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What Is a Cachapa?

A cachapa is a delectable Venezuelan dish, akin to a sweet corn pancake, often filled with savory cheese or meats. This traditional comfort food melds the natural sweetness of corn with a satisfying, hearty texture. Intrigued by how this simple dish captures the essence of Venezuelan cuisine? Discover the story behind cachapas and how they're enjoyed today.
Dorothy Bland
Dorothy Bland

Regional variations of pancakes exist all over the world, and the cachapa refers to a traditional Venezuelan version. Corn is one of the major domestic food crops of Venezuela, and the region has a variety of dishes that make corn a featured or star ingredient. The cachapa makes use of this staple crop by grinding fresh corn to create a hearty corn cake that is distinguished by its sweet, creamy corn flavor.

In addition to ground corn, the typical cachapa pancake batter generally contains sugar, oil, and a liquid ingredient. Usually, this liquid ingredient will be some combination of milk or water. Recipes originating from outside of Venezuela may also add in plain flour or an egg. Although fresh corn is preferred, the convenience of canned corn means that this prepackaged ingredient is also used fairly often to make this dish. If fresh ears of corn are used, the corn can be removed from the husk and then pureed in a food processor with the remaining ingredients. The resulting corn batter will generally be thick and heavy, and large chunks of corn will still be visible in the mixture.

Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

The cachapa can be grilled on a budare, a large flat metal pan. Alternatively, in other regions of the world, the dish can be cooked on a heavy skillet. A small amount of oil can be poured onto the bottom of the skillet in order to prevent the pancake from sticking.

After the pan has warmed, a scoop of the batter is poured into the skillet and allowed to spread out some across the bottom of the pan. A spatula is generally used to press down on the dish as it cooks to ensure an even browning. The pancake is flipped over after bubbles begin to appear and then allowed to continue cooking until it turns a deep golden brown to indicate it is done.

Once cooked, the piping hot cachapa is folded and eaten like an omelet. The folded over shape of the corn cake makes it easily portable, and although the dish is found in formal restaurants, it is extremely popular as a street snack at roadside stands. Generally, street vendors prepare the pancake by stuffing it with a soft and creamy white cheese; a savory meat such as chicken, ham, or beef may also be stuffed inside the turnover. Butter or margarine can be served on the side to pour over the top of the dish.

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