La Hallaca, la identidad venezolana hecha plato.

From its origins to the present day.

“The hallaca has ended up becoming the great symbol of belonging. Powerful ground wire. Delicacy of communion and encounter. And the most important gastronomic ritual among Venezuelans

Tulio Hernandez

By Verónika Popic

Definition of the Hallaca.

The word hallaca is said to be of indigenous origin. In the article written by the journalist Miro Popić for the digital portal of the newspaper Tal Cual he tells us “The philologist Ángel Rosenblat is the one who most accurately offers concrete testimonies. He says that the word hayaca is an extension of ayacá from Tupí-Guaraní, understood as wrapper or bojote, a word that finally prevailed in Spanish as hallaca.”

If we look for the definition in the most formal institution that exists with respect to the Spanish language, the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, RAE, we can find that the hallaca or hayaca , which accepts the two spellings without differentiation, defines us: 1. F. Come. Corn flour cake, filled with a stew made with various kinds of meat or fish in small pieces and other ingredients, which, wrapped in banana or banana leaves, is made especially for Christmas.

The origin of the hallaca.

Contrary to what everyone thinks and the information that can be obtained on most Internet portals, the hallaca did not see its birth in the leftovers that the slaves collected from their masters' great feasts, which they mixed with corn and which they cooked in banana leaves.

The hallaca has its origins centuries ago in the pre-Hispanic period, before the arrival of the Spanish (who with them came the slaves), when the first indigenous people prepared a paste of ground corn and cooked it wrapped in leaves, forming a cake, although at that time they did not call it that. If you want to know this story in a little more detail, MamaFoods suggests you read this article .

There is also a theory that states that the hallaca "is an adaptation of the Spanish empanada made with corn dough due to the lack of wheat flour, an argument supported by the fact that most of the ingredients that make up the stew are a contribution "Hispanic," explains the gastronomic journalist Miro Popić in his book The Pastel We Are, and he emphasizes something key to this story, ignoring the existence of the tamale , a preparation of corn dough filled with various ingredients wrapped in a corn leaf. or plantain , a dish present in the daily food tradition of most Mesoamerican aboriginal cultures.

With this it can be concluded that the origin of the hallaca comes from some derivation of the Mesoamerican tamale and not from a Spanish empanada or slave food, and that with the passage of time it was transmuted with the addition of other ingredients exemplifying the mixture of races. which represents Venezuela so much thanks to the different migrations, it can be said that it is a completely heterogeneous preparation where American, European, African and Asian flavors come together.

It is also important to emphasize that in its beginnings the hallaca was a daily consumption and that as the years and the wars passed, its consumption first went from the bottom up, from the popular tables to the tables of the bourgeoisie, and later it was limited. to special occasions until today where it is only present in the December celebrations, or for those who have emigrated to the United States and today celebrate Thanksgiving, it can be an excellent occasion to advance the tasting of such an exquisite preparation.

Types of hallaca

It cannot be said that there is a standard recipe for the preparation of hallaca , without a doubt, one of the best known among Venezuelan households is the one published by Eng. Armando Scanonne in his famous red book, My Kitchen in the Way of Caracas, which is made with pork and chicken meat, has sweet wine, mustard, papelón and Worchestershire sauce, and among its decorations it has almonds, raisins and pickles. Recipe that undoubtedly represents the sweet-salty taste of the capital region. But this does not mean that each family has its own modifications to personal taste, such as those in my house that contain a lot of cumin, a spice that gives it a certain Chilean pine air, since the stew is prepared by my father.

If we travel through the different regions of Venezuelan territory we can find that it is prepared with ingredients similar to those found in the natural landscape of each one. For example, in Andean recipes ingredients such as chickpeas, potatoes, celery and beans appear, while in coastal areas it is common to get fish in the stew, or in the Maracaibo area you can find carabinas that have slices and beans. black.

Of course, there are ingredients that are immovable when preparing a hallaca , and these are corn dough , which was traditionally made with chopped corn but which today has been replaced in many homes by pre-cooked corn flour for reasons of practicality and time, which is worked with lard and colored with onoto.

The 10 ingredients that cannot be missing in the preparation of a hallaca

Regardless of the type of hallaca you like the most, which is usually your mother's or your family's recipe, the ingredients that cannot be missing are:

  1.       Pounded corn flour or pre-cooked corn flour
  2.     Onoto or annatto
  3.     Lard
  4.     Banana leaves
  5.       Protein (beef, pork, chicken, or fish)
  6.     Sweet pepper
  7.     Raisins
  8.     capers
  9.     olives
  10. Candlewick

And all of these, except the protein, can be purchased by clicking here , in one place and in a single order, with the ease of delivery at the door of your house throughout the United States.

How to make a hallaca?

Preparing the hallacas , in plural since when they are prepared you do not make one but several for the entire season or to share with friends, is a work of days, which is best shared between friends and family to divide the different tasks to be carried out, quality that has given the hallaca the unifying title of Venezuelan identity.

Many families, unfortunately separated, like mine today, most of us met on a Saturday or Sunday at the beginning of December and made a party of this preparation, we had the respective production chain where the little ones were in charge of placing the decorations. , those on the next step weighed the balls, 100 grams of dough to be exact, and flattened them to move on to the next link in the chain where the most experienced, my grandmother and my great aunt, placed the filling and wrapped it, a crucial step so that the precious stew would not spill over the edges and lastly, the tying was done by those who already had experience, but not enough to wrap.

I remember with longing having gone through all the seasons over the years, climbing from step to step, until the acquired expertise bore fruit and helped me start a new tradition already in adulthood together with my soul friends, practical which we also turned into a fixed appointment on any day in December until several of us had to emigrate to other latitudes. Today I keep that knowledge and as a tribute to that time with family and friends I continue making them, even if I have to travel half the city to get the ingredients, fortunately MamaFoods finally exists to make this task easier where you can buy in one place. most.

As for the recipe, each family has its own. If you don't have one, I recommend watching this video by renowned chef Sumito Estévez where he explains step by step a fairly traditional recipe that can be the basis for you to turn it into a new tradition.

But if you don't have the time or the desire to make them, you can also buy them in their traditional version by clicking here already ready from our supplier Zerpas Antojos Criollos or also in their vegetarian version here and they will arrive frozen at the door of your house without any effort. .