This traditional Venezuelan dish is as hearty as it is delicious. White rice, black beans, and skirt steak are cooked slowly and seasoned well. Perfect for a crowd!
The beauty of this dish, as my anonymous podcast guest explains, is its simplicity. But you can always dress it up!
She encourages us to include "a huge tray of sweet fried plantains (tajadas) and of course, avocado and freshly grated white cheese!" I didn't include this in the photographs, but another common topping is a large fried egg! Talk about a protein packed meal!
Memories of Pabellón Criollo
From the guest of Ep. 139 "One in 6 Million Refugees: A Venezuelan Story"
The dish I want to share is “Pabellón” or “pabellón criollo”. For Venezuelans, it has always been an emblematic, traditional and very popular dish that is served in all Venezuelan tables regardless of class or profession.
Personally, I can't remember a weekend going by without a giant pot of black beans being prepared in my house, a huge cauldron of shredded meat, a huge tray of fried sweet plantains (tajadas) and white rice in abundance, of course, I couldn't miss the avocado and freshly grated white cheese.
I am part of a huge family, usually we gathered together during the weekends. We were 6 siblings, plus mom and dad. Add to that my grandparents, cousins and aunts and uncles. That add more than 20 people. That is not counting the friends that each one brought, either to play, to study or simply to spend the afternoon. Yes, that's right, I come from a huge family and we start the list with my dad and my mom, we continue with the six children
So we needed a dish that can feed a great amount of people. And that is why We cook “pabellón”. It is a generous dish. And it is an excellent family project. From picking Up the black beans to shreading the beef… there was a lot to do.
About Our Anonymous Guest
As of October 2022, over 6 million Venezuelan refugees are currently seeking asylum around the world. In September 2022, between 1400 and 1600 fled PER DAY.
You can listen here to the story of an anonymous guest, who gained asylum in the US 4 years ago. She is speaking anonymously because the government there is so repressive - so controlling (you’ll hear how she was threatened to lose all access to food if she didn’t vote for the incumbent) - that her family could be punished as retaliation for her words.
But why is she choosing to speak at all? First, because we have a very fundamental need to share our stories. And second, because our guest today wants to give a voice to these millions of refugees - to remind all of us where they came from, why they left, and what they’ve risked (everything) to leave.
There are lessons for us in all of my guest’s story: political lessons in the way the current government came to power, then consolidated that power; lessons of compassion and empathy for individuals within a massive migration; lessons of courage, bravery, and sacrifice when we consider what so many risk for their families to have a better life, lessons of gratitude when we are reminded to savor the little moments (like sorting beans for her Storied Recipe) that we would miss if suddenly forced to leave our homes, and finally - lessons of friendship and kindness that we can learn from 3 immigrants that came together - one Venezuelan, one Nepalese, and one Iranian Jew - in a NYC apartment to help one another launch new lives.
Learn More About Venezuela and Pabellón Criollo
Episode 139: One in 6 Million Refugees: A Venezuelan Story
Follow The Storied Recipe in Your Favorite Player
FAQ About Pabellón Criollo
What does Pabellón mean and what does Pabellon Criollo represent?
Pabellón is literally translated from Spanish to English as "pavilion". This dish of shredded beef, black beans, and white rice all on the same plate represents the many people groups and flavors influencing Venezuelan cuisine, specifically Spanish, indigenous, and Africans.
Is Pabellon Criollo cheap or economical?
Yes, as our guest says, legend says that slaves used ingenuity and cooking talent to develop this delicious dish with unwanted portions of food.
Is Pabellón Criollo the same as Pabellon con Baranda?
Very similar. The only addition is that Pabellón con Baranda includes the plantains. For it to be an authentic styling of the dish, the ripe plantain slices are fried, then placed around the edge of the plate. Why is this placement important? Well, as ChowTimes explains, "baranda" means railing and the plantains act like a fence around the plate, keeping the overflowing components on the plate.
Is Pabellón Criollo the same as Pabellón a Caballo?
Again, super similar. Pabellón a Caballo is Pabellón Criollo with the popular addition of a fried egg on top. Day Translations says shares that "a caballo" means horseback riding. The egg on the dish reminds one of a horseback rider on the horse.
Is Pabellon Criollo the same as Carne Mechada?
Carne Mechada is the name of the beef portion of Pabellón Criollo. In Venezuela, it's traditionally made from skirt steak cooked slowly in a broth of vegetables (onion, carrot, aji pepper, bay leaf, and lots of cilantro and parsley) at a lower heat, then shredded. Depending on what's available to you, tender slices of flank steak are another non-authentic option.
Meanwhile you'll create a sauce for the beef from onion, red pepper, red tomatoes, lots of spices, and add it to the shredded beef later.
Is Pabellón Criollo the same as Caraotas Negras?
Similar to the answer above. Caraotas Negras is the traditional beans dish of Venezuela. It's a simple, delicious meal on its own. Dried black beans are sorted, lightly seasoned, and simmered slowly. It's also possible to cook them in a pressure cooker - details are in the recipe.
Do other countries share this dish with Venezuela?
Many other South American and Caribbean countries have dishes that share many similarities with the Venezuelan National Dish. They each feature a protein, white rice, and beans combination. The sauces, proteins, and preparations are slightly different through. Here's a list of similar dishes, as shared by Wikipedia:
- Arroz con gandules - similar dish in Puerto Rico
- Platillo Moros y Cristianos - similar dish in Cuba
- Ropa Vieja - Beef component of the dish is also popular in Cuba
- Gallo Pinto - similar dish in Nicaragua and Costa Rica
- Hoppin' John - similar dish in the Southern United States
- Rice and peas - similar dish in Jamaica
What are the best toppings for Pabellón Criollo?
Our podcast guest suggests avocado, crumbled cheese, fried egg (Pabellón a Caballo), with plantains on the side (Pabellón con Baranda).