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Ora's Kitchen's Venezuelan recipes help connect South Americans in Corpus Christi to home

"For me, cooking is a way of showing love,” founder Oralia Hay said in Spanish.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Everyone knows about Corpus Christi’s numerous taquerias and Tex-Mex food staples. 

But what they may not know is that the Coastal Bend has so many more examples of Latino food than just Mexican, and Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect time to highlight some of these eateries.

For example, the heart of Venezuela can be found inside Ora’s Kitchen, where you’ll find founder and owner Oralia Hay inside greeting everyone who passes through her doors like family. 

“Ora’s Kitchen is my family, is my culture, is my friends,” she said. “(It’s) a family.”

The traditional Venezuelan recipes prepared inside Ora’s Kitchen were passed down from her grandmother.

When 3NEWS visited the restaurant recently, Hay had a variety of favorites to share.

"El pabellón criollo les voy a presentar,” she said. “La arepa, las empanadas, y también van a probar las cachapas."

Pabellón criollo is Venezuela’s take on what Cubans call ropa vieja. Every Caribbean country has its version of the plate, which consists of white rice, black beans and stewed shredded beef. It is also served with fried plantain slices.

Arepas are Venezuela’s answer to Mexico’s gordita. Whereas gorditas are usually cut, arepas are a corn pocket that holds a variety of ingredients. One arepa Ora’s Kitchen makes contains all the pabellón criollo ingredients.

Cachapas are also considered street food and are like thick pancakes made of corn flour and topped with queso de mano – Venezuela’s handmade version of mozzarella cheese.

The staple ingredient in Hay’s Venezuelan dishes is corn, just like in many other Latin American countries. This makes Ora’s Kitchen a place where people from not only Corpus Christi, but from other Latino countries feels at home.

“I feel like the only one that is closest (to the) flavors from my country, from Ecuador,” said customer Maria Paulson. “She uses a lot of corn."

Hay said sharing the love of her Venezuelan roots, history, and culture, with every plate she serves, gives her a sense of pride. She loves that her food helps bring people together.

"For me, cooking is a way of showing love,” she said in Spanish. 

The right dish prepared in the correct way can transport us to a different place, or it can help mentally transport us back home -- a visit to Ora’s Kitchen does both.

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