Beyond the Burrito: Three Non-Mexican Latin Foods

June 14, 2012 11:50 AM EDT | By Staff Writer
Arepa
This delicious, cheese-filled arepa from Venezuela will all but ensure you never eat a burrito again! (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

There are times when I want very filling meals chock full of meat flavored with cilantro, cumin, oregano, and sweet paprika. However, given what cuisine became very popular in America, I often feel like I'll explode if I have to eat another burrito. Don't settle for folding your food between yet another tortilla. Save that staple for another day-- tonight, you're going on adventure. Here are some Latin foods our taco-oriented American-approach-to-Latin-cuisine overlooks.

1. The Arepa

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Imagine a cross between an english muffin and a pita, but replace the usual doughiness of wheat flour with the textured complexity of cornmeal. That's what you get when you bite into an arepa, a Venezuelan sandwich filled with savory meats, sweets, and cheeses. Though they're typically served with little more than cotija cheese or queso fresco-- two white cheeses known for their crumbly saltiness-- I like mine with a bit more. To a base of cotija cheese, I add sweet plantains, avocado, and ham.

To make these at home, simply pick up a package of GOYA Masarepa mix. If you're in New York City, head to Caracas restaurant in Williamsburg for the city's best. Have a rum cocktail on the side either way.

2. The Pupusa

When this is done perfectly, it's more delicate than it is heavy. That's why pupusa-making is an art best left to the professionals-- the Salvadoreans who brought it over to certain corners of our country where their population is well represented.

Pupusas are like an unflipped omelet, or a pancake, and they're loaded with crackling pork, black beans, and cheeses-- called revueltas-- or loroco, a flower with a taste as delicately lilting as its name. Both come served on the side with curtido, or pickled vegetables.

The best I've ever had has been in Red Hook, Brooklyn, at a food cart situated every day by the stadium. But since Red Hook is all but impossible to get to-- inconvenient even for New Yorkers due to its lack of proximity to mass transit-- you're going to end up going to Bahia in Brooklyn. The pupusas there are dirt cheap and run a little heavy, but their flavor is outstanding-- especially when you reheat them at work the next day.

3. Callos a la Madrilena

Okay, we're cheating a bit because Spanish food isn't technically Latin. But since Spain played a huge influence on their eating, we figured we'd open the panel up to our favorite, non-paella, non-tapas Spanish food: Callos a la Madrilena.

It's prepared tripe added during the last few minutes of cooking to a slow-cooked tomato-based stew flavored with chorizo, blood sausage, paprika, garlic, carrots, bay leaves, and three different colors of sweet bell peppers. You make it in a giant vat, simmering all ingredients together until tender, then adding cooked honeycomb tripe in the last five minutes of cooking. The vegetables and the sausages all come together to lend a rich and beautiful taste to the stew, recalling a romp in a convertible across the Spanish countryside.

The longer it keeps in your fridge, the better it tastes. Serve it up immediately with bread for dipping, or the next day over rice.

Enjoy!



 

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