Discovering Venezuela’s national dish: Arepa

I was a woman on a mission this Saturday morning.  It was 9:30am and I’ve already left the warmth of my flat to venture into Acklam Villiage by Portobello market.  By 10am I arrived just in time for the faint smell of food in the crisp air and the boisterous chatter amongst traders.

Enter here for international street food

In the far left hand corner of Acklam Village were the folks at Guasacaca (pronounced wah-sa-caca) with two arepas toasting on a griddle and a large Venezuelan flag billowing to the side.  I was about to be their first customer of the day.

I’ve only recently learned of the existence of Venezuela’s national dish, arepa, at last month’s Food Blogger Connect conference.  Guasacaca were one of the many delightful food traders who were on hand to serve up their specialty.  It was there that I first bit into that crunchy pita-shaped cornbread patty and pleasantly surprised by its soft, warm slightly spongy interior.  Stuffed into my arepa were shredded beef, grated cheddar cheese and a generous spoonful of guasacaca, an avocado-based sauce that is similar to guacamole but of a thinner, lighter consistency.  From my first bite to the very last I was completely won over by Venezuela’s national dish.

It’s no surprise that I just had to visit Guasacaca where they normally trade (I would have gone sooner if the Tube would cooperate).  Though the arepa can be filled with different kinds of stuffings – ranging from pork, chicken, or even black beans and plantain for a vegetarian-friendly option – I had to revisit the shredded beef for old time’s sake.  It didn’t disappoint.  The crunchiness of the arepa was just as I remembered and the warmth from the stuffing, joined up with the saltiness of the cheese, was much welcomed as I was shivering from London’s autumn chill.  I was told by the trader that the guasacaca sauce is the element that binds the taste together but for me I am loco for the arepa itself – just that and a slab of butter and I’d be in heaven.

You can find Guasacaca at Acklam Village on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30am to 6pm.  For £5 you’ll get a generously-sized arepa stuffed with deliciousness that will fill you up from lunch to dinner time.

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