Arepa, Arepa de Choclo
Arepas are eaten all over Colombia and Venezuela. Actually they originated in Venezuela and spread to Colombia. They were originally made from fresh corn. The indigenous people who first began to make arepas hundreds of years ago, called them arepas, which is a word that was derived from “erepa.” Erepa was the word for corn bread. Now arepas are mostly made from a special type of pre-cooked cornmeal called “masarepa.” In Colombia, where I live, one can find at least one street vendor per block who cooks arepa over a coal fire. They usually use the traditional masarepa flour, but there are some vendors who go to the trouble of making the arepas from fresh corn. These arepas that are made in this manner are mostly arepas de choclo. That means arepa made from corn. There are three street vendors in my neighborhood that cook the arepa de choclo. They cook them fresh, and when they are done, they cut them open and place a piece of queso fresco inside. Queso fresco is a type of cheese from the country here. The combination is a marvelous treat for your taste buds.
The arepa has become a very versatile food that is eaten at all times of the day in Colombia and Venezuela. An arepa can be stuffed with a variety of stuffings, called “rellenas.” Some of these stuffings have become quite popular. The list of different foods to stuff in an arepa is only limited by your imagination.
My favorite arepa by far is the arepa de choclo. Some evenings I will go out and buy three of these to feed myself, my wife, and my mother in law. I will spend about $1.50 for the three of us. So not only are they delicious, but they are very inexpensive. Here is a picture of street vendor in my neighborhood who sells arepas every day.
I remember well a conversation that I had with my doctor before I began my traveling. He told me to never eat street food. Contrary to his advice, I have found street food to be some of the best eats. And arepas are some of the best street delights that I eat on a regular basis. Now it is not necessary to purchase arepas on the street, if you do not mind making them at home, but I have found that the convenience of purchasing them from a vendor who actually made them from scrap and cooked them over a real charcoal fire is a real plus.
I am including several pictures of arepas stuffed with a variety of fillings. I obviously like the arepa de choclo, but there are others that I absolutely crave. One of these is the arepa pepiada. Below I am including a picture of this arepa plus a recipe to make one. I am a meat eater so I enjoy a lot of the arepas that include meats, but there are a couple of very delightful arepas that cater to the veterinarian.
Recipe for Arepa Pepiada
- 4 arepa sandwiches
- 3/4 cup shredded cooked chicken
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- 3-4 tablespoons mayonnaise
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro
- Peel and cut up an avacado
- Mix the chicken, avocado, onion, cilantro, mayonnaise and salt and pepper (to taste) in a bowl.
- Split each arepa in half and fill with 1/4 of the filling.
Of the recipes that I am featuring here, the first is to make a normal arepa that you will either eat plain, viuda, or that you will stuff with some of the many fillings. The second recipe will be of the arepa de choclo, the queen of arepas in my opinion. The following recipes will be of stuffed arepas using a standard arepa.
For the traditional arepa I chose a video to show you how to make the arepa. In the video they add an egg on top of the arepa for a breakfast, but I liked the first part of the video because it shows you very easily how to make the basic arepa.
Recipe for Arepa traditional
A recipe to make Arepa de Choclo from the Food Network
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen corn kernels, or fresh corn
1 cup milk, plus more if necessary
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups masarepa
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices mozzarella cheese
Defrost the corn by placing it in a colander and rinsing it under cold water. Drain well and set aside for about 10 minutes.
Place the defrosted corn in a blender and puree with the milk, sugar, and salt, to taste. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in the cornmeal (masarepa) to make a thick pancake-like batter.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat.
Add 3 tablespoons of the arepa batter to skillet, using the bottom of a spoon to flatten. Spread the batter into a 3 to 4-inch circle. Cook arepas for about 8 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown. Flip arepa and cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes until crisp. Add more butter from the remaining 3 tablespoons to the skillet between batches when necessary.
With a 3-inch cookie cutter, cut out circles from the cooked arepas while still warm. Lay 1 slice mozzarella cheese over cut out arepa. Top with another cut out arepa to create a sandwich.
I have made some minor changes to this recipe. Also be sure to use "masarepa." You can also pour the batter into forms to bake in the oven.
Here are some other varieties of stuffed arepas that have become quite popular.
Arepa Pepiada: An arepa stuffed with chicken, avacado, and mayonnaise.
Arepa de Pabellon: An arepa stuffed with shredded meat and black beans.
Arepa de Domino: An arepa stuffed with black beans and crumbled white cheese.
Arepa de Perico: An arepa stuffed with scrambled eggs with tomatoes, peppers, and onions.
Now that you have seen some of the possibilities of the arepa, I imagine that you are ready to make some at home. You probably have everything you need except the masarepa. But don't worry because you can easily buy it on line.