Cachapa is a Venezuela street dish similar to the pancakes of North America, although instead of flour, it is made from freshly ground corn. Now a famous dish (appetizer, party snack and main meal), the Venezuelan corn pancake has become an adopted delicacy among food lovers across several countries.
Nowadays, the Venezuela corn which has been processed into a flour mix is prepared into cachapas, refrigerated and sold in markets for ready use, although homemade cachapas are still preferred. The corn pancake is loved for its variations on fillings it goes with, and is often mistaken for its near family Arepas.
We will be clarifying this, as we get into the true origin of Cachapa, similar dishes it is often confused for, how best to prepare it and the different flavours you have to try your Cachapa with.
History and Origin
Although Cachapa is a widely popular delicacy in Columbia, the dish is said to have originated from Venezuela, long ago during the pre-Columbian period.
During this period indigenes from the central region of Venezuela, would ground their native corn with stone pestles, mix the ground corn with water, and milk and then heat it on budares made of clay to have thick yellow flat cakes (Cachapa) which represented the flour of pancakes.
It is noted that back then, the addition of salt and sugar was not a known part of the Cachapas recipe, although the basic fundamentals involved remain the same as they have been known.
Hence, modern-day Cachaperias (cachapas restaurants) still keep the recipe short (ground corn with milk, salt, water and sugar), but with some modifications such as the assorted fillings like the roasted pork, queso de mano (cheese cream) and even telita cheese.
It is not clear who started the cachapa delicacy, however, the existence and cultivation of the corn are said to have existed since the three great civilizations of central and South America (the Maya, Inca and Aztecs).
For others, the dish dates down to early Venezuelans – the Yanomamo, Arawaks and Parias. The three civilization periods are between 500 to 1,800 years ago, accounting for the development of farming practices across different land terrains. This ensured the farmers could grow crops, maize inclusive on mountainsides, in tropical climates and with advanced irrigation practices.
For the indigenes, grinding their maize kernels, and preparing it with milk and water before heating on flat griddles made their day. So much that, the dish became revered and attached to religious practices because their corn was considered to be a gift from God.
The north-central of Venezuela, Miranda region was occupied by indigenes known to cultivate the sweet corn used for the preparation of the dish. Therefore on special occasions, such as the day of San Isidore the Farm Laborer (San Isidro Labrador), the planting of the corn kernels was done in honour of the native farmers in the region.
Till date, this practice is still on in some farming communities in Venezuela, as corn remain the main source of several dishes such as Arepas, Empanadas, and Cachapas in Venezuela.
Cachapas can be seen served at small markets and streets eat-outs, with vendors either preparing the corn mixture beforehand or at the market site, and cooking it over grills on site.
Cachapa vs Arepa
One of the most popular Venezuelan corn-based dishes has been the Arepas and Cachapas. They also happen to be referred to interchangeably, given their looks and incorporation of maize in their making.
Cachapas comes in different forms, the popular ones being the Cachapa de budare and the Cachapa de hoja. The former is known to be a mix of the ground corn, cheese and sugar or panela, which is then cooked in a budare (clay-made plate) and served with the widely known Venezuelan cheese, queso de map and some butter.
The Cachapas de hoja, however, differs in its cooking style where the batter (similar to the cachapas de budare) is wrapped in corn leaves and boiled in that form.
The prepared arepas and cachapas might look similar, however, their differences are in their ingredients and how they are served. The Venezuelan arepa is a bread made from cornflour and which is then cooked in an aripo (clay pot). The cooked arepas are cut into pockets and filled with veggies, avocado, stew and chicken.
On the other hand, Cachapa is a fried tasty pancake, made from sweetcorn of freshly ground corn batter on a budare, and served with either the Venezuelan hand cheese (queso de mano), chicharron (fried pork) and several other varieties of choice.
It also is yellow, lumpier and thicker than the arepas due to the ground corn kernels used in making it, which is often not paste-like as the cornflour used in making arepas.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6 pancakes (3 servings)
4 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh corn kernels
8 oz sliced mozzarella
- Using a blender or food processor, prepare a batter containing the egg, milk, corn, sugar, salt, cornflour and melted butter. Allow standing for about 10-12 minutes for the paste to thicken to a chunky dough.
- Preheat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat
- Add some butter on the heated skillet to grease. If using the griddle, grease it for each pancake prepared.
- Pour a ladle of the corn batter on the greased skillet or griddle (½ size of the cup), and spread into a full circle with a spoon.
- Allow cooking for 4 to 5 minutes, when bubbles form on the surface of the pancakes, then turns golden and seems to look dry, flip it with a spatula to its other side. Allow cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes. Noted that while cooking, the heat should be kept at low to medium heat, this prevents the outside of the pancakes from looking ready before the inside of the pancake is completely cooked.
- Once ready, remove from skillet/griddle, place some sliced mozzarella cheese on side of the cachapa which should melt in given the heat. Fold in the other half into the cheese and smear the top with some butter.
- Your cachapa is ready and sizzlingly hot. To preserve warm while preparing more pancakes, keep it in the oven. Continue the cooking of the pancakes till all your batter are used up.
Note that with your cachapa ready you can go for any filling that suits your taste such as shredded beef, queso fresco, gouda cheese, pork cracklings, ham, chorizo, etc.
Photo from Flickr
Nutrition (Amount per servings)
Total fat 9.5 g
Total Carbohydrate 31.8 g
Dietary fibre 2.8 g
Sugars 9.5 g
Cholesterol 65 mg
Sodium 99 mg
Potassium 230 mg
Cachapas are most often taken as appetizers or full breakfast or lunch meals. Hence, it is very common to have it served with queso de mano (Venezuelan hand cheese), telita (white cheese produced from raw milk of cow) or guayanés cheese, which is another cheese option for cachapas.
These soft spreads given their source needs to be fresh to maintain their soft (whey can be used to preserve telita), juicy and creamy taste.
Another popular filling option aside from the cheeses is the pernil de cochino, this is an oven-cooked or broiled pork leg. Oh! And if you are still a big fan of cheese, you can have a mix of your favourite cheese and the pernil for a perfect cachapas feast.
If you looking to make a memorable feast of cachapas similar to the ones in Caracas, Venezuela, then three suggested tasty flavours gotten from different fillings below with your cachapas will also be great options.
- A filling of pernil with cream of Venezuelan aioli, aji dulce and some spicy butter
- A cream of telita cheese with some blood sausage (Carupano) or morcilla
- Reina peiada (a mix of mayonnaise with chicken and diced avocado) and palmizulia cheese
- Spiced cheesed spread on cachapas with diced jalapenos and fresh cilantro
- Cream filling with sour cream spread
- Toppings of shredded meat with chorizo sausage and diced ham