When one thinks of the beautiful country of Venezuela, the first things that come to mind are usually the beautiful women and how part of its economy revolves around oil. The beautiful women of Venezuela have received 19 international beauty titles over the years. However, Venezuela isn’t just about these few things. Venezuela, as beautiful a country as it is with high peaks and tranquil islands remain to be a place that is not often visited by tourists. Festivals, cultural activities and awesome sights to see remain to be underappreciated to this very day. One thing that the country is known for is its authentic and flavorful cuisine, strongly influenced by the Spanish, as well as the indigenous Amerindians and its sizeable African population. One of those dishes is called the Pabellón Criollo, a traditional Venezuelan dish.
Pabellón Criollo and its Variants
The Pabellón Criollo is basically a dish that consists of flavorful shredded beef, rice and black beans that had been stewed. As simple as it may seem to be, many consider it to be Venezuela’s national dish. Variations of the dish exist but the preparation remains the same. It could be served with tajadas or fried plantains on the side, to add flavor as well as prevent the food from slipping to the sides of the plate. In this case the classic dish is called pabellón con baranda, in which “baranda” translates to guard rail.
When served with a fried egg on top it is referred to by Venezuelans as pabellón a caballo. “A caballo” is horseback riding in Spanish and the egg represents a person, riding the mound of rice and meat that represent the horse in this particular version.
Pabellón Criollo may also be prepared with other types of meat besides beef, with which the dish is usually made with. On special occasions, such as the Lenten season when consumption of beef or pork is prohibited, fish and at times, caiman or alligator and chigüire, which is Spanish for capybara are used as meat substitutes. It’s a favorite of Llanos, which is their term of Venezuelan cowboys. You might be surprised to know that certain variants of the dish use the meat of baby sharks as one of the main ingredients! It is a local favorite.
The Dish is Representative of Its Origin
The pride Venezuelans show for their country and multicultural heritage is shown in a plate of Pabellón Criollo. Since the name “pabellón” literally translates to hall or pavilion, this dish is arranged in such a manner that resembles three ethnic groups standing close together. Many believe that the dish relates closely to the history of the country and that the colors of the recipe represent the colors of Venezuelan ethnicity, with the brown meat for the indigenous peoples of the country, the white rice is for the Europeans that colonized Venezuela while the black beans represent the African slaves that made such an impact in shaping the culture of the country.
How to Find Pabellón Criollo
Although it is Venezuela’s national dish, you might be shocked to know that there are certain places in the country where you will not be able to find the dish, such as in swanky places or five-star hotels. The simple dish is likely to be served in the cheaper places that serve lunch, where the menu ejecutivo or the menu del dia could be found. In these places, soup is also served as a starter and dessert is also included as well. Pabellón Criollo is a humble and yet tasty dish, which is the reason why it represents the average Venezuelan a lot.
A serving of Pabellón Criollo
Pabellón Criollo is a complete dish in itself. Sometimes though, other side dishes are included in the serving. There are times when a few pieces of arepa or an unleavened cornmeal patty that could be fried, boiled, baked or grilled is served. You could eat the arepa together with the Pabellón or stuff the Pabellon into the arepa.
You know you are in luck when your Pabellón comes with some grated white cheese on top of your beans, because this is the way that the Venezuelans like it. In addition, consider yourself lucky if you see a slice of avocado on the side too! Now if you want to do it the way the locals do, you might also want to follow them and add a couple of teaspoons of sugar to the beans when you eat it. The sugar adds sweetness to the already complex flavor of the beans.
If you are taking a vacation in Venezuela do not leave the country without having a taste of Pabellón Criollo. It is an explosion of flavors that you surely should not miss out on. In addition to that, the dish is also very healthy and provides nutrients that your body needs. This is also probably the reason why many average Venezuelans eat it daily as well. It is affordable and filling, giving them the strength they need to function day in and day out!
Due to their proximity with each other, neighboring countries around Venezuela also have their own version of the country’s national dish. In Jamaica, their rice and peas is somewhat similar to Pabellón Criollo. In Costa Rica and Nicaragua they have the Gallo Pinto, while Cuba has their Platillo Moros y Cristianos. Puerto Rico’s version of the Venezuelan dish is called Arroz con gandules.