By Linda Bladholm
It’s worth a detour to K’Chapas in Doral for the well-made cachapas, corn pancakes topped with salty cheese. The iconic Venezuelan snack dates to the country’s earliest residents, the Yanomamo and Arawak Indians. Juan Carlos Marquez and his sisters Marys and Carolina opened it about a year and a half ago as a taste of home — the city of Maracay, located east of Caracas near Venezuela’s northern seaboard.
Cachapas are a treat that, until fairly recently, were only made at home with just-picked ears of pale yellow corn called jojotos or dulce maiz. Customers are mostly Venezuelans and Colombians. In the morning they come for the homemade criollo breakfast with caraotas (black beans), cheese, shredded beef or chicken and arepas. The pancake is best devoured on the premises, hot off the butter-slicked griddle with the cheese melting into the creamy, lightly crisped corn disc.
To make the batter, Marys cuts fresh kernels from the cob and grinds them in an electric mixer with a little salt and brown sugar. The large pancakes can be had "full" (flat and covered with a slice of white cheese called queso de mano) or "normal" (folded over a half moon of cheese). They can also be spread with queso guayanes, a soft cream cheese popular in southern Venezuela, or stuffed with shredded meat. Each pancake is big enough for a meal, especially when sandwiched with meat, but if you have an extra-large appetite, order the criollo pabellon, or "flag" plate, said to display the tri-colors of the national banner. It brings a heaping platter of rice, shredded beef and beans sprinkled with grated country cheese bracketed by strips of fried sweet plantains.
There’s ice cream for dessert, but the sweetest thing here are the cachapas.
K’Chapas True Venezuelan Flavor, 5209 NW 79th Ave., Doral (in the Doral Shopping Center); 305-592-7689; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon-Sat. Breakfast $6.99, cachapas $6-$8, arepas $4.50, pabellon plate $8.99
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