Saratoga County

Oh, Corn! delivers lessons in Venezuelan food

We have some new favorite foods, and so will you
Tres Leches cake was an "amazing" dessert.
Tres Leches cake was an "amazing" dessert.

HALFMOON — Native Venezuelans Belkis Castro and her husband, Jose Theoktisto, moved to Clifton Park in 2008 and opened their home to new friends and neighbors, delighting them with homemade arepas. The positive response led them to open Oh, Corn Arepas and More on Route 9 in the spring of 2016.

What’s an arepa? I had a learning curve. Except for dessert, everything we tried was new. And we loved it all.

Arepas, made of white corn flour, water and salt, are either baked or fried then split, like a pita, and stuffed with any number of things. Use yellow corn flour, add sugar and oil to water and salt and you get a cachapa, a thick spongy pancake that folds over its fillings.

The store offers snacks like fried green plantain slices called tostones, fried sweet ripened plantain (maduros) and yucca frita, the root used to make tapioca. They have a wide variety of natural tropical juices including guava and mango, tamarind and passionfruit. Leave room for dessert.

They are delicious, and the cool thing is, they’re gluten-free. I know some people who will be thrilled by that.

The menu’s photos show exactly what everything looks like, and we got a quick tutorial from the helpful cashier who greeted us when we arrived. She flipped the pages and explained: choose one of their sandwiches, or build your own with fillings like long-cooked pork or beef, or seasoned chicken, tuna, or vegetables.

Oh, Arepas, a box in a strip mall with big windows and a charming Latin decor, was warm and inviting when Lisa and I visited for dinner. We put in our order and were told, “Take a seat, we’ll bring it right over.”
Drinks first, fresh pineapple juice for me ($4.50), my favorite, and water for Lisa. The maduros ($4.50) arrived shortly after, in a paper-lined basket. “It could be dessert,” observed Lisa, forking up a thick slice of ripe, soft and sweet deep-fried plantain cut on the bias and coated in a thin batter with perhaps a little cinnamon. “I like it a lot,” she added.

Arepitas frittas ($5.50) are small arepas fried, then filled with shredded Gouda cheese that melts inside. What’s not to like? You can eat them like potato chips. They are more filling, however, than chips.
I was surprised by the heft of my sandwich, the arepa pernil ($6.95) filled with a generous amount of pulled pork made sweet by cooking in orange juice and red wine. It was salty, too, a nice contrast to the sweetness, and juicy, with lots of flavor from fat, but not dripping and messy.

Arepas make sturdy holders, they’re crispy on the outside and hold their fillings without making a mess. The recommended Gouda (a buck more) melted and made long strings. This sandwich had it all: salt, sweet, fat, crunch, rich, tender pork and creamy cheese, a real flavor bomb.

Lisa had the crunchy sweet arepa ($8.25), which pairs smoky crisp bacon with fried maduros, and mozzarella cheese for richness. This combination is a winner, and the piece Lisa shared with me was fantastic: sweet, salty, smoky flavors and crunchy bacon and shell and soft banana textures.

Arepas come swaddled in paper, folded around and over so they don’t leak and are tucked into a basket. There are plastic forks and knives if you want, and thick napkins to help you stay neat.

We were sold on Oh, Corn! long before we tried the Tres Leches cake ($4.70), a swoon-inducing sweetened milk-soaked square topped with super-duper, fluffy, light and sugary frosting, sitting in a puddle of what tasted like melted vanilla ice cream. “Amazing,” said Lisa as we devoured it.

We have some new favorite foods, thanks to our visit to Oh, Arepas. When you visit, you will, too.

Oh, Corn! Arepas and More
WHERE: 1505 Route 9, Suite 3, Halfmoon, 579-0858,
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tuesday to Thursday, 10 a.m.
to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $39.47 for all,
including pineapple juice
MORE INFO: ADA Compliant. Parking lot in front. Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa,
American Express, Discover.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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