The Venezuelan Cheese Stick You Won't Want To Put Down

Venezuela's diverse foods tell stories that span the globe, infused with the flavors and aromas of Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy, combined with West African and Native American traditions (via Tu Esquina Venezolana). Economic and political problems have ravaged Venezuela and disrupted the food supply in recent years, but the country's robust culture and history live on (per Reuters). In the country's eastern, southeastern, and northern regions, fresh seafood is a staple of the local cuisine. To the east, you'll also find fresh blood sausage — like a creole version of the French boudin noir — creole chorizos, and sweet native chilis. To the west in the Llanos, or the plains of the country, you'll come across roasted or grilled beef, deer, and a plethora of juicy, white cheeses. Travel up into the Andean region, and you'll find potatoes and yucca paired with lamb, beef, and chicken to make hearty meals, perfect for the high altitude (per Food & Nutrition).

In the north-central Venezuelan state of Miranda lies a small city called Los Teques, where the Baez family — one of the wealthiest and most well-known families — once lived. According to one legend, the family became even more famous for its creation of a beloved snack made of a delicious artisan Venezuelan white cheese wrapped in a thin, semi-sweet, breaded dough: Tequeños (via Gourmet Antojitos).

Tequeños: the Latin American mozzarella stick?

Some say Tequeños earned their name when the Baez family would transport their legendary cheese snacks to Caracas by train. There, crowds of people waited at the station, and upon the family's arrival, people would shout, "The Tequeños have arrived!" in reference to the Baez family's native city, Los Teques (via Gourmet Antojitos). Some might call Tequeños the Latin American mozzarella stick, but the popular party snack is quite different.

This cheesy breadstick calls for homemade dough, sometimes using cold, cubed butter, and other times melted butter or oil. The dough is rolled out and then cut into strips before being delicately wrapped around a cheesy center. The cheese is what makes Tequeños what they are — firmer, savory cheeses like white queso blanco and queso de freir (frying cheese) are the best for Tequeños, given their high melting point. This allows them to hold their shape when dipped in hot oil. Halloumi can also work as a great substitute. Once fried, you end up with a flaky, crispy treat that pairs nicely with a vibrant avocado sauce called guasacaca that packs a punch with a splash of vinegar (via Food Network).