Tequeños Colombianos (Colombian Cheese Sticks)

If you love fried mozzarella cheese sticks, you’re going to love this Colombian version, which Venezuelans also call “tequeños”. They’re usually made with cheese for frying or some sort of firm cheese, I often use Mexican queso fresco, then they’re wrapped with a thin strip of a delicious, buttery dough and finally they’re deep fried. Healthy? No. Delicious? Heck, yeah!

Since I pretty much grew up in the US, I never got to eat these cheese sticks when we lived in Colombia but my husband tells me he used to eat them all the time on his lunch breaks at school. The first time I had them was at a Venezuelan restaurant here in town and even though I thought they were good, I didn’t think they were that great. Then, I made my own version at home and they came out way better! Probably because I make sure that my dough has plenty of butter for it to come out soft and delicious.

And, you possibly may be wondering why Colombians and Venezuelans have similar recipes like this one even though we have different names for them. The answer is simple, because we used to be one country until the early part of the 19th century and we still have a lot of things in common, especially when it comes to making yummy food!

¡Buen Provecho!

Yields about a dozen cheese sticks

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg at room temperature
¼ cup cold unsalted butter
6-7 tablespoons ice cold water
12 oz. cheese for frying or any kind of firm white cheese (ex.: Mexican queso fresco) cut into sticks of about 4 inches long and ½ inch wide
Oil for frying (canola, vegetable, corn, etc.)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Then, add the egg, butter and 6 tablespoons of water. Stir with a wooden spoon or a spatula and then start kneading with your hands. If you notice that the dough is a bit dry, add another tablespoon of water.

2. Continue kneading the dough on a flat surface until the flour is well incorporated and the dough is smooth. Shape it into a ball and place it back in the bowl where you mixed all the ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap or kitchen towel and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

3. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin on a floured surface until it’s about ¼ inch thick and then shape it into a 10×13 inch rectangle. Then, cut the dough into strips measuring about ¾ inch wide. You should end up with about 10-12 strips of dough.

4. Flatten each strip with a rolling pin once again to make sure is thin enough and to stretch it to about 18 inches long. Then, wrap each cheese stick with a strip of dough starting at one end and ending at the other. Pinch both ends to make sure they’re sealed and press the dough with your fingers to make sure there aren’t any gaps.

5. Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat and fry the cheese sticks for about 3-4 minutes total or until they’re golden brown on all sides. Make sure to turn them so they don’t burn. Take them our of the oil and drain them on paper towels. Serve hot with your favorite fast food sauce.

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