. Here’s a recipe for guasaca here: http://todosloscomo.com/2011/04/24/como-hacer-guasacaca/. The page is in spanish, but I think you can get the idea.
Fruits & Vegetables
Being in such a warm and tropical place, fruits and vegetables are plentiful. We’ve had the luxury of making fresh fruit juices almost daily. Giant avocados, bananas, plantains, pineapple, mangoes, pomarosa (malay apples), parchita (passion fruit), moro (similar to raspberries), coconut, guayabana, tamarind, tomatoes, strawberries, baby limes, and baby mandarines are most visible and sold at drive-up fruit carts. Root vegetables grow well here. Yucca, beets, potatoes, carrots, and onion are most commonly used in cooking. I’ve also seen celery, red/green peppers, hot chilies (though spicy food is uncommon here,) and a light green squash (similar to patty-pan) are some pantry staples. Fruits and vegetables are rarely purchased in grocery stores. The produce at street carts and stands is not only believed to be more fresh, it is almost always less expensive. Like everything, during the holiday months of November and December, produce prices fluctuate greatly.
Below is a photo of some of the fruits found locally. All but the cashew fruit shown here are from the backyard of the home my husband grew up in.
top to bottom and left to right: Pomarosa, Cashew fruit, known as Maranon in spanish- with raw cashews, Parchita (my favorite!), and Mango
My husband and I were guests of honor at a celebration at his family home in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Because his family didn’t attend our wedding due to distance, they prepared a feast of parilla, avocados, yucca, cheese, and torta with rainbow gelatin dessert. Everybody came over- I think there were forty people at the house! Now I have mixed feelings about gelatin. I don’t really like it, but it makes a cool-looking dessert. We went to several other festivities here, and this was a popular accompaniment to dessert. Though I’ve never made it, when we get back to the states, I’d like to try. Here’s an exampla recipe i found online:
Quesillo is another thing that is often served with torta. Quesillo is the Venezuelan version of flan, using similar ingredients. Eggs, condensed milk, whole milk, vanilla, and sugar. Though not a big fan of flan, I love quesillo! I’m a bit bais, but I think my husband’s sister makes it best.