Somehow, I have found myself in Colombia working with two Venezuelans. Since I started working last October, I have managed to pick up a few things from them, including their love of Venezuelan food and their accent (so I’ve been told by one of my Spanish teachers…).
Since day one at work, my two Venezuelans introduced me to their country’s food, which I have to say, is delightful! They took me to one of their favorite places Budare’s, which is a bit of a hike from our office, but well worth the walk, especially on a warm, sunny day.
We started with some tequeños, which are like cheese sticks, but with a cheese more spongy inside than stringy, and with a nice hint of saltiness. The fried outside has a nice crunch to it, contrasting well with the soft cheese inside. Seriously, the best cheese sticks I have had in my life!!!
To drink, we had Papelon, which is a drink made with panela, which is a brown sugar like substance, and with lemon. It’s VERY sweet, and a traditional drink in Venezuelan culture. It is also popular in other countries, but often called by a different name (Aguapanela in Colombia).
Then, we had an arepa reina pepiada, which was like a corn-meal, sandwich with chicken salad inside. The chicken was mixed with mayo and avocado, but was missing the celery, which would usually be included in an american-made, chicken salad. This is the most traditional type of arepa eaten in Venezuela, where as in Bogota the arepas are mostly made with just cheese inside or plain.
The arepas were followed by a papellón. This traditional plate includes black beans, a plain arepa, shaved cheese, shredded beef, fried plantains and white rice. The egg that is on top of the rice and the avocado are Colombian additions, which normally wouldn’t be part of the dish.
There’s a saying in Spanish: “barriga llena, corazon contento” that translates to full stomach, happy heart. Meaning, that you are happier, when you aren’t hungry.
I’m thankful to have enjoyed these wonderful Venezuelan meals with friends, who have taught me that sometimes the way to the heart is through the stomach.