31 Oct Arepas, the star dish of 2018
If you have been to any festivals this year I’m sure you´ve seen at least one food truck selling Arepas. We don’t need to travel to South America anymore to enjoy this delicious dish.
These “Venezuelan pizzas” are a rotund success this year due to their simplicity, versatility and yumminess.
Arepas were included in the BBC good food list with food trends for 2018.
If you haven’t tried them yet I’m not sure what are you waiting for!
What is an Arepa?
The indigenous people in the North of South America were already cooking this delicious dish hundred of years ago. The word Arepa comes from the indigenous word Erepa, which means corn.
They are corn thick tortillas grilled or fried which can be filled with very diverse things, depending on your taste and mood.
They are typical from Venezuela and Colombia where they eat them as a snack or as a late-night bite. If you travel to one of these two countries you will find street stalls selling Arepas virtually at every corner.
The arepas from Venezuela are a bit different than those from Colombia; Venezuelan people prefer to add oil and salt to the dough making them a bit greasier but also more flavoursome, this way they are also great to eat alone, as a kind of bread.
How do we cook Arepas?
Traditionally Arepa dough was made by cooking dried corn, mashing it, and then drying it into a flour. Luckily nowadays the process is way easier since you can purchase a special dehydrated, cooked corn flour, called masa arepa.
In most places you can find shops with products from Latin-America so it shouldn’t be that difficult to obtain. With this pre-cooked flour they are definitely easier to prepare.
The arepa flour is different that the simple corn flour you use to make tortillas or tamales, the texture and flavour are very different even if both flours are made with corn.
So make sure you get the right arepa flour if you want to try to make them at home or at your restaurant.
The process is simple and straightforward:
First we mix the arepa flour with warm water and a little bit of oil and salt.
Once it’s well mixed we leave the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
After that we make thick round shapes, in the form of English scones, although you can also be creative and make different shapes.
Once the flour has rested for about 10 minutes they can be cooked. There are several ways to cook Arepas, we can bake them, grill them or even fry them.
If you grill them, which is the simplest way, do it at a very low temperature, flipping them often. The outside needs to be crispy while the inside stays softer.
If you prefer to fry them they will be a bit more greasy but hey, the taste is soooo good. You can just forget your strict diet for a moment 😊
10 minutes would be enough in the oil to obtain crispy delicious golden Arepas.
Once the arepas are cooked you split them in half and choose the filling of your choice.
The classical filling will be with carne mechada (Venezuelan shredded beef), here is a link to an authentic recipe.
If you don’t eat meat or simply want to try different fillings, there are numerous delicious vegetarian recipes that you can follow. Some of these are adding fried eggs, avocado salad, cheese, etc.
Basically, you can be creative and add any filling you want to experiment with.
Because they can be stuffed with almost anything, it’s a perfect option to use leftovers.
Arepas is a great and trendy dish to be added to your restaurant menu with a lot of possibilities. They can be served for breakfast, lunch or as a snack at any time of the day.
They are easy to prepare, diverse and delicious and it adds a bit of that exotic touch that customers love.
You can even be more audacious and create more sophisticated Arepas with ingredients you will never find in Venezuela, like salmon or eel, or even with a Mexican twist and add chipotle sauce.
Does it sound crazy? Well I think everyone should be brave in the kitchen and try new things, you may surprise yourself and more importantly, your customers.
Let’s get creative!
Photos and video by our great photographer Yessica.