The Caribs and Cumanagoto tribes in what is today Venezuela, used to cook a local crop of white corn, in order to soften its natural hardness. Once cooked, they will smash it until it become a soft dough and then make small patties that will ultimately be cooked again over a fire pit.
The word Arepa comes from the voice ‘ erepa, ’ that means maize for these tribes. Due to its artisanal and rather complex process, it remained as an exotic delicacy reserved to the few who loved the art of its making by itself. It was not until 1960, when an industrial method of cooking the corn was developed, including smashing and dehydrating it in form of flour, that the eating of the arepa spreaded all around the country. Arepas are eaten daily for breakfast, lunch or dinner by almost every inhabitant in the country, equally among all social classes.
Arepas were for decades a delicacy enjoyed almost exclusively by the people of Venezuela. Travelers that have visited the country for tourism or work reason miss so much an arepa filled with cheese, chicken, beef, pork or the almost infinite flavors you can put in. In the recent years, harsh conditions in Venezuela have forced many to migrate for better opportunities, bringing with them the arepas and its fillings recipes, and offering the world the opportunity to enjoy the food we all Venezuelans grew up with
Besides the green shell and white flesh, and it delicious sweet and sour flavor, one additional aspect of this versatile fruit is notable: guanabana provides powerful relief from a wide scope of diseases, including cancer, herpes, parasites, infections and more. Guanabana is known by a variety of names — including soursop, cherimoya, custard apple, Brazilian paw paw and graviola. Appreciated for centuries in South America and Southeast Asia, the bark, leaves, root, seeds and fruit have been used to tame heart disease, asthma, liver issues and arthritis. Guanabana is also helpful for treating sleep disorders, fevers and cough. According to some research, the extract of guanabana has been used to:
As far back as the 1970s, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) investigated the merits of guanabana , and discovered the stems and leaves of the tree were successful in destroying cancer cells. “Inexplicably, the results [of the NCI research] were published in an internal report and never released to the public. Since 1976, guanabana has proven to be an immensely potent cancer killer in 20 independent laboratory tests, but as of now, no double-blind clinical trials,” reports Christopher Lane, Ph.D., in Psychology Today .
Moreover, this study found that a compound derived from the leaves of guanabana was “selectively cytotoxic for the lung (A-549), colon (HT-29), and pancreatic (PACA-2) cell lines with potencies equal to or exceeding those of Adriamycin.” And research in the Journal of Natural Products discovered that extracts of guanabana demonstrated pesticidal, antimalarial, antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Likewise, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center states that guanabana shows anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects in vitro and in vivo.
Thursday, July 17, 2014 by: Carolanne Wright
Sources for this article also include:
HALFMOON — Native Venezuelans Belkis Castro and her husband, Jose Theoktisto, moved to Clifton Park in 2008 and opened their home to new friends and neighbors, delighting them with homemade arepas. The positive response led them to open Oh, Corn Arepas and More on Route 9 in the spring of 2016.
What’s an arepa? I had a learning curve. Except for dessert, everything we tried was new. And we loved it all.
Arepas, made of white corn flour, water and salt, are either baked or fried then split, like a pita, and stuffed with any number of things. Use yellow corn flour, add sugar and oil to water and salt and you get a cachapa, a thick spongy pancake that folds over its fillings.
The store offers snacks like fried green plantain slices called tostones, fried sweet ripened plantain ( maduros) and yucca frita, the root used to make tapioca. They have a wide variety of natural tropical juices including guava and mango, tamarind and passionfruit. Leave room for dessert.
They are delicious, and the cool thing is, they’re gluten-free. I know some people who will be thrilled by that.
The menu’s photos show exactly what everything looks like, and we got a quick tutorial from the helpful cashier who greeted us when we arrived. She flipped the pages and explained: choose one of their sandwiches, or build your own with fillings like long-cooked pork or beef, or seasoned chicken, tuna, or vegetables.
Oh, Arepas, a box in a strip mall with big windows and a charming Latin decor, was warm and inviting when Lisa and I visited for dinner. We put in our order and were told, “Take a seat, we’ll bring it right over.”
Drinks first, fresh pineapple juice for me ($4.50), my favorite, and water for Lisa. The maduros ($4.50) arrived shortly after, in a paper-lined basket. “It could be dessert,” observed Lisa, forking up a thick slice of ripe, soft and sweet deep-fried plantain cut on the bias and coated in a thin batter with perhaps a little cinnamon. “I like it a lot,” she added.
Arepitas fritas ($5.50) are small arepas fried, then filled with shredded Gouda cheese that melts inside. What’s not to like? You can eat them like potato chips. They are more filling, however, than chips.
Our phone does not give us a break since we announced that we were going to make Pan de Jamón (Venezuelan Ham Bread). Pan de Jamón is typical Venezuelan Christmas bread, filled with ham, bacon, raisins and green olives, and sometimes red peppers. There are many variation, like using Turkey instead of ham, or the gluten free version. But no matter who and how it is made, all agree that it is a delicacy that can be a dinner by itself, with no other companion than a bottle of wine. Pan de Jamon appeared in the beginning of the 20th century in Caracas, handcrafted by Portuguese immigrants from Maderia, Portugal, who wanted to make good use of the remaining cuts of ham sold their shop and bakeries during Christmas time. Slowly it became a tradition in the Christmas season in Venezuela
We want to share our recipe for you to try at home. Don’t do it alone, join a friend or relative and have fun on the making.
One of the most renowned and elaborate dishes presented in Venezuelan gastronomy is undoubtedly the hallaca. This masterpiece of our cuisine is the most traditional of the dishes that adorn the Christmas festivities in Venezuela.
The hallaca is the result of the historical process that has lived throughout the years.
From its cover of banana leaves to the details that adorn and compose its stew, passing through its primordial ingredient, the mass of corn colored with onoto, the hallaca is the most visible expression of the mestizaje of the Venezuelan people.
As soon as we enter Oh Corn! Arepas and More, we’re ambushed, in the nicest possible way, with samples of papelon — a diluted molasses and fresh lemon juice drink given a slightly unfortunate moniker of “brown lemonade” ($4.50) — and guanabana ($4.50), a creamy white soursop fruit juice pinging with exotic, tropical notes.
Owners Belkis Castro and Jose F. Theokisto happily chatter away, to us and others, as though we’re hanging out in their kitchen, knocking back blender shots. Castro shares her love of classical music and some family background: She’s a former attorney; Theokisto is employed by General Electric, with two daughters raised locally after moving to the area 11 years ago. Instead of a family photo album, they whip out an iPad, proudly sharing an impromptu performance by rock violinist Daisy Jopling , who’d stopped in recently for lunch.
Castro and Theokisto might be among the happiest, loveliest people on earth. By the end of lunch, I’m torn between maintaining anonymity and a keen desire to invite them over for dinner. Pressing an illustrated menu-binder into our hands, Theokisto continues to ply newcomers with juices while Castro scoots behind the glass case into the open kitchen to mold the arepas’ white corn dough into perfect spheres using quick flicks of her wrist, popping them onto the griddle one by one.
The menu couldn’t be much simpler. It hinges on Venezuelan staples: white corn arepas and sweeter, yellow corn cachapas, stuffed with an improbably broad array of fillings for meals at any time of day, and a smattering of plantain-based snacks or yucca fries ($4.50). Smashed and milled corn flour forms bread somewhere between steamed bao and the floppy sponginess of Ethiopian injera, only thicker and split into pita-style pouches. When we ask if we should get two each, we’re comically sized up and given the all clear to try, while Castro laughs that a Venezuelan upbringing gives them an edge with a lifetime of training.
I don’t know why I’ve never eaten sweet plantains with crispy bacon before, but the combo is outrageous. Pressed into oozing, warm mozzarella in the Arepa Maduros ($8.50 with toppings), it blows all other breakfast sandwiches out of the water. Mini arepas — “arepitas” — fried and filled with shredded cheese, are tiny gooey bombs, crisp-edged like hash browns. The voluptuous, sweet Cachapa Queen (Reine Pepiada, $8.95), filled with shredded chicken breast creamy with avocado, mayo and cilantro, is named after the Venezuelan “Miss World” 1955; tangy pernil ($6.95) — shredded pork braised in red wine and orange juice — has the signature sweet-fruity acidity of Venezuelan cuisine; and the King (pabellon, $9) a bellyful of seasoned black beans, sweet plantains and beef flecked with orange from a classic sweet pepper sofrito sauce, falls apart more helplessly than Lindsay Lohan .
Oh Corn! Arepas and More is sandwiched between a grocery and nail salon in an unassuming strip mall in Halfmoon. The challenges of a strip mall setting being well-documented, the couple has done all they can to make it feel more like home. It’s immaculate. A Venezuelan cuatro guitar, maracas and window frame with aqua shutters hang on avocado walls above aqua banquettes. Colorful chalkboards announce exotic juices, and the glass case — the assembly line centerpiece of any Subway or Moe’s — showcases fresh fillings from shredded meats to tomatoes and hearts of palm. Food arrives in little spurts, each item straight to the table from fryer or griddle, all patrons enthusiastically directed to the little spice bar bristling with hot sauces to self-administer the required dose of heat.
Halfmoon is rarely a destination in my week, and yet two days after our visit we divert a houseguest to pick up takeout on his way to us. Despite an order-by-number pictorial menu,Oh Corn! Arepas and Moreis the antithesis of mass-production fast food. Everything is fresh, cooked to order, naturally gluten-free and besides a few fried items (like the remarkably chewy twice-fried plantain tostones, $4.50), it’s mostly healthy — aided by the digestive benefits of tamarind and soursop juice. Gluten desserts brought in by a friend ensure the kitchen stays gluten-free, but choices run from flan or Nutella crepes to chocolate cake and tiramisu. We gamely order the Tres Leche sponge ($4.70), an irresistible cube drenched in sweetened, condensed and evaporated milk splendor, and finally admit defeat.
With “taco trucks on every corner” still trending, perhaps Marco Gutierrez of Latinos for Trump should prepare for Venezuela’s arepa invasion.
Lunch for two — including four arepas/cachapas, two sides, two juices and one dessert — came to $65.49 with tax and an optional $5 tip. The bill for one arepa, one side and a $4.50 juice would be around $17.
Oh Corn! Arepas and More
1505 Route 9
Cuisine: Venezuelan white corn arepas and yellow corn cachapas with an impressive array of fillings from breakfast-themed to slow-simmered Venezualan pork in red wine and orange juice or beef slow simmered in sofrito sauce.
Ambiance: Incredibly friendly, casual family-owned Venezuelan café in strip mall space.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Credit cards: All major.
Parking: Strip mall parking lot.
Handicapped accessible: Yes.
Price ratings for inexpensive eateries based on average of entrée costs:
$: $9.95 and less
$$$: $15.95 and higher
Susie Davidson Powell is a freelance writer from East Greenbush. Follow her on Twitter, @SusieDP. To comment on this review, visit the Table Hopping blog, blog.timesunion.com/tablehopping.
José Theoktisto and his wife, Belkis Castro, operateOh Corn! Arepas and More, a new Venezuelan restaurant located on Route 9 in Halfmoon, open Tuesdays through Sundays.
Oh Corn! Arepas and More, a Venezuelan restaurant, in Halfmoon gives local diners a different alternative.
The business opened in April at 1505 Route 9 in Halfmoon.
An arepa, one of its specialties, is a flat, round patty of white corn. The dough can be baked, grilled or fried. Once the arepa is cooked, it is filled with various kind of ingredients a person may like. Some meat choices include shredded beef, pulled pork and chicken. Customers can also select from a number of vegetables, such as avocados and chick peas.
“Your imagination is the limit,” said owner José Theoktisto.
He said the most popular item on the menu is the reina pepiada, which means “the queen” in Spanish. The sandwich is made with chicken breast, avocado, mayonnaise and cilantro, stuffed inside an arepa.
Arepas are a staple in Venezuela, as well as in Colombia. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Often arepas are found available at roadside stands and eaten as street food.
Theoktisto and his wife, Belkis Castro, are originally from Caracas, the capital of Venezuela. They moved to the United States in 2008 to escape civil unrest and violence. Theokisto is an engineer for General Electric. Castro was working as an attorney in Venezuela.
“She lost her qualifications when we moved here,” said Theokisto. “She is very social and has lots of free time now. She started working as a Spanish teacher, and received her real estate license.”
Soon the couple decided to open an arepas restaurant so they could enjoy the cuisine they grew up with.
“The response has been amazing so far” said Theoktisto.
Theoktisto said sometimes when people come in, they are not even aware it is a Venezuelan restaurant. Other people have come from as far as Boston and New York City to sample the food atOh Corn! Arepas and More.
Besides arepas,Oh Corn! Arepas and Morealso features cachapas. Whereas an arepa is made with white corn, a cachapa is made with yellow corn. It is shaped even flatter, somewhat similar to a pancake. They are often filled with cheese and have a sweeter taste than the more savory arepa, the owner said.
Snacks and side dishes available on the menu include tostones, green plantains, yucca frita, fried cassava and small fried arepas. The restaurant offers a number of desserts such as tiramisu, flan, and crepes. There are also a number of fresh fruit juices available, such as passion fruit, mango and guava. They also sell a homemade version of lemonade called papelon con limón.
The staff is generous with offering samples. Customers can try both the arepas and the juices to see what they enjoy.
“Sometimes people come in and they are not ready to order,” said Theoktisto. “By the time they have had some samples, they are ready to order.”
Everything is made fresh atOh Corn! Arepas and More. Castro does most of the cooking in the kitchen. The restaurant has six employees.
Oh Corn! Arepas and Moreis a gluten-free restaurant. All of the items used to prepare the dishes are naturally gluten free: corn, cassava, plantains, and more. The restaurant also seeks out condiments and other ingredients that are gluten free.
The menu is always evolving and they plan to add some more dishes in the future. They will also add soups and salads to the menu. There is also a plan to introduce a loyalty program, to reward customers who continue to purchase food there.
Hours are Tuesday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed on Mondays. For more information, visit ohcornarepas.com or call 579-0858.
Venezuelans are obsessed with beauty contests. It is the country that has won more Miss Universe (7) and Miss World (6) beauty contest than any other, and over 212 other international competitions. The “Miss Venezuela” organization has a scout infrastructure similar to the largest Football or Baseball teams in the US.
The “Reina Pepiada”, one of the most popular arepas, was christened in honor to Susana Duijm, who was crowned Miss World in 1955 – the first Venezuelan to win an International beauty contest. The owners of a local arepera, the Alvarez brothers, interpreted a popular sentiment that she was a real “Curvy Queen”. As a curiosity, 28 years later, her daughter, Carolina Cerruti, would also be crowned Miss World in 1983.