Venezuelan food varies greatly from one region to another. Its cuisine, has been influenced by its indigenous people and its European ancestry particularly the Spanish, Portuguese, and French as well as African and Native American traditions. The food is rich and varied; its regional specialties and the wide variety of international cuisines have merged to offer delicious and appetizing dishes full of flavor, taste, and color. Food staples include corn, rice, plantain, yams, beans and several meats. Potatoes, tomatoes, onions, eggplants, squashes and zucchini are also common sides to the Venezuelan diet. Cumin and saffron are used in many dishes but the distinctive and delicate flavor of most of the popular dishes comes from the use of local roots and vegetables.
In the Western States common meats include goat (usually prepared with tomato), rabbit with an extensive use of plantain and a variety of cheeses. In the Andean region potatoes are staples cooked with beef, lamb and chicken and for obvious reasons not much fish. In other regions there is a plentiful supply of meat (mostly grilled or roasted), fish, vegetables and fruit. Venezuelans love pasta where they are number two in the world after Italy
The most common food item is called Arepa: the native bread made from ground corn, water and salt made into a plain fried corn pancake. These are filled with almost anything, including eggs and tomato for breakfast, beef, chicken, ham, sausage, shrimp, cheese, salad and even baby shark. Other popular dishes include "Empanada": deep-fried cornmeal turnover filled with chicken, ham, cheese, fish or meat. "Cachito": hot croissant filled with chopped ham and or cheese; "Cachapa": thick, slightly sweet pancake made with maize and served with mozzarella-type cheese ("queso guayanesa"); "Hervido": soup made with chunks of beef, chicken or fish and native vegetables or roots; "Pabellón Crioll": Venezuela's national dish, consisting of shredded beef mixed with black beans (caraotas negras) and cheese, served with fried plantain (cooking banana) and rice.
Popular sweets include "majarete", a pudding made from coconut, corn, and papelón; the "bienmesabe", pieces of sponge cake soaked in sweet wine, then mixed with a syrup made from coconut milk, eggs, and sugar; the rice pudding; and the famous "tacón señorial", browned and crispy pieces of bread soaked in milk, cheese, and eggs fried in butter.