Cachapas are thick, tasty pancakes made from maize (sweetcorn) and served with a slab of white cheese called “queso de mano” (hand cheese). These steaming pancakes are then topped with lashing of margarine, a thick slap of cheese, a pork chop and some chicarron, (fried pork rinds) and washed down with a cold Polarcita (beer).
Cachapas are an integral part of Venezuela’s culinary history and their origin dates back to pre-Colombian times, when the indigenous population would grind corn with stone pestles and then cook it cachapa-style on clay budares, flat griddle plates that have been found in archaeological digs at many sites in Venezuela.
When I was young, Cachapas could only be found in my home state – Bolivar. If that was not enough of a challenge, they were only made by locals in stalls with a tin-roof on the side of the “carretera” (roads) on the way to la Gran Sabana. Most will be grilling chochino (pork) and making fresh Cachapas topped with freshly made queso de mano.
For my sister and I these trips were a Sunday treat. My mother will pile us up in the car and we head out for a road trip adventure. It’s one of my fondest memories of my birth country.
When we moved to the states and people would ask me what I missed eating the most from Venezuela, this was at the very top of the list.
Now, when you travel to Venezuela its not hard to find them everywhere around the country, but the cachapas made in Bolivar are still the “originals” and while some attempts at duplication are good, they are still not good enough.
You could try to make then by following the original steps, which is to grind the maize kernels through a special machine, which gives the cachapa mixture just the right consistency, and then cook them on a flat griddle plate. But, a lot of elements need to come into play to make them perfect – the corn, the hot gridle, the right margarine, the fat use when cooking them – its like a perfect little storm, you need to have all the right pieces together for it to come together just so.
For years I try duplicating them, making them with fresh corn, cream corn and cornmeal, but they were never good enough.
Or you could totally cheat and use a Sweet corn meal pre-package mixture by the makers of P.A.N, which makes the popular corn mix to make arepas. This was the first time I tried this product and I was not disappointed. The cachapas come really close taking me down to memory lane. They came out the right consistency, with the burn top and bottom, which is the staple of a good cachapa, they were perfect for breakfast and for a little bit took me back to that roadside staff of my youth.
- 1 cup P.A.N Sweet Corn Mix
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon oil
Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix with a spoon until all ingredients are combined and have acquired a uniform consistency.
Let the mix settle for 6 minutes stirring occasionally (the mixture will be very soupy at first but then it will become thick as its rest)
Preheat skillet or frying pan to medium high heat and grease with oil or margarine.
Stir mixture and slowly pour one portion (2 tablespoons) onto skillet and gently extend into a circular form.
Cook for 3 minutes on each side and until golden brown color.