Arepa Mania!

So before you tell me, yes.  Yes I do know that this is one of Goya’s most famous paintings.  Also, yes.  I also am aware that Goya was neither Colombian nor Venezuelan, of which today’s topic focuses on.

Moving right along..  Arepas.  The simple South American corn cake vehicle for fillings, barreling towards the tasty expressway of impressive saddlebags.

My roommate, while being a wonderful man in many other regards, reintroduced me to the yellow devil upon moving in.  I had just got clean from them from last summer, having had a bit of a “thing” with them.    One night he noticed me questioning a package of artificially yellow disks in our communal refrigerator.  They looked like unappealing miniature frisbees, not the pillows of heaven that I was accustomed to eating at Caracas.

“Oh those?” he asked, with the innocence and glimmer of a crack dealer.  “Those are arepas.  Try one if you want.”

I looked at the little plastic baggie sitting in the palm of my hand in the cold glow of the refrigerator lamp.  A lump in my throat rose, I swallowed hard and then steeled up.  I could totally do this and nobody would ever have to know.  It wasn’t such a big thing last summer, I wasn’t really hooked, I was just arepa-ing hard.  We all have that phase, right?  Like after college or something. Lustily, I grabbed that little baggie and ran.

My famous last words were “Eff it, I got this….” as I toasted one up and threw a fried egg on it quick and dirty.

Much like an alcoholic, it’s the first arepa that really causes your thighs to explode, not the bender in toto.

Arepas can either be flat corn disks that are topped or lofted corn cakes that are split open and filled, depending on what part of South America you’re visiting.  Generally speaking, Venezuelans prefer the thicker variety of arepas while Colombians prefer the thinner ones (although they’re found all over the Caribbean and South America).  The Colombian variety of arepas are easier to make at home, requiring nothing more than a griddle.  Venezuelan arepas are usually made in an iron similar to an American waffle iron, although they can also be fried on the griddle and then baked to perfection.

Whichever way that you prefer to make them, the beauty of an arepa lies in its simplicity alone.  They prefer to be the floor on which a variety of fillings can take center stage, imparting little flavor and a solid base.

There really is no limit as to what an arepa can be topped or filled with depending on your eating  proclivities. However, the most popular arepa topping/filling combinations feature a variety of cheeses, eggs, vegetables and some sort of meat (usually pork or chicken).  Arepas are found at both roadside carts as well as high end restaurants, much like how pancakes are found just about everywhere in the United States.  No matter where you turn, you can never escape the lure of the arepa.

A considerable bender of arepas later, I’m taking it one moment at a time.  But, you know, in case you want to try them just once, at a party…

Basic Arepas


-1 part Masarepa Corn Flour

-1 part lukewarm water

-A three finger pinch of kosher salt

-Fat for grilling

How to:

1. Put one part corn flour in a bowl and form a well.

2. Add in the water slowly, stirring thoroughly.  The desired consistency is like paste and tacky to the touch

3. Divide up the dough and roll up into little balls.

4. Flatten the dough balls between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Use a heavy pan to squish the dough balls to about 1/2″ thick.

5. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat.

6. Coat each side of your arepa with whatever fat you choose.  (Butter is a good choice, but you could also use a vegan option.)

7. Grill each side of the arepa until they are firmed and develop some dark spots, a couple of minutes per side.

8. Serve hot, with whatever you’d like inside.


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