The Venezuelan tamale. Like most comfort food, the hallaca has humble origins.
It is a working class meal, invented out of necessity and prepared by a community.
For most people the preparation of this dish symbolizes the beginning of the holiday season.
As a child you know it’s almost Christmass when Grandma comes home with banana leaves.
It is a labor intensive process in which the whole family usually participates. The bonding that occurs over the preparation of this dish probably contributed to its success.
Its name comes from the phrase “Un poco de allá y un poco de aca”, which means “a little from here a little from there”.
You see, when times were hard, working class individuals used to pool together their resources and food in an attempt to create a nice meal for their families.
Over time and through several local and regional iterations the Hallaca was born.
Every family and region has their own unique twist to the recipe, but the basic recipe is the following.
Corn dough wrapped in banana leaves and filled with stewed beef, pork, chicken, or some combination of the three. Olives, raisins, peppers and spices give the hallaca true depth of flavor.
Some families add eggs, potatoes, capers, carrots, ect.
Many of you reading probably have memories of your grandmother making you a special hallaca with more of your favorite ingredients. It probably was tied with a special knot to be able to tell them apart.
As a Venezuelan it is inconceivable to imagine the holidays without this classic.
The thought of the holidays without an hallaca is enough to make anyone homesick.
This holiday season, if you find yourself away from your family or you just don’t have the time to make your own, we want you to know that you are always welcome to Bonjour for a taste of home.