This post has been waiting to be published for months and I am tired of that forlorn little bag of masarepa flour staring at me from the pantry disapprovingly. Today I saw a post on The Domestic Man about arepas and a rerun of Unique Eats about an arepa joint in New York City and finally said “ENOUGH”. The world needs to know (ok ok, the 10-20 members of my family who read this blog have to know…Hi Mom!)
Have you ever tried an arepa? I tasted my first one at La Fogata Latina last summer and have been hooked ever since. They’re a Venezuelan staple: a sweet corn pocket that can be filled with an egg mixture for breakfast, a meat and veggie filling for lunch or dinner, and you could even go so far as to stuff some chocolate and fruit in there for dessert. They’re less involved than tamales but they’re also a similarly hearty alternative to tacos.
Here’s what you need to make your own:
- 1 cup masarepa corn flour*
- 1 cup hot water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
*I found masarepa corn flour at a Mexican ingredients store on Douglas Street near Paul’s Motor Inn.
Mix with a fork, then let the mixture sit and absorb the water for about five minutes. Form the dough into four even balls and then flatten slightly. I let my second batch chill in the fridge for 10 minutes before handling it, which helped it hold together better than the first.
Sear over medium-high heat with a small amount of vegetable or canola oil. This is important, so that they can stand up to being sliced open later.
Transfer the arepas to a baking sheet and bake in a 350F degree oven for 20 minutes. They should puff up while in the oven, but they should feel firm to the touch.
While they’re still hot, slice them open halfway. I didn’t need to scoop out any dough to make room for the filling, but some recipes call for doing this. It will depend on the thickness and the amount of filling you want to jam into each one.
- 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- Red pepper, sliced
- Red onion, sliced
- Mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 1 chicken breast, poached in water with one quartered lime, oregano, and salt and pepper
Toss everything into a sauté pan with a splash of oil and cook as you would a fajita filling – just to tender crisp – and then jam it into your sliced arepas. Now, garnish to your heart’s desire! We chose birds eye chillies, sliced green onion, cilantro, lime juice and monterey jack cheese. We also could not eat arepas without homemade pink sauce.
Allow the arepa to replace stir fry as your go-to crisper cleaner. Whatever is looking fresh or frowny and needs eating will work. With all the mango, naval oranges and pineapple on sale right now, I’m thinking my next batch will be a fruit salsa and chorizo with mashed avocado instead of cheese. A whole new carb vessel for your home-cook imagination to take flight!
If you’re intrigued by arepas and want to learn more, this blog has a great number of posts all about them! It was my source for this homemade test. Or, head to La Fogata Latina, because they are one of the best cheap (and authentic) eats in Victoria.