“The first rule at any party is to make sure one knows the exact time and place when the Tequeños are being served." — Popular Belief in the Venezuelan Culture.
Gustavo A. Mendoza, CFO/Owner Brian Beal Moore Catering
At Brian Beal Moore Catering we draw inspirations from cuisines all over the world. Recently we visited the universe of the beloved "pigs in a blanket" — one of my favorites morsels at parties — having lived most of my adult life here in the United States.
And then there are Tequeños, constant reminders of a my long-gone childhood in my native land and once a mandatory destination: Venezuela.
Tequeños are an irresistible and iconic Venezuelan snack. They are cheesy bread-sticks, made by frying pieces salty white queso blanco cheese that have been wrapped with flaky dough in a characteristic spiral fashion.
Tequeños are popular as afternoon snacks, bar food, and as petite appetizers at parties where they are expected.
They are typically served with dipping sauce, such as Venezuelan-style guacamole or guasacaca. They are thought to originate from the town of Los Teques, a longtime vacation destination for residents of Caracas.
Their popularity has spread to other countries, where they are sometimes prepared with wonton wrappers or empanada dough. Tequeños can be dressed up with additional fillings, such as pieces of sliced ham, vegetables, and there are even dessert tequeños with sweet fillings.
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter, chilled
1/2 cup water
12 ounces queso blanco cheese, farmers cheese, or other firm, salty cheese that melts
1 quart vegetable oil (for frying; more or less as needed)
Optional: guasacaca or preferred dipping sauce (for serving)
Steps to Make It
Place the flour in a medium bowl along with the sugar and the salt and whisk together.
Cut the butter into 1/2 inch pieces and place them in the bowl with the flour.
Add the egg.
Use your fingers to mix the egg and butter into the flour until the mixture is sandy and crumbly, and the butter is in very small pieces.
Stir 1/4 cup of water into the flour/butter mixture using a fork. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture starts to come together as a dough. Knead the dough in the bowl several times, adding more water if it is overly crumbly. The dough should be soft and kneadable but will appear somewhat shaggy and not perfectly blended. Cover with saran wrap and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
Cut the cheese into 3-4 inch long sticks, about 1/2 inch square. Depending on the size of the cheese block you start with, you should have about 24 sticks.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough into a 12 by 14-inch rectangle. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1 inch wide strips lengthwise, so that you end up with 12 strips, each about 14 inches long and an inch wide.
Use a strip of dough to wrap one of the cheese sticks: Start at one end of the cheese stick and cover the end with dough. Continue to wrap dough around the stick in a spiral fashion, overlapping the edges, until you reach the other end. Cover the other end of the cheese stick and seal, cutting off any excess dough. (You can dampen the dough with a bit of water to help seal it). The cheese should be completely covered with dough.
Repeat with remaining cheese sticks and remaining half of the dough until you have about 24 dough covered cheese sticks.
Cover the bottom of a heavy, high-sided skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the cheese sticks in bathes, turning them with a spatula until all sides are golden brown. Remove sticks to a plate lined with paper towels and let cool. (You can also fry tequeños in a deep fat fryer if preferred).
Serve warm with guasacaca or preferred dipping sauce. Tequeños can be kept warm until ready to serve in a low temperature oven (300 degrees), covered in foil.