Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Arepas

While I'd like to say that I discovered these wonderful corn "pancakes" while traveling in Colombia, or at my Venezuelan friend's house, I actually owe my love of them to the streets of New York. I first encountered arepas more than a decade ago in the generic street fairs that squeeze onto the streets of New York during the summer and fall. Under the arepa vendor's tent there was a large griddle perpetually covered with yellow sweet corn arepa pancakes, speckled with corn kernels and melted cheese in various stages of done-ness, (if that's even a word). The first time I ate these I went right home and tried to make them with some fine cornmeal I had in the kitchen; the result was a pasty inedible mess. It wasn't till years later that I found arepa flour, which is a precooked corn meal, and discovered the simplicity of making them at home. I think Goya makes a brand that is widely available, but I have not used it. The Doñarepa brand is delicious, as I'm sure many of them are. From what I can tell each country or region seems to have one favorite brand, some yellow, some white, so you'll have to try them out to see what you like.  I must say, generally I try to buy organic corn products because they are one of the most highly genetically engineered crops, but this is one of the few exceptions I make because those darn arepas are so addictive, and the memories of the sweet hot corn pancakes in NYC just never seem to be satiated no matter how many of these I make at home....

Sweet Corn Arepas
Follow the instructions on the package if different from these.
The fresh corn and cheese are optional as well, you can make arepas with just the arepa corn flour and water. 


1 cup yellow arepa flour
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
1/2 salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/2 cup fresh or thawed corn kernels
1/4 cup finely chopped mozzarella or fresh cheese
oil for cooking



 
  1. Mix warm water and arepa flour, sugar, salt and butter until it forms a moist but not sticky dough. let sit for 10 minutes. If it gets dry add a bit more water. Mix in the corn kernels and cheese. 
  2. Form the dough into balls and then flatten into pancakes between your hands. You can also roll the dough into a log and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour to 2 days until you are ready to cook them, then slice the dough into rounds. Cook arepas in a hot pan with a small amount of oil until browned on both sides.
Arepas are delicious with eggs, beans, meat, vegetables, for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  For this meal I served them with black beans with small pieces of pan fried maduros(sweet plantain), sautéed Kale and peppers with caramelized onions and a bit of pan fried queso fresco, a mexican fresh cheese. 

My 3 year old was well occupied during all this cooking with a hand full of arepa dough. She rolled and patted her way right through until dinner was ready. It always amazes me how easy it is to engage kids in the cooking process when I have the energy to do it....








There is a very well known arepa restaurant in NYC which makes the white corn variety common in Venezuela. These are a bit puffier and are sliced open and stuffed with delicious fillings.
Check out the Caracas Arepa Bar for more info.

In New Haven, CT a popular spot for yellow corn arepas is Manjares cafe.


 


Do you LOVE arepas too?
How do you make them?
Please share by commenting below!






12 comments:

  1. I add sweet red pepper and red onion into these and before flipping them sprinkle a little soy sauce on top. The soy dries and gets crispy salty while the onions and red pepper get crispy caramelized sweet.

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  2. Other than nationality, what's the difference between arepa and polenta?

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  3. Arepas are cooked like a pancake, not a thick porridge or block like polenta. I also think that polenta is usually made with corn meal and cooked in a pot, where as arepa flour is precooked and dried so you just add water and then form pancakes, no need to simmer to thicken or remove the pasty taste that comes with regular cornmeal before it is cooked.

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  4. hmm, thanks! I'll have to search my local Stop & Shop for arepa flour....

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  5. After reading your blog and thinking about these for a month, I finally had lunch today at Arepa Cafe in Toronto. These were the Venezuelan variety, filled with delicious stuff. Mine had shredded marinated flank steak, black beans and plantain (I asked to hold the cheese that normally comes on this one). A very garlicky aioli and a salsa verde in squeeze bottles were great additions, but the super hot hot sauce was too much for me. OMG, I completely agree that these are addictive. Delicious, gluten-free, and such a great texture! I bought a package of PAN brand white corn arepa flour at the cafe and will definitely make these at home (I like the idea of adding fresh corn). I also bought a jar of the cafe's papaya salad dressing, which was perfection on a watercress and avocado salad. Check out the cafe's blog for links to documentary images of Caracas in its heyday.
    arepacafe.blogspot.com/
    Thanks for hooking me on arepas, Tag!

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