Traditional Venezuelan Food
Some of the most ubiquitous foods are fried corn- or flour-based pancakes and bread, which are served with almost everything. Fruit is also popular, specifically mangoes, papayas, avocadoes, oranges, bananas, coconuts, passion fruit, melons, pineapples, guava and sour sap, which comes from the graviola tree.
Venezuela grows a lot of coffee and has a strong coffee culture, thanks to the introduction of espresso by Spaniards. Coffee is the most common beverage in the country and is always offered to guests. It's considered rude to say no if you're offered a cup of joe because it's a symbol of hospitality. Other typical drinks are fruit juices, milkshakes and chicha, a concoction crafted from ground rice, salt, condensed milk, sugar, vanilla and ice. Chicha is most common in Venezuela's llanos, or grasslands [sources: Hoag, Kwintessential].
Whether dining out or at home, some of the most common traditional menu items are:
- Arepas -- Fried or baked corn pancakes filled with everything from eggs and tomatoes to shrimp and cheese. Venezuelans snack on them throughout the day, and small arepas are served as side dishes at most meals.
- Empanadas -- Deep-fried cornmeal turnovers filled with meat, cheese or seafood.
- Cachitos -- Hot croissants filled with ham and cheese.
- Cachapas -- Thick, sweet, maize (corn) pancakes served with queso guayanesa, a mozzarella-type cheese.
- Hallaca- - A dish of chopped beef, pork and chicken mixed with green peppers, onion, garlic, tomatoes, raisins, olives and herbs and spices, typically served at Christmas. Corn dough is wrapped around the mixture and then steamed in banana leaves.