HALLACAS | preparing, creating, cooking, culture… Happy Holidays!

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Plantain leaves are first smoked to make them easy to manipulate.  They need to be cleaned to remove any trace of the smoking process.  For the ‘hallacas’ one needs three different cuts of leaves.  The first is the base, the second one should be the same size or larger than the base and the third one is the ‘faja’ (belt), which is thin and helps to tie the leaves together.   When folding the ‘hallaca’ make sure to follow the vein of the leaf in order to avoid it from cracking open.

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‘Onoto’ or the annatto seed is originally from South America and a derivative of the Achiote tree.  Traditionally used by indigenous people as a dye for textiles or body paint, it is also used as a natural food coloring agent (yellow to orange) that has a slight peppery flavor.  To obtain the dye it is boiled in water or oil. The dough is made with white corn flour (Harina PAN), the broth from the hens used for the three meat stew (hen, beef, pork), and ‘onoto’ (annatto) seeds heated up in vegetable lard to release the red/orange color.  The dough will be ready when it has an intense orange color and it is shinny (palms of hands should be shinny orange).Once dough has rested, proceed to make 6-7 oz balls.  We suggest making a large quantity of balls and setting aside.  Cover with a humid cloth to prevent the dough from drying.On the left in small bowls, the ‘adornos’ (decorations)- onions, red bell peppers, capers, olives, salt pork, almonds and raisins.   Place one of each over the spoonful of the stew on the dough, as a representation of the main ingredients used to make the three meat stew.   To the right, little cones of ‘papelon’ (or piloncillo as it is know in Mexican markets).  It is unprocessed sugar cane, a key ingredient in venezuelan cuisine, both for sweet and savory dishes.

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Take a ball of dough, and place over a previously oiled plantain leaf and flatten with a wood block or plate. Do not make it too thin that it will break, but do not make it too thick, as it will not be delicate or pleasant to eat.Place a generous spoonfull of three meat stew over the flattened dough.  Decorations will be arranged over the stew.The ‘hallaca’ shall be folded over to close like a pocket.  It should be wrapped with three leaves: the base, the second one that protects the ‘hallaca’ from getting water in while it boils and the ‘faja’ (belt), which holds the leaves together.
The final step in the assembly process is to tie the ‘hallaca’ with twine.  Before starting the assembly process, cut a good amount of twine, about 1.5 meters long.The ‘hallaca’ should be tied as you wold a gift!Once the ‘hallacas’ are all done, they need to be steamed or boiled for about 45 minutes.  After that time, take them out, drain them and set aside to cool entirely before refrigerating.  For serving, the ‘hallaca’ should be warmed up by boiling (again) for 45 minutes.  Take out carefully, drain and  cut the string. Discard the first two leaves.  Place the ‘hallaca’ (still wrapped) on a plate and carefully open, folding or cutting the excess of leaf over the plate.  Do not eat the leaf!  ’Hallacas’ can be refrigerated for up to two months.

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Julie Pingarron - Hello Adriana,
My husband is from Venezuela and of course wants Hallacas every Christmas. Unfortunately the recipe and videos that I had used were never as good as this one, so they never really came out right. I am so excited to try yours so he can get a taste of home. He is also very happy about your Pan de Jamon recipe. This Christmas should really make him feel at home thanks to you!!! I don’t know if you have one already or plans for one, but I think you should make a book of Venezuelan recipes.
Thanks Again!
-Julie Pingarron

Adriana Lopez - Julie, I am so happy this information is useful! Please email me if you have any questions or get stuck while making them- adriana@picapicakitchen.com
Also, I will be posting detailed recipes for the hallac and the pan de jamon this week, so check in to get them

Lucy Anne - Thanks for posting the recipe Adriana!

Adriana Lopez - You are welcome! If you make the hallacas, can you send me photos? I would love to see the outcome. Of course, any questions along the way, let me know!

Marvin Bjurlin - Hello Adriana,
I grew up in Venezuela. While my mom never made Hallacas, our family always had them in December since all of our friends brought samples as gifts. Now living in Western New York, I have on a few occasions attempted to make them. I invented the recipe. In the last couple of days I have viewed all of your videos on hallacas and other Pica Pica delights. It all takes me back to my childhood in Maracay, 55 years ago! Last night I had friends over and even though it is not December, we made 25 hallacas, today my wife got more leaves at the store and I just finished boiling another 15. We will assemble and boil again this evening. To fill out our dinner last night we had platanos and yucca. SABROSO!
My adult sons and their families love it when I make arepas and black bean soup.

Thanks for all of your on line help. Now I want to have a city vacation in San Francisco and enjoy my meals at Pica Pica.

By the way, the last video I watched it looked like you were about to become a mom! My best wishes to you in that regard. It is quite a trip. My oldest son is 42 now and he and his wife were along for the hallacas last night.

Marv

Adriana Lopez - Marv, I am really moved by your email. I am so happy that the videos were helpful! It is a challenging dish to make, but it is amazing how it brings family together and it can recall the best of memories. I hope that this year you started a new tradition in your family. The fun thing is that each year the hallacas have their own personality and it is a great thing to share among friends and family. Send me photos please if you have some left!
Feliz 2012!

HALLACAS UNBOUND! - [...] The word for Toupée in Spanish is TUPE.  But when people use it in Venezuela, it doesn’t only refer to the headpiece that covers baldness, but also  to audacity.  During this past hallacas season I found a lot of people with a great amount of Tupe! Many of you watched the videos we made last year on how to make hallacas.   I have to say, I am delighted that so many people took the interest and time (and had the curiosity) to do so.  But my biggest thrill has been to see how some people were audacious enough to venture out and make their own hallacas.  See the original post and videos here [...]

YOUR HALLACAS - [...] The word for Toupée in Spanish is TUPE.  But when people use it in Venezuela, it doesn’t only refer to the headpiece that covers baldness, but also  to audacity.  During this past hallacas season I found a lot of people with a great amount of Tupe! Many of you watched the videos we made last year on how to make hallacas.   I have to say, I am delighted that so many people took the interest and time (and had the curiosity) to do so.  But my biggest thrill has been to see how some people were audacious enough to venture out and make their own hallacas.  See the original post and videos here [...]

Salo - This is so interesting to me. I recently discovered that Hallacas, what we call pastelles in Trinidad y Tobago are actually Venezuelan! Wow. I also recently discovered that my deceased great grandfather is Venezuelan (family secret for some reason; he was only Trinidadian culturally, lol). I will certainly be making this for Christmas/Navidad!

Adriana - Salo, I am going to research this Trinidadian pasteles… One of my closest childhood friends is Trinidadian so I will ask. If you make hallacas, let me know if you have any questions. And also, send em some photos ;) BTW, we are so close geographically that we are practically first cousin countries…

Adriana - So, asking around and reading a bit about the Trinidadian Pastels, it seems to me that they are conceptually very similar, but with a few differences:

* the GUISO (stew): in Venezuela we make it with beef, hen (or chicken) and pork. Seems like in Trinidad it only has beef. But the ingredients and seasonings are very similar, save for a few differences, but it probably has that sweet/acid flavor we like so much…

* the MASA (corn dough): we dye it with ONOTO (annatto seeds) to make it very orange and we mix it with lard and chicken stock, so the flavor of the corn dough is probably different

Like the pasteles, the hallaca is labor intensive, a family event generally performed during the holidays. Wrapped in a banana leaf and tied with twine, it looks like a delightful gift!

I hope you gather some people and launch into the adventure of making hallacas or pasteles. Let me know and send me photos if you do!

Alfredo Hurtado - Hola Adriana,

crees que se puede hacer el guiso de las hallacas en un crock pot? anadiendo todos los ingredientes juntos y cocinando todo a fuego lento?

Alfredo

Adriana - Alfredo- as long as you make sure all the ingredients are there, I am sure it will be fine. The key to the guiso is to let it rest for at least one day so that the favors can settle. Let me know how it works. I am really curious. Send me photos!

Alfredo Hurtado - Hi Adriana,

I ended up doing them the regular way i do them pretty much every year, including cooking the stew on large wok. This year though, I used beef steak meet and smoked pork butt for the stew. To my surprise, they came out pretty good! Alfredo

Adriana - Alfredo I bet the smoked pork gave it an amazing flavor. Hey do you use a wok for the beef? Did you use chicken or hen too?

Gaby - Hola Adriana!

Me encanto tu post sobre las Hallacas!
Pero queria saber si tienes la receta para el guiso?. El link que tienes para la receta no funciona.

Gracias!

Gaby

Anonymous - this is very good I like it thank you for your help

Andrea - Hi! Do you know where can I buy the ingredients in San Francisco?

Adriana - Andrea any of the Latin markets in SF Attu annatto seeds, plantain leaves and Pre-cooked corn flour. 16th and Mission is a good start! Let me know I you need any help!

Hallacas: Unusual & Storied Central American Holiday Dish - [...] If you’re looking for traditional Venezuelan food for Christmas, well here it is! Hallacas, which means “to mix” in the Guarani language, is food carefully prepared days in advance before Christmas. It dates back to the colonial times, when household servants would gather leftovers from the succulent Spanish feasts held at plantations. This resulted in a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, raisins, capers, peppers, onions and olives, all wrapped in cornmeal dough. Then it’s folded within plantain leaves then tied with twine. It is then boiled or steamed afterwards. Here’s a great recipe from Adriana Lopez. [...]

Andrea - Thanks for the info! yesterday I went to Mission and bought everything that I needed. Since I was in the neighbourhood, I had lunch at Pica Pica. The meat and the “caraotas” of the Pabellon were great, the fried plantains also were very good ;)

Hallacas: Unusual & Storied Central & South American Holiday Dish - [...] If you’re looking for traditional Venezuelan food for Christmas, well here it is! Hallacas, which means “to mix” in the Guarani language, is food carefully prepared days in advance before Christmas. It dates back to the colonial times, when household servants would gather leftovers from the succulent Spanish feasts held at plantations. This resulted in a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, raisins, capers, peppers, onions and olives, all wrapped in cornmeal dough. Then it’s folded within plantain leaves then tied with twine. It is then boiled or steamed afterwards. Here’s a great recipe from Adriana Lopez. [...]

Quell - They sound gross

Husband of a Venezuelan - The fun part is the whole family making a day if it and making 50 to 60 of them for the entire family!

Kristin - Adriana,
I had a Venezuelan roommate in college who taught be how to make arepas and since it had been one of my favorite foods of all time. Every time I eat them I’m reminded of my friend, our conversations, and the people we entertained and cooked for.
You seem like such a lovely person and to put in all this work and give freely and share your recipes openly is such a blessing to me. I’ve longed to make the foods properly and this helps immensely. I can’t thank you enough. My family (especially my husband) is truly grateful!
PS-I have been to PicaPica in the Mission when I lived in SF and it was incredible!
Much Love,
Kristin

Mari - I’m planning to teach my norwegian girlfriend how to make these soon. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Nice recipe and the videos are really helpful too!

Tis Tamalada Season, They Are Memory Making! « La Experiencia Mexicana - [...] is distinct of the Mexican preparation and they are wrapped in plantain banana leaves.  Here, Adriana Lopez from PicaPica does an amazing task of breaking down the hallaca making recipe!  Venezolanos and [...]

Ethan - I have a Venezuela Project due and I’m making Hallacas. Now I can make them because of your videos .
Thanks Adrian!
From Ethan

amanda marie - wow so good

amanda mariee - I have to search this for school

Margi - Hi. I always make my guisado in the crock pots. I make three guisados, so i have the crock pots. The guisado comes out delicious! You all should try doing it this way. Saves time and you can do other things with the time that you save!

DIY: Tasty Christmas Treats from Latin America | exploration - [...] During the Christmas celebrations in Venezuela, families pull out all the stops where their festive food is concerned. Two of the most popular foodstuffs at this time are hallacas and pan de jamón. Hallacas fall into the ‘dumpling’ category and are made from chicken, beef, pork, capers, raisins and olives. This seemingly bizarre mixture is then coated in a dough (made from either cornmeal or maize) and then wrapped in a plantain leaf, ready to be steamed. See a recipe here. [...]

Enjoying Festive Foods From Around The Globe - Passportdiva - [...] you ever heard of Hallacas? They are a traditional festive food served in Venezuela. Inside is a mixture of corn dough, [...]

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bibi hakim - thanks i will try your recipe hope to make it tomarrow i was living in Venezuela my kids are here they loves too so thanks again

gabriela alfonzo - Hi, I am from venezuela living in Dallas, Texas. This Christmas my family is coming over and we want to have a traditional venezuelan dinner. I would love to know where can i find all ingredients? specially where to find the banana leafs in texas?
Thank you,
Gabi

Peter - Adriana, thank you so much for these videos! I have some young Venezuelan students attending my church (in Minnesota). Every year our community has a Christmas Dinner for those who don’t have family to eat with, and this year I asked the students if there was a traditional dish they would miss at Christmas time. They said “yes, hallacas!”

I’m going to spend the next few days making them for our dinner, so that the students can each have their traditional dish. Your videos have been very helpful to me in preparation. Again… thank you!

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Hallacas: The Perfect Venezuelan Christmas Dish – Beverly Rose Portfolio - [...] It dates back to the colonial times, when household servants would gather leftovers from the succulent Spanish feasts held at plantations. This resulted in a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, raisins, capers, peppers, onions and olives, all wrapped in cornmeal dough. Then it’s folded within plantain leaves then tied with twine. It is then boiled or steamed afterwards. Here’s a great recipe from Adriana Lopez. [...]

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