Have you ever tasted cachapas, the Venezuelan sweet corn pancakes? My first taste was at the Santarepa Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Isabel Mendoza and her family make these and other Venezuelan specialties with their own family recipes.
Their cuisine is described as comfort food and offer arepas and empanadas as well as delicious desserts.
Don’t be fooled into thinking cachapas are an exclusive breakfast item, just because they’re called pancakes. These are lunch and dinnertime staples topped or filled with various meats and cheeses. You might think of them as a type of tortilla, only thicker and sweeter. These are perfect for the fresh sweet corn lover in the family (I hope that’s you) and everyone else too!
Cachapas Toppings and Fillings
The cafe offered buttered cachapas topped with shredded queso de mano, ham, fried pork chunks or shredded beef. A side of cilantro sauce provided a tart counterpoint to the sweet pancake.
My homage to their delicious dish is topped with deep fried chicharron and fresh mozzarella. I was unable to source queso de mano and I used pork belly instead of tenderloin. You can substitute any cheese, but the flavor of queso de mano and mozzarella is mild enough to allow the sweet corn to shine.
There is one more, delicious way to enjoy cachapas and that’s as a sweet, sweet breakfast treat. Top your corn pancake with blueberry compote or your favorite fruit with whipped cream.
Tips and Tricks
Cachapas are tricky to make without burning or falling apart, because of their high corn and cream content. “Sweat” the top while cooking the bottom by using a vented lid. Keep them small enough to flip with the complete support of a large spatula and fry slowly to give them time to cook all the way through.
- 4 cups fresh yellow corn kernels – divided
- 1/2 cup cacique creme Mexicana table cream
- 1 TBL sugar
- 2/3 cup P.A.N. sweet corn flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Venezuelan queso de mano – OR – fresh mozzarella – shredded
- Butter – for frying cachapas
- Cilantro sauce for garnish – get the recipe HERE
- 1 lb pork belly – sliced into bite sized chunks
- 1 cup peanut oil – for frying
- Cayenne pepper – to taste – optional
- 2 lb skirt or flank steak
- 1 onion – peeled and quartered
- 1 onion – quartered and sliced
- 2 red bell peppers – qurtered and sliced
- 3 garlic cloves – minced
- 1 TBL olive oil
- 2 small tomatoes – diced
- 1 TBL salsa inglesa – or – substitute worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cups reserved beef cooking broth
- Cut the corn kernels off the cob and reserve 4 tablespoons separately
- Blend the flour, crema, sugar and salt with the corn kernels until it forms a thick paste
- If it is too runny, add another teaspoon of corn flour and pulse it in
- Add the reserved whole corn kernels and stir gently to combine
- Let the batter stand for 5-10 minutes to thicken
- Warm a griddle or non-stick frying pan on low, then increase to low medium heat. Take your time to get an even heat over the griddle or pan surface
- When it is up to temperature grease it with a pat or two of butter
- Pour 1/3 cup of batter and make a 4″ circle. It should be thick enough that you have to spread it out evenly with a spatula
- Cook covered with a vented glass lid for 3-4 minutes, until you see little steam bubbles on the top of the cachapa
- Uncover and cook another 1-2 minutes until golden brown on the bottom
- Carefully flip with a spatula and cook, uncovered, the second side 3-4 minutes until golden brown
- Remove and place the cachapa on a serving plate
- Top with a layer of cheese and then fried pork or chicharrones
- Serve hot with cilantro sauce on the side
- Season the pork belly with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper – optional
- Heat the oil on medium high heat and fry in batches about 8-10 minutes until well done
- Strain out with a spider and cool on a paper towel covered rack until ready to serve
- Trim the meat to remove any gristle or excess fat and cut it into pieces that will fit into a soup pot
- Place them into the pot and cover with water
- Add the quartered onion and simmer for 2 hours
- Skim off and discard any foam that floats to the top
- Once cooked, remove the beef from the pot and set aside to cool slightly
- Reserve 2 cups of the beef broth
- When cool enough to handle shred the beef with two forks and set aside
- Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat
- Add the sliced onion, peppers and garlic and saute for 4-5 minutes until the onions are soft
- Add the diced tomatoes, salsa inglesa, salt pepper and cumin
- Stir well to combine and add the shredded meat and the 2 cups of reserved broth
- Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer uncovered for 20 minutes
- Taste and adjust your seasoning with salt and pepper
- Continue to simmer until almost all the liquid is gone and it is almost dry, because you don’t want runny carne mechada on top of your cachapa with cheese!