Arepa – I must confess I had not heard of this dish till recently, till a friend of mine shared the recipe complete with picture. I was exploring various types of pancakes at the time and certainly this one caught my attention. Call it a mere co-incidence or the advantage of exposure, since the first time learnt about Arepa I have been hearing about them repeatedly! First it was at a local Palo Alto restaurant that had an array of Arepas on it’s menu (albeit Venezuelan) where I got to try some and then as I sat down to write this post, I see Anthony Bourdain in his new show “Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown” Columbia episode, packing a bunch of them!
Now, let’s get to the business of making some cheesy Arepas. This is a very easy recipe that takes less than half an hour to make.
Finely ground yellow corn flour – 1 cup ( I bought it from Indian store!)
Sweet Corn – 1 cup
Milk – 1 cup
Butter – 4 table spoon
Sugar – 3 table spoon
Mozzarella cheese – 4 slices (hard variety)
Salt to taste
Grind the sweet corn in a blender and make it into a paste. Boil the milk and add butter in it. In a large bowl, mix the corn flour and sweet corn, salt and sugar and make it into a well. At the center of the well pour in the hot milk and butter mixture and mix slowly.
Now, place a griddle on medium-high heat, spray some butter and pour the batter and spread it into small rounds. The Arepa batter is super soft and requires delicate handling to turn. Make sure you keep the heat at a level that is manageable for you. Cook Arepa on both sides till they get brown patches.
Now, you have a batch of Arepas ready, keep them aside, it’s time to cheese the Arepas up! Mozzarella cheese that is used for this is not the soft fresh variety instead the harder ones. Take two Arepas at a time, place one Arepa on the griddle, place a slice of Mozzarella and place second Arepa on top of it, let them cook till the cheese melts. The cheesy Arepas are ready!
The Columbian Arepas are supposed to be famous breakfast items but also, very popular street food. They have that signature corn flavor with sweet taste and very soft texture, the cheese adds that added creaminess. It was interesting to learn from my friends from Miami the status these Arepas have earned there. Apparently, these cheesy, sweet street food from South America are so popular that they have earned a permanent place on even Costco food court menu!
The Venezuelan Arepa I tried in the local bay area restaurant were very different from these Arepas. They had much harder white shell almost like a flat bread and inside it came with several different fillings – black beans & cottage cheese, sun dried tomatoes and what not. This variety of Arepas are definitely on my list of thing to try!