I had valuable insights into Venezuelan cuisine yesterday, with thanks to the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Malaysia as well as Venezuelan Author and Chef Carmen Rawstron.
Bubbly Chef Carmen is such a doll; extremely informative about all things Venezuelan and her superb enthusiasm was infectious! She unabashedly shared her knowledge and very generously bestowed recipes and tips of her Venezuelan cuisine.
I’m a strong advocate that as a foodie one should be game to sample any cuisine or dish. Officially this is my first time savouring Venezuelan cuisine, but on the other hand, I find some of the dishes familiar, especially the beans, the rice and the feta cheese sticks. Somehow, it reminded me strongly of Mexican cuisine.
This exotic Venezuelan spread is currently available at Renaissance Hotel, KL on Jalan Ampang. For RM86++/pax, each diner gets to savour traditional and popular Venezuelan food as well as the rest of the daily dinner buffet.
For a start, try the Ensalada de Palmitos – Palm Hearts Salad, which is a simple mix of avocadoes, tomatoes and artichokes in olive oil. On its side is the “ceviche-like” (I said ceviche-like as that would be the best way to describe this) but Chef Carmen has firmly stated that the Venezuelan preparation of fresh seafood seasoned with lemon flavour is not named as ceviche.
At the hot items section, I loved the Mackerel foldovers – Empanadas. This was pleasantly savoury due to its mix of minced oily fish flakes, capers, raisins; contributing to its sweet and sour taste. If you’re a curry puff fan, you’ll love this for sure! 🙂
The feta cheese sticks (Tequenos) were equally addictive and it was hard to stop at ONE. However, there’s more to savour so I had too!
A recipe tip by Chef Carmen; the pastry used to make these are alike corn polenta. She used a similar type of flour for tortilla, where’s it’s precooked mix dough from water, butter and olive oil.
So this was my starting plate for the evening. 🙂
This is another traditional Venezuelan favourite and it’s easy to see why. Pan de Jamon – Turkey ham, briny olives and sweet raisins in a soft roll. What’s not to like? 🙂
Seafood is a local staple food as Chef Carmen said they have 3000km of coastline. However, in the plain lands, beef and pork are just as popular. Venezuelans are known for their BBQs and majority of their meats are eaten either braised or grilled. Stews are more common for the mountainous areas (the Andes).
The lamb and beef I had yesterday was very simply seasoned with garlic, parsley, olive oil and salt. It was grilled and lastly popped into the oven for 20 minutes at 180C till it is pink inside.
2 soups were featured, one the Sopa de Auyama – Pumpkin Soup and another Oxtail soup Venezuelan style. When queried about the availability and similarity of ingredients found in Malaysia versus the ones in Venezuela, Chef Carmen said some substitution were necessary, but only at about 30%. MOST ingredients are easily available at specialty stores like Hock Choon or even the local supermarket; since the primary spices are pepper, capers, bay leaves and coriander.
Well that’s good news for us right? We would be able to savour authentic Venezuelan food! 😀
Japanese pumpkins were specifically selected for this soup as they have a sweet and natural flavour. Following the traditional method, this soup was sweet & salty with added coriander. Its silky texture is contributed by the use of butter and olive oil, with no cream added.
A strong advocate of healthy eating habits, Chef Carmen prepares her dishes without cream or added oil as much as possible. This Beef Soup is simmered for a minimum of 3-4 hours and any separated fat scooped out. The result is a clear and intensely clean flavoured soup, simply seasoned with black pepper corns, bay leaves and roots of coriander.
4 main hot dishes which are the staples of a Venezuelan diet are the Traditional Doshof Black Beans, White steamed rice (Arroz Blanco), shredded beef/chicken and Banana (plaintain) fritters.
At first I thought this was a very lightly fried rice. Non- greasy, dry and fragrant with spices and herbs, it was a bit plain on its own but matched very well with the beans and shredded beef.
Thankfully Chef Carmen clarified that it’s actually steamed rice which is blended with Sofrito (a combination of aromatic ingredients which have been cut in very small pieces, and slowly sauteed or braised in cooking oil for 15-30 mins – wikipedia). The sofrito here consisted of garlic, onion, red bellpeppers, coriander, chilli, and even a bit of our cili padi! All of that is then sauteed in olive oil. Lastly the sofrito is added into rice and that’s how it’s seasoned!
For the beef (Carne Mechada), beef brisket is used as brisket or skirts are the most flavourful part of the cow. It’s easily shredded with lots of fibres which is ideal for this dish. An almost similar sofrito is used, albeit with more garlic. She would have used Habenero chilli but to keep the heat down, she used our local chilli instead.
These are the beans (Caraotas Negras), cooked till mushy and has a salty but light savoury taste. May look plain but I assure you it was addictively tasty!
Here’s a simple carbs dish, plaintains (Platanos) which are meatier and less sweet compared to our bananas; thus suitable to be eaten as part of the main course. I liked it!
This is one of the best cheesecake I have had! The texture is perfect (for me) as it wasn’t sticky or dense but striked a good balance of being both light and compact. In Venezuela paisa cheese is commonly used, while the best equivalent here is Houlami; a savoury cheese. Hence the cheesecake has an interesting mix of sweet and salty taste.
Torta de Queso Llanero – cheesecake from Los Llanos (the central flat lands of Venezuela).
The bottom layer of this Jalea de mango is made from green mango jam; and as expected it was of face-contorting level of sourness. The sweet ripe mangoes on top takes the edge off the sharp sourness a bit.
And this is the contents of the creamy and milky ice pudding, dusted with cinnamon powder.
Last but not least, here’s another Venezuelan delicacy – The Preserved Papaya.
Green papaya and sugar derived from sugar cane (something akin to our Gula Melaka; according to Carmen) are the main ingredients. The sugar is melted and cinnamon, cloves and star anises added. Leave the sugar to simmer till it turned into syrup. Meanwhile, raw julienned papaya strips are soaked in baking soda solution so it turns a bit transparent before it’s transfered into the syrup to simmer together. For neater presentation, the papaya strips are rolled and pinned into place.
Whew! Finally I’m done sharing what I have learned that night. What do you guys think? 😀
This is original! An actual honeycomb dripping pure unadulterated honey for guests to savour their cheeses, bread, waffle, ice cream or just about anything you like!
So if possible, do grab this opportunity to sample classic Venezuela’s recipes. Other hot Latino events includes:
Date: Monday, 23rd April
Time: 8:30 pm
Venue: Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS, PETRONAS Twin Towers,
Kuala Lumpur City Centre
Information: +603 216 33 444 / 45 (Embassy)
Price: RM 30
Thanks Monica of The Yum List for this! *hugs *