“Arepa, arepa, arepa” the street vendor sings on the street. Welcome to Colombia, the home of the arepa.
The arepa is a flat, round, unleavened patty of corn meal. It can be as big as a silver dollar or as large as a hamburger bun. Arepas are made from corn kernels soaked in water, boiled, then ground into a corn ‘masa’ and formed into patties. Griddle cooked, fried, baked or grilled over hot embers, there are more than 75 ways to make them.
Served with every meal, the arepa is the iconic food in Colombia. It is part of their cultural heritage and considered a symbol of gastronomic unity.
In Colombia and Venezuela, arepas are eaten daily. They can be topped or filled with meat, cheese, fish, tomatoes, avocado, egg or chocolate. Arepas are a street food, a Colombian fast food. They are literally everywhere.
The arepa is a pre-Colombian dish and has gone, unchanged, as a daily staple for centuries. Arepa making instruments have been found in archeological sites throughout the country. The Spanish, unimpressed with arepas, were the first to bring wheat to Colombia and taught the people how to make bread. And while Colombians love their breads today, arepas have remained the number one starch accompanying every meal.
Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of plain arepas. But I do like them filled. Every meal in Colombia comes with arepas – plain and simple. Please don’t tell your host or server you don’t want or like arepas. They have no sympathy and will stop in their tracks and ask you why. If no one told you that you’d be eating a whole lot of arepas in Colombia – I’m telling you now. And don’t ask them to substitute bread for arepas because you will probably get a slice of white sandwich bread – which is worse. So there, just surrender. Eat the arepa or at least take a bite. Or take it with you and go feed the pigeons. But I didn’t tell you that.
Packed Arepas – Some Serious Eats
If you are currently in Colombia and are still trying figure out arepas, I suggest your hit the street and look for arepas with any of the following fillings: golden yellow deep fried egg filled arepas; arepas filled with warm, stringy cheese; arepas de choclo – a pancake made with sweet corn cooked on a hot griddle. Arepas as a sandwich bun with any kind of filling makes for some serious eats. And if those don’t win you over then visit the bakery daily and come to the table ready to break bread with your own piece of bread.
(see article: ‘Healthy, fresh, Colombian fruit juices’)
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