Bogotá, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — Venezuelans like to jest that their beloved arepas are so widely consumed that babies come out of the womb with the corn flatbreads already in hand.
Now, as millions flee their homeland's turmoil, they are taking Venezuela's most ubiquitous dish with them.
Humble street stalls and sit-down restaurants serving arepas are popping up throughout the streets of Colombia's capital and in cities around the world, where many are finding the white corn flour patties an ideal means for gaining their footing in a foreign nation. Others are exchanging traditional fillings for local flavors in a nod to their adopted countries.
"For us, the arepa represents Venezuela," says Alejandra Castro, who opened an arepa business in Buenos Aires, Argentina over a year ago. "It's our culture, our daily bread. What one misses and longs for the most is an arepa."
The arepa's surge on the world stage comes as its consumption steadily declines back home amid a punishing financial crisis worse than the U.S. Great Depression, leading an estimated 4 million people to flee.
Migrants throughout the world have long brought their culinary traditions with them in something of an antidote for nostalgia. Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro's revolution in the 1960s cooked classics like ropa vieja and picadillo in their small apartments in Miami's Little Havana.
In some cases, traditional recipes are kept more alive abroad than back home.
More often than not, however, migrants slowly fuse the flavors of the country they left behind with the one they now call home. Chinese and Japanese migrants profoundly altered Peruvian cuisine, creating a delicate hybrid with Incan and European influences that has garnered worldwide acclaim. The influence of Lebanese arrivals cooking shawarma in Mexico led to the creation of tacos "al pastor" with spit-roasted pork.
Jeffrey Pilcher, a history professor at the University of Toronto, said migrants are often forced to reconcile a longing for the authentic taste of home with the need to make a living and offer more local flavors.
"So there are all manners of adaptations people make to balance those two, kind of contradicting desires," he said.
Venezuelans in Bogotá are now serving up arepas with Colombian flavors like local chorizo and red beans. In Lima, they are stuffing the patties with lomo saltado, a Peruvian marinated, stir-fried beef. And in Argentina, one business adds in a dash of chimichurri sauce.
Migrant Edgar Rodríguez became one of the earliest ambassadors of the food when he fled to Spain over a decade ago and opened up an arepa restaurant. He now has several fusion items on the menu including Spanish staples like serrano ham.
"As they say in Venezuela, 'The arepa can withstand anything," he said.
The story of the arepa begins before the arrival of Spanish colonizers, when indigenous chefs in Colombia and Venezuela ground white corn into round patties and baked them on clay griddles. Today, Colombian arepas are relatively wide and flat, while the Venezuelan ones are smaller, fuller and stuffed with fillings in the same style as pita bread. In both countries, they are a dietary staple.
When Venezuela was one of Latin America's most prosperous countries, the poor and the wealthy would typically eat two or three arepas a day. In the 1990s, the country's production of white corn flour rose to 800,000 tons a year, said Carlos Paparoni, an opposition lawmaker who tracks the country's agrarian crisis. But last year, production dipped to a paltry 140,000 tons, he said.
Empresas Polar, Venezuela's largest private food supplier, said in its most recent financial report that it received just over half of the required amount of raw corn product needed to maintain production levels of its gold standard corn flour.
The government itself provides boxes of subsidized food which now include Mexican corn flour used for tortillas that tends to result in unrecognizable arepas.
Venezuelans apt to find humor even amid crisis have taken to social media to share sometimes comical creations with the Mexican flour.
One woman tried making tacos filled with Venezuelan favorites like black beans and plantains and ended up with a plate of beige-colored tortillas with crispy edges and a rubbery consistency. Another person made a lackluster cake.
More recently, the so-called CLAP boxes to Venezuela's poor came with actual kernels of corn instead of corn flour, sparking a wave of outrage.
"The regime wants us to sit back and watch the destruction of our country with popcorn," one angry recipient opined on Twitter.
The first migrants to flee the Venezuela's shortages found it hard to track down white corn flour in distant lands like Spain and Argentina. But these days, new arepa restaurants abroad are opening monthly and shipping in pallets of Venezuelan ingredients, often produced in the U.S. and other countries.
"It's the unexpected and even 'tasty' culinary counterpart of a humanitarian tragedy," Venezuelan journalist Vanessa Rolfini wrote recently.
Not everyone, however, is finding their new takes on the arepa to be easily accepted.
Jorge Udelman tried putting Mexican ingredients like cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted pork, in arepas. Customers said they liked his food but already had restaurants they'd going to for decades to get traditional flavors.
"I can't compete with three generations of a family making the same recipes," he said. "It's not in my DNA."
Today, he sticks to traditional Venezuelan recipes at his arepa restaurant in Mexico City.
Such experiences are somewhat reflective of the hurdles that Venezuelans are encountering as they try to integrate into new cultures.
"There is certainly no guarantee that the acceptance of the food is going to lead to positive feelings around the migrants themselves," Pilcher said.
But Gerson Briceño is one of the migrant success stories.
The former head of a publicity company in Venezuela fled to Colombia after his wife and young daughter were briefly kidnapped at gunpoint. He first started a cellphone business, but opened an arepa stand outside a mall in December 2017 when he found himself wanting to pay tribute to his cherished homeland.
Today, Arepas Café has eight locations around Bogotá.
"I always missed the flavor of home," he said.
He said he takes pride in seeing Colombians become repeat customers and order classics like the reina pepiada with chicken salad and avocado. But he's also created two new arepas filled with Colombian flavors. One is stuffed with cheese and sausage, while the other features most of the ingredients in a typical bandeja paisa, a dish common in Medellin that includes an egg, red beans, steak, crispy fried pork skin and a plantain.
Colombia Martha Patricia Chaparro and her daughter recently gave it a try, marveling at the unorthodox invention.
"I don't think it would have ever occurred to us," she said, "to put a bandeja paisa in an arepa!"
Ever since the original outlet of Holey Artisan closed down following Bangladesh’s own date of infamy, I was pretty bummed out about missing out on their food and ambience. While the new Holey Bakery located in Gulshan can never match the outdoor-vibe on offer at the original, it still is a place worth visiting.
I absolutely love cafes which serve all day breakfast, so I was delighted to see what they were offering. Their menu boasts a wide variety of pastries as well as savory dishes. Our orders for a table of 4 included a Shakshuka, Croissant, Salmon Egg Benedict, Holey Burger, and a Cold Latte.
This Holey Shakshouka was a vibrant looking dish. Served with 3 poched eggs over a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions and 4 slices of toasted Baguette, we couldn’t wait to dig in! We broke the egg yolks with the edge of our baguette slice and made sure to pile it up with sweet bell peppers. The taste? It was rich, flavorful, sweet and spicy. The dish can be easily shared by upto 3 people and is the perfect choice for brunch.
I haven’t tried gourmet burgers at too many places in Dhaka but I can ensure you that the Holey Burger is undoubtedly the best I’ve had in a while. You can ask for the doneness of the meat however, we asked them to serve it as they recommend. The bread was made in house and you could tell it from how clean and fresh it tasted. What set the burger apart is the kick from the Wasabi Mayo sauce. They also serve a rosemary potato on the side which needed to be redone as the first batch was comparatively soggy. After we complained, they served us a second serving. The new ones were crisp on the outside and mushy inside. It went great with their tangy in house made tomato sauce. Overall, this juicy burger is another must have.
After such pleasant tasting dishes, we weren’t expecting to be set up for disappointments. While the Salmon Benedict was a beautiful looking dish, the salmon did not only reek of stale fish but the bread served along with it was soggy with a hard crust. The eggs themselves however, were perfectly poached and burst beautifully under the knife. Wish they were seasoned well too. Another miss was the croissant. It was really greasy and may leave you bloated. As for the drink, the Cold Latte is a good choice if you want to have a bitter coffee that really wakes you up.
Holey has become a favorite spot of mine to grab a snack or a quick lunch. I am surprised that many people are still unaware of their reopening. But if you are reading this article right now, you won’t regret putting it on your ‘must visit’ list.
Dhaka, July 12 (UNB) - When Christiaan Stoop decided to study the culinary sciences and become a chef, his parents asked him to begin by taking a solo trip to a country with contrasting culture, reports The Indian Express.
He drew out the map and picked Shanghai as his destination. The few weeks he spent there taught him a lot more about diversity in food and culture than he had experienced growing up. “My parents had hoped that it would give me perspective on what it means to live alone and learn in an alien environment but it turned out to be so much more than that.
I could explore the local cuisine, sample ingredients that I had never come across, and more importantly, understand technique by spending time in the kitchen,” says Stoop. “In short, it taught me the importance of travel in the honing of one’s culinary skills,” he adds.
The sous chef at The Oberoi, New Delhi, is 23 now. In these past seven years, he has consistently travelled across various countries, spending time to understand and learn about local cuisines while training under acclaimed chefs. He has been mentored by the celebrated, seven-time Michelin star chef, Carme Ruscalleda, and has trained under Chef Bobby Bräuer in Germany.
And it is this experience and expertise that Stoop has put into designing the latest menu at Vetro, The Oberoi, Mumbai. Titled ‘Confessions of a Culinary Traveller’, the menu brings together some of the best dishes and unique ingredients from the UK, Spain, France and India. Available until July 14 in Mumbai, it will be served as a four-course tasting menu for lunch and a five-course gourmand menu for dinner.
The menu, thus, features elements such as sea buckthorn from the UK, black garlic from Spain, mango and ginger from India and lamb loin and asparagus from France, among other ingredients. Recounting some of the memories from his travels to each of these countries, Stoop says that cucumber for him really stood out during his stint in the UK. “While working with Chef Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck, I saw that he included the use of humble ingredients in fine dining, like the cucumber. And unlike most others, he wouldn’t chuck away the seedy heart of the vegetable. That was a huge inspiration,” says Stoop, who’s special dish with the vegetable is, thus, a cured and pickled slice of cucumber that enhances its texture.
Showcasing Spain without the use of seafood is unimaginable for the young chef, who grew up eating the wholesome meat-heavy German cuisine. The lightness of the summery food, dominated by fish, crabs and spices, made him fall for the cuisine. India, however, was a contrast, and Stoop’s choice of ingredients (lemon, ginger and mango) represents exploration of vegetarian food.
With these, he showcases the strong, individualistic flavours Indians enjoy in their food. However, he uses them to prepare a sorbet, lending them a unique flair. With France, the chef was keen to contradict the common perception of the cuisine’s complexity and has hence used comfort foods such as onion creme and potato gratin in conjunction with lamb loin and asparagus.
Every journey eventually concludes at home. And that’s what Stoop does too. Saving the best for last, he is serving the guests the classic Bavarian creme for dessert with raspberry and thyme. “It’s the perfect balance of flavours and textures, with the sweet cream and tangy raspberry — a German classic,” he says.
Seoul, Jul 12 (AP/UNB) — Dozens of people opposing dog meat consumption, including American actress Kim Basinger, have rallied in Seoul to mark a "dog meat day" in South Korea.
About 20 others stood on the opposite side calling for a legalization of dog meat. There are no reports of violence.
Under a traditional belief, Friday is the first of three hottest days in South Korea. Many South Koreans believe eating dog meat or chicken soups on those three days gives them strength to beat the heat.
Basinger says, "We have to end this cruelty on this planet."
Dog meat is neither legal nor explicitly banned in South Korea. Dog meat restaurants are a dwindling business in South Korea in recent years.
Dhaka, July 11 (UNB) - This healthy noodle salad is packed with vegetables and flavoured with a spicy, low-fat soy dressing. This is ideal for lunch if you’re on a low-calorie diet of 1200–1500 calories a day.
Each serving provides 404 kcal, 30g protein, 45g carbohydrates (of which 16.5g sugars), 10g fat (of which 2g saturates), 7g fibre and 2g salt.
70g/2½oz medium egg noodles
50g/1¾oz frozen soya beans or frozen peas
1 carrot, peeled
½ small red pepper, seeds removed, sliced
75g/2¾oz mangetout, trimmed and halved lengthways
1 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 125g/4½oz)
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
1 long red chilli, finely sliced (deseeded if preferred)
15g/½oz fresh coriander leaves
10g/⅓oz fresh mint leaves
15g/½oz roasted cashew nuts, roughly chopped
For the dressing
3 tbsp water
3 tsp caster sugar
½–1 tsp dried chilli flakes, to taste
4 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
To make the dressing, place the water, sugar and chilli flakes in a small saucepan over a low heat and warm gently until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Take off the heat and stir in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Leave to cool.
Half-fill a saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the noodles and cook for 3–4 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until tender. Stir occasionally to separate the strands. Add the soya beans or peas to the noodles, stir well and then immediately drain in a colander. Rinse the noodles and beans under cold running water until the mixture is completely cool. Tip into a large mixing bowl.
Carefully peel the carrot into long, wide ribbons or cut into long, thin matchsticks. Add the carrot, pepper and mangetout to the noodle salad. Cut the chicken into thin slices and place in the bowl.
Pour the dressing into the bowl and toss so everything is well mixed. Add the spring onions, red chilli, fresh herbs and nuts to the bowl and toss lightly before serving.