I'm about to make Hallacas! Whish me luck :(
In Venezuelan cuisine, an hallaca (Spanish pronunciation: [aˈʎaka], [aˈʝaka]; alt. spelling, hayaca) typically involves a mixture of beef, pork, chicken, raisins, capers, and olives wrapped in cornmeal Read more ...
dough, folded within plantain leaves, tied with strings, and boiled or steamed afterwards. It is typically served during the Christmas holiday. Popular myth has it that in colonial times it was common for plantation owners to donate leftover Christmas food scraps, such as bits of pork and beef, to their slaves, who would then wrap them in cornmeal and plantain leaves for subsequent preparation and cooking, which could take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours.
An alternate theory notes the similarity between the hallaca (also known as hayaca) and the Spanish empanada gallega (Galician pastry), emphasizing that the fillings are almost identical. Hallacas would then be empanadas gallegas using specially prepared corn flour rather than wheat flour, and plantain leaf rather than expensive iron cooking molds not readily available in the new world in colonial times.
However, the most likely progenitor of the maize body and plantain envelope of hallaca is the Mesoamerican tamal. This version appears likely because tamal-derived dishes, under various names, spread throughout Spain's American colonies as far south as Argentina in the decades following the conquest. To this day, some people in western Venezuela (primarily in Zulia, Falcón and Lara states) use the terms tamar and tamare to refer to what is basically a bollo—the closest version of the tamal in Venezuela—with a simple meat filling.
Another somewhat fanciful source reports a story citing the name as coming from slaves and Indians asking in pidgin Spanish for leftover food, saying alla (there) aca (here), meaning that the food should be placed upon the flat corn cakes they used as plates.
Venezuelan lexicographer Ángel Rosenblat found the word hayaca in a Maracaibo document from 1538, but believes it referred to a bundle of raw corn rather than to the modern assemblage. According to Adolfo Ernst, the word hallaca evolved from the indigenous Guarani language, stemming from the verb ayua or ayuar, meaning "to mix or blend". From there, the construction ayuaca (mixed things) devolved to ayaca and ultimately to hayaca or hallaca using Spanish silent "h" when written). The earliest use of the word in the modern sense is in a 1781 document of Italian missionary linguist Filippo Salvatore Gilii.
Hallaca is a staple part of Venezuelan Christmas celebrations and its preparation is practically limited to that time of the year. The dish is also an icon of Venezuelan multicultural heritage, as its preparation includes European ingredients (such as raisins, nuts and olives), indigenous ingredients (corn meal colored with annatto seeds and onions), and African ingredients (smoked plantain leaves used for wrapping).