Arepa con Carne mechada

There has been a lot of bad news about Venezuela recently – government upheaval, scarcities, lack of medications, mass emigration.  But there is a lot good about the country and its people as well.

Let’s start with the food. Venezuelan food is fairly unknown outside of the country.  But that will change with the diaspora that has occurred in the last ten years and more.

People have asked me, when I lived in Venezuela, how did I tolerate the spicy food in Venezuela.  It was easy.  There wasn’t any, unless we could find a Mexican food truck.  No where else had food with any spiciness.

Venezuelans love beef and particularly steaks.  And scotch, particularly good scotch.  We did once see a drunk stumbling down the street drinking from a bottle of Johnny Walker — it was Johnny Walker black label (the premium stuff).

The beef is much more flavourful than North American steaks usually are.  My favourite was a cut called punta trasera, a large slab of beef that is brought to your table with a small barbecue similar to a habachi.  You slice of a piece and grill it on the habachi until it meets your desired finish.  The meat is often eaten with guasacaca. an avocado based sauce made with vinegar.  It seems like a strange thing to put on steak, but it is delicious.


We loved the fresh fruit and different foods.  The national dish, is a platter called pabellon criollo.  The dish includes black beans, rice, a platano (woody banana) and shredded beef (carne mechada).  Often served with arepas (corn meal buns the size of a puck).  Arepas are also served stuffed with cheese, beans or carne mechada.

The carne mechada is a favourite of mine.  It is flank steak cooked until tender in a beef broth with cumin, peppers, and spices.  It is juicy and chewy and a staple of every Venezuelan Fuente de Soda.

Fresh fruit drinks are also everywhere.  Passion fruit (parchita), tamarindo, nispero, guanabana and other tropical fruits, as well as mixes like pineapple-watermelon.

No party would be complete without tequeños being served.  They are white cheese, fried in a wrap of light dough.

For breakfast, chopped ham wrapped in dough, almost like a croissant, are cachitos.  They are a popular breakfast snack.

While we feel bad for the country during its difficult times now, one benefit for us is that many of the Venezuelans who left have come here and now we can get authentic Venezuela food in Toronto.

So where’s the spicy food?  Well, not in Venezuela.  Happy Independence Day (July 5th), Venezuela!

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