Don’t worry if you don’t speak spanish! Making arepas is easy and delicious. Arepas are fried or baked yellow or white corn pancakes, either plain or with a filling. Most Venezuelans and Colombians eat them as part of their daily diet in place of bread, mostly at breakfast, at least in Colombia. They are one of the national dishes of Venezuela and there are many food stands or small restaurants called areperas which specialise in the making of these small delights.
Arepas have been an important staple in the diets of the poor Venezuelan’s diet for centuries; today they are eaten by rich and poor alike. Originally they were made from dried corn kernels which were soaked in water and lime to remove the skins, then cooked, drained, dried and ground into flour. Thanks to modern technology, it is now possible to buy the harina de maiz (corn flour) ready to use, cutting out the lengthy soaking and drying process, which means they can be prepared in just a few minutes.
Arepas can be eaten for breakfast; at any time of the day as a snack; as an appetiser or starter, especially when accompanied with a sauce; or as an accompaniment to a main course, much like bread rolls. They can be eaten plain; cooked with a filling of meat, poultry or cheese; simply split open and buttered; or filled like a sandwich. They can be poached, grilled, baked, griddled or (most often) fried, making them not only of the most traditional but also one of the most versatile foods in Venezuela.
Things You’ll Need:
- Maize flour (Harina Pan – Available from all good stockists of Latin American products)
- Flat griddle or frying pan
- Mixing bowl
- A little salt (optional)
- Cooking oil
- Cheese (optional)
How to Cook Arepas:
In a plastic bowl, mix white pre-cooked corn flour*, water and a little bit of salt. Measure out 1 cup of flour per person; add a cup of water per cup of flour. Add a touch of salt and then mix the ingredients until it forms a soft dough.
Once the dough is ready, knead until mixed well.
Make the dough a big ball and let it rest for no longer than 5 minutes
In the meantime, heat up a flat, frying pan and wet it with a little drop of oil. There should be a thin layer of oil. You do not want to fry the arepa just lightly golden each side until a crust is formed.
Then, take a piece of the dough as big as your fist, make a very well rounded ball, and then with your hands flat, press the small dough ball until is flatten and rounded, almost like a muffin (use video above as a visual guide). It should have approximately 1 cm. of thickness. Make sure the dough is not too dry, if it is, wet your hands a little bit with water. And if it is too humid, pour a bit of flour in the mix.
Once the flat, frying pan is heated, put the arepa in until it is lightly goldened and a crust is created on one side, then turn it over and lightenly golden the other side. Keep flipping over occasionally until you are happy with both sides.
When ready, take it out the pan and pound it softly, If you hear an empty, echoing sound – as if there is nothing inside – it means it is ready. If it is not, leave it in the pan for a little bit longer until it is done.
Once ready, simply split the arepa open whilst it is nice and hot, lightly butter the inside, then fill it with your favourite fillings. It couldn’t be easier than that.
*If you can, buy the corn flour called “Harina PAN,” it is the original corn flour from Venezuela