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Hispanic Heritage Month is here and what better way to celebrate than sharing a recipe for this Venezuelan daily meal. Arepas are more than a mere meal at any
Venezuelan table; they are a part of who we are and our culture. How we like our Arepas might define where we are from. Arepas are consumed by Venezuelans at
least once a day. The intricate relationship of the Arepa and the Venezuelan culture is so complex that there are books dedicated entirely to this subject. Many
Venezuelan cuisine historians refer to Arepas as a National Heritage. Anthropologists and writers have spent years on this matter, poets have written about it,
singers have added layers of flavors to their lyrics thanks to the existence of Arepas!
The point is that there is a lot to talk about when it comes to arepas, which have been gaining popularity around the world in recent years. I'd like to assume it is due
to the number of Venezuelans emigrating the country because of the current political and economic climate. There is a famous saying "con su arepa debajo del
brazo" — it translates to "with your arepa under your arm." The saying means that no matter where you go, you always take an arepa with you "just in case" and I
think that is precisely what Venezuelan immigrants have been doing, populating the world with the unique flavors of our beloved arepa.
Arepas are very versatile because they are the base to any flavors you want to add. The most common fillings for Arepas are butter and cheese, beans, shredded
beef, chicken, or pork.
Let's teach you how to make some arepas. You will need precooked corn flour, preferably Harina P.A.N, or Masarepa. DO NOT use Maseca because the corn and
process used for the two flours are different. The arepas will turn out very dry and the dough will crack (trust me).
Water - the ratio I use is 1 to 1 1/4 flour to water
2 Cups Precooked Corn Flour
2 1/2 Cups water
A splash of cooking oil
Salt to taste
In a medium bowl, add water, a splash of oil, and season with salt. Add corn
flour gradually while stirring with your fingers. Yes, the best method here is
using your hands. You'll notice the corn flour absorbs the water quickly, work
with your hand to form a dough that is soft and pliable, make sure there are no
lumps. Grab enough dough to make a ball of the size of a golf ball, start
flattening the ball using the palm of your hands. Place the disk on one hand
and use your other palm to shape the edges in a circular motion. Wet your
hands while shaping to get rid of any cracks on the disk. Place on a flat
surface covered with plastic wrap.
To cook using a flat iron, put it on a high heat stove top. When it is hot, add a
splash of cooking oil, using a paper towel to disperse the oil to cover the
entire surface. It should smoke, that's ok. Place the arepas carefully in the hot
iron, leaving space between the disks. Turn the heat down to medium and
cook until the arepas come off easily, flip to the other side using a spatula.
Cook until both sides are crunchy and have dark spots. A good way to know if
arepas are cooked inside is by sound. Yeap! Slap the top a couple of times
with your fingers, if it sounds hollow they are ready; if there is no hollow sound
they may need a bit more cooking.
To serve arepas, slice open trying to make a pocket, not slicing all the way
through. Add butter and your favorite filling. Enjoy!