A simple and easy favorite food of mine is arepas (pronounced a-ray-pas). They’re a Venezuelan staple, and we usually have them as a breakfast food. It’s basically Arena Pan, water and salt. Once you have made your masa by combining your ingredients you shape them. Traditionally you make a sort of flattened ball. This is done by taking a ball of dough and cupping your hands, you pat and pass the dough from hand to hand till you’ve made the proper shape. This can take practice. Then you pop them on the cast iron grill/skillet (anything that can retain heat and brown food) and brown the bottom and flip them over and brown the top, then move it over to the oven to finish cooking. When we take them out the oven we butter them and eat them. You can also add in some cheese, whatever cheese you like. Sometimes I like to add the cheese in before so it gets melted in side the masa, it is really yummy that way. But you can eat them with anything you desire, it’s sort of like corn bread, but not really.
There are different variations of this dish. One totally less healthy version is to fry them. Now they taste super good fried, but I feel so naughty eating them but does that stop me? No, no it does not. However I don’t do it so often. If we fry them we make them small and sometimes make them sort of doughnut shaped. A regular sized arepa is about 1.5″ to 2″ in diameter and maybe about .5 to .75 thick. Now the tiny ones, which we call arepitas (add an ita to anything and it becomes the smaller version), are my favorites. As a kid I was a picky eater and to get me to eat my Mom would make tiny muñeca (Spanish for doll) arepitas for me. She still does, not that I am so picky now. Another version is to use the masa and fill it with seasoned ground beef and fry them, if it sounds like it’s a fried meat pie that’s because it is. It’s a sort of hybrid areapa empenada, but in truth in I just refer to it as an empenada. Don’t know what an empenada is? OK, that’s the next food lesson.
Want to see it in action? I found some ladies kicking it old school. You don’t have to mix by hand, a spoon is alright. I think how it’s made varies from house to house, because we make it a bit thicker and the tops and bottoms need to get a little more brown.
OK, so they even have a machine that does it…
So does this look interesting to you? If you try it, the first few times you do it may look a little wonky. Just keep at it. You don’t want the top to crack, but it will still taste good even if it looks a little off. Even better, I hope I get a chance to make it for my friends one day. 😀 Let me know if you’re up for it.