AREPA is Venezuela’s main dish, we have it at any time of day, for breakfast lunch or dinner, or it can serve as an accompaniment to any dish. It’s sort of our bread.
Its origins go back hundreds of years when our indigenous tribes started making them from fresh corn. Actually, AREPA comes from erepa, which is our Indians’ name for corn bread. Since industrialization times, the arepas are now made with pre-cooked, packaged corn flour, the most common is Harina P.A.N which can be bought almost anywhere in any place of the world right now. To make life easier, you can buy at at Amazon. What was initially made with fresh corn is today usually made using pre-cooked white corn flour.
There are many (and I mean MAAAANY) ways to stuff them, here are the most common:
- Viuda (widow): No stuffing
- Domino: White grated cheese and black beans
- Catira (Blondie): Yellow shredded cheese
- Reina Pepiada (The Beauty Queen): Shredded chicken and avocado
- Pelúa (Hairy): Shredded beef and shredded yellow cheese
- Rumbera (Party Girl): Pork leg meat and shredded yellow cheese
- Pabellón: Shredded beef, black beans, and shredded yellow cheese
- Perico: Scrambled eggs made with tomato and onion
They come in various sizes, from bite size to meal size and anything in between. Some like them thick and remove the moist dough inside before stuffing it, and some other like them thin and crunchy. The truth is there is no wrong way to eat or cook an arepa. They can be grilled, fried, or cooked in a barbecue. they can even make a great dessert! I’ll give you the recipe for sweet arepitas (made with sugar cane and anise)later on, stay tuned.
Now let’s get to work!
- In a large bowl, mix [by hand] water, salt and shortening together
- Slowly add the flour and mix quickly to avoid lumps. Begin to knead vigorously and without pause. The flour might absorb the liquid so if you need more water, don’t be shy and continue kneading. The consistency of the dough should be dense and shiny, if you make a compact and smooth ball and it doesn’t stick to your hands, nor the walls of the bowl, it means the consistency is perfect.
- Cover dough with a moist towel and let rest for about 10 minutes
- Make a 6 oz. ball and flatten it as if making a burger patty. The arepa needs to be thick enough so it can be sliced and stuffed. An approximate size is about ½” thick and 4½ ” in diameter. The edges of the arepa need to be sloped down.
- Oil a flat griddle and set on medium heat
- When hot enough, seal the arepa for 2 minutes on each side
- To finish, set heat to medium high and grill for 5-8 minutes per side. It’ll be ready whenever you tap it in the middle and sounds hollow and be crunchy on each side.
- To stuff, you need to slice it through de middle, halfway with a serrated knife. Make sure NOT to slice open the bottom because the filling will fall out.
- Stuff generously with your favorite filling and serve hot.
I truly hope you enjoy this traditional Venezuelan dish!