La Empanada Gourmet is excited to present yet another tasty treat from South America. Arepas can be eaten for breakfast, at any time of the day as a snack, as an appetizer or starter, especially when accompanied with a sauce or as a complement to a main course much like bread rolls. The best part is, they're gluten-free!
Arepas is one the most typical foods in Venezuela. Arepas are made of corn flour and they are like bread in other countries. You can eat them anytime, everywhere and with whatever you want. Arepas are typically stuffed with different kinds of fillings like in a sandwich. They can also be eaten plain, cooked with a filling of meat, poultry or cheese, or simply split open and buttered.
Both Colombians and Venezuelans view the Arepa as a traditional national food. The Arepa has a long tradition in both countries, with local recipes that are very delicious and varied.
The predecessor of the Arepa was a staple of the Timoto-cuicas, an Amerindian group that lived in the northern Andes. Other Amerindian tribes in the region, such as the Arawaks and the Caribes, widely consumed a form of the Arepa known as casabe made from cassava (yuca).
The word "Arepa" may have originated from the language of the Caracas natives (north coast of Venezuela) that meant "maize” (Corn).
An arepa is a bread made of corn originating from the northern Andes in South America, and which has now spread to other areas in Latin America (e.g. Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic, where it is now popular). It is similar to the Mesoamerican tortilla.
Arepas were originally made by the indigenous inhabitants of Venezuela and Colombia but they are also known in Mexico, where they are named “gorditas” and in El Salvador, they call them “pupusas”.
The arepa is a flat, unleavened patty made of cornmeal which can be grilled, baked, or fried. The characteristics of the arepa vary from region to region: It may vary by color, flavor, size, thickness, garniture, and also the food may be stuffed with.
In Eastern Venezuela, the most common variety of arepa is usually about 3 to 8 inches (200 mm) in diameter and 3/4 inches thick. Larger arepas can be found, made with either white or yellow corn. In the western Andes, arepas are flatter, and are typically quarter of an inch or less in thickness and 3 to 4 inches (100 mm) in diameter.
An arepa can be eaten with a filling, similar like a Salvadorean pupusa. However, the arepa is split after cooking, and filled with ingredients such as cheese or deli meats.
- A filled arepa is called an arepa rellena.
- An arepa can also be dressed with toppings such as cheese and eaten open-faced.
Venezuelans prepare arepas depending on personal taste or preference and the region in which they are made. Venezuelan varieties include:
- Cheese arepa (Arepa de queso)
- Reina Pepiada - filled with avocado, chicken, and mayonnaise
- Arepa pelúa - with yellow cheese and pulled beef
- Arepa catira - with yellow cheese and chicken
- Arepa de chicharrón - with crisped pork skin
- Arepa de dominó - white cheese and black beans
- Arepa de Perico - made with perico, a Caribbean type of scrambled eggs
- Arepa viuda ("widow" arepa) - an empty arepa usually eaten with soup
- Other fillings include guacuco (a shellfish), school shark or cazón,
- ham, and quail eggs,
How to Heat Them
The AREPA is already baked! It is recommended to warm them in a toaster or regular oven for best results.
If the product is frozen, leave it at room temperature for a few hours, or take them out of the freezer the day before, and place in the refrigerator overnight.
Toast the AREPAS as you would a slice of bread. You might need to toast them more than once, so they become really warm inside and ready to eat.
Heat oven to 350°F . Place the AREPAS in single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet; cover tightly with foil. Warm the AREPAS for 5-10 minutes
1.- Do not microwave the AREPAS!
2.- Overheating can cause AREPAS to toughen
How to Prepare Them After Heating
Regular Size Arepas
To make filled Arepas split them in half but without completely separating the two halves, scoop out a little of the soft dough filling (optional), and stuff it with your chosen filling.
First-timers will probably go for a simple option like ham or cheese, but if you want to try something more ambitious here is a short list of possible options.
- Ground seasoned beef and black beans
- Chopped Chicken salad and mayonnaise mashed together.
- Pork stew
- Crumbled white cheese.
- Dips different flavors
- Scrambled eggs cooked with chopped tomato and onion
- Diced sausage
- Black beans and cheese
- Butter and crumbled cheese
- Ham and cheese (if you find melting cheese much better)
- Tuna salad with onions and a squeeze of lemon.
Cocktail Size Arepas (or Arepitas)
Small Arepas served as a starter to eat with nata (sour cream), or with soups and stews or with salsas like:
- Chimichurri is an herb condiment mixture of cilantro, lemon, vinegar and spices.
- Guasacaca is an Avocado sauce similar to Mexican Guacamole but not as thick. Great for drizzling over arepas or empanadas.
Salsa picante - Hot sauce.