There are a lot of great memories I have from my childhood in Venezuela. Most of those come from the various family celebrations held at my grandparent’s house. Birthday parties, graduation parties, mother’s day parties, anniversary parties, farewell parties, welcome parties, wedding parties and just-because parties. Back then most of my family still lived in Venezuela, and those get-togethers could become quite packed. First cousins, second cousins, third cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, parents, godparents, friends, friends-of-friends, family dentist, even our piano teacher was invited. Back when things didn’t cost so much, too. My grandparents went all out to celebrate each and every one of these special occasions. I remember they even used to hire waiters, tables, tents, caterers, cooks, and even a band sometimes. Back then, most parties were like that, even if it was just a birthday party, it could look like what now is only done for weddings. And just like in all well organized and catered parties, they always served hors d’oeuvres, or as we call them in Venezuela; “pasapalos”. This word is actually quite funny, at least to me. It is actually two words in one, “pasa” and “palos”. The literal translations are “pasa” = pass, and “palos” = sticks. What they mean in Venezuelan slang is “pasa” = to pass, and “palos” = drinks (the alcoholic kind). Therefore pasapalos is something to pass drinks, in this case, an appetizer or small hors d’oeuvre.
One thing is certain though; a true Venezuelan party is not complete without the star “pasapalo”. And that, of course, is the Tequeño. (Pronounced te-ke-nyos)
According to an article printed in a Venezuelan newspaper (sorry, the clipping I received didn’t have the paper’s name on it), the creation of Tequeños is attributed to Josefina Báez. Josefina was a young entrepreneurial Venezuelan woman who, at the age of 15, created the now famous Tequeños. Josefina owned a catering business of sorts, where she would make and sell other delicious Venezuelan pastries to local ‘bodegas’ (small grocery stores). Josefina would also prepare pastries to entertain guests, such as her older sisters’ boyfriends. Josefina one day decided to use some leftover dough from her pastry-making of the day and rolled up some cheese inside of it, and then she fried it and served it to their guest as simple “cheese wraps”. Sooner than later, her cheese wraps became famous around the small city where she lived. The city’s name is “Los Teques”, which doesn’t have any real translation, since it is a proper noun. Usually people native from Los Teques are called “Tequeños”. Therefore, once the cheese wraps were famous in this small city, another pastry maker from Los Teques, Luisa Casado, decided to sell Josefina’s cheese wraps to clients in other cities, eventually making it to Caracas, the capital city. Once the cheese wraps were known in Caracas, they became even more popular. They started ordering them and serving them as hors d’oeuvres in all kinds events such as baptisms and weddings, and people would begin to call these cheese wraps by the name of the people who would bring them to the city; the “Tequeños”.
You may notice that I did not call this post “cheese sticks”, because these are NOT your regular cheese sticks, they are way better. However, the key to making real Venezuelan Tequeños, and not some other plain boring “cheese stick”, is the cheese. You must have authentic Venezuelan Queso Blanco. And trust me, if you do not live near an authentic Venezuelan market, you may not find the right cheese, but you could try to sample different cheeses at a Latin market near you and try to find a similar cheese. Basically, the cheese has to be white, not too salty, and it has to melt easily, but does not become completely liquified, and it is also not watery inside its package. Whatever you do, do not make Tequeños with Mozzarella. You will have a very bland and boring ‘cheese stick’.
What you need:
– 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
– 1 Egg
– 4-5 Tablespoons Cold Water
– 2 Teaspoons Salt
– 5 Tablespoons Butter
(Cold, Straight From The Fridge)
– 2 Tablespoons Sugar
(or more if you like the dough to be sweeter)
– 500 Grams of Queso Blanco Venezolano (There is a round Mexican one called Gallo Blanco that could work, and I found one called El Latino that was very good)
– Vegetable Oil (for frying)
– Paper Towels
1. Cut the cheese in strips of about 2-3″ long and ½” thick. Save inside Tupperware in fridge for later.
2. In a big mixing bowl, add the flour, the sugar, and the salt. Mix well.
3. Take the butter out of the fridge and cut in little pieces. Then add the butter to the mix and begin to mix it using the tip of your fingers to mash the butter together with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well until the mixture is as fine as possible. It will probably feel like little grains of rice.
4. Add the egg and begin to mix with a wooden spoon.
5. Add the water and continue mixing, until all ingredients are well blended together.
6. Once you have more uniform dough, take it out of the bowl and begin to knead it over a flat surface (use flour on the surface). Knead for at least 5 minutes, as you would bread dough.
7. Once you have a soft and uniform dough, cover it with clear wrap paper and let it sit for about ½ and hour or more.
8. Place some flour on a clean flat and hard surface, like your countertop or cutting board. Spread the flour evenly over the entire working surface (so the dough won’t stick to it).
9. Using a rolling pin, begin to flatten the dough. It shouldn’t be too thin or too thick. Perhaps just a bit thinner than a ¼ of an inch.
10. Once flattened, cut strips from the dough of about ½ an inch thick by 10 inches long.
11. Roll the sticks of cheese with the strips of dough by placing one end of the cheese stick at an angle on one end of the dough, then closing the tip and rolling until the cheese is covered. Making sure the cheese is fully covered and the ends are sealed (you can dab your finger tips in water to help you seal the dough).
12. You can place the tequeños on a baking sheet or Tupperware and also spread some dough on the bottom and top of each row of tequeños.
13. Cover them with plastic wrapping paper, or Tupperware cover and keep in the freezer until ready to fry.
14. When ready to fry and serve your tequeños, make sure you have enough vegetable oil and that the oil is not too hot. Then you fry them straight from the freezer and do so slowly until they are golden brown. Don’t fry them for too long or the cheese will begin to melt its way out of the dough, and you don’t want that to happen.
15. Place the tequeños on paper towels to remove the excess oil and serve while still hot.
This post is very special to me, and I dedicate it to my grandmother
Ana C. Sandoval de Ojeda.
She makes THE BEST Tequeños EVER, and I thank her for coming to my house, and teaching me how to make them. I owe this blog a photo of the both of us in my kitchen. Love you!