Arepas are popular street food in Venezuela and Columbia. This handy recipe consists of corn patties that are either stuffed or topped with a variety of fillings/toppings. The street vendors selling arepas in Venezuela are called Areperos and they use cheese, meat or scrambled eggs as stuffing in this popular go-to food. Arepas are also served as part of a platter along with other recipes. The beauty of this dish resides in its simplicity and versatility. The fried corn patties are usually stuffed with meat but can be modified according to one’s creative imagination and taste.
The corn flour used to make arepas is called masa harina. Unlike corn meal, which is simply ground dried corn, to make masa harina the corn kernels are first soaked and cooked in limewater. The resulting kernels (called ‘hominy’) are hulled and ground to create fresh paste of corn called masa (for dough in Spanish). The dehydrated version masa harina is an easy find at the grocery stores since it is used in making various other South American dishes including Tamale (recipe coming soon..!).
I began my Venezuelan adventure by reconstituting masa harina with some lukewarm water (can be replaced by buttermilk to give slight sour taste) to create the paste. I decided to retain the basic flavor of corn masa since I was to use flavorful stuffing.
If your choice of stuffing is blend, you might want to spike masa with some herbs and spices to enhance the flavor. After letting the masa set for some time, I made palm sized patties out of the masa. Arepas could be deep fried but the health-conscious side of mine forbids me from doing so, alternatively I cooked them on a pan using a tbsp. of oil. Hmmm….I love that aroma, after cooking a few of them the entire kitchen was smelling like a big bowl of freshly baked nachos. After letting them sit on the pan for 7-10 min on medium heat and intermittent turnovers the arepa sacs were ready to be stuffed. But be careful….don’t rush to cut open the two halves too soon otherwise the hot air trapped in the sacs may rush out giving your fingers some hard time. Well if u don’t believe me just ask my impatient hubby dear about his misadventure.
Okay so now that the arepa sacs were ready it was time to get creative. It can range from bland baked potato or finely chopped mushrooms to hot chilly flavor. I wanted to retain the South American essence yet make it very flavorful. So I used refried beans and sliced avocado and salsa. Finally I topped it up with chipotle sour cream sauce and chopped cilantro.