Arepas (corncakes) are fried or baked corn pancakes, either plain or with a filling and most Venezuelans eat them as part of their daily diet in place of bread. They are one of the national dishes of Venezuela and there are many food stands or small restaurants called Areperas, which specialise in the making of these small delights.
- Pre-cooked cornmeal (see notes) -- 2 cups
- Salt -- 1/2 teaspoon
- Boiling water -- 3 cups
- Oil -- 3 tablespoons
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal and salt. Pour in 2 1/2 cups of the boiling water and mix with a wooden spoon to form a mass. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Using wetted hands, form balls of dough out of about 1/4 cup of dough and press to form a cake about 3 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick. If the dough cracks at the edges, mix in a little more water and then form the cakes.
- Heat the oil in a sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the patties, a few at a time, to form a light brown crust on one side, 5-6 minutes. Flip and brown on the other side.
- When all the patties have been browned, transfer them to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they sound lightly hollow when tapped. Serve immediately.
- To make filled arepas, split them in half when finished and scoop out a little of the soft dough filling. Stuff with your chosen filling.
- Arepa de Pabellón: shredded, seasoned meat and black beans.
- Reina Pepeada: chopped chicken, avocado, and mayonnaise mashed together.
- Arepa de Dominó: black beans and crumbled white cheese.
- Arepa de Perico: scrambled eggs with tomatoes, peppers and onions.
- Columbian Arepas: make smaller and thicker and don't bake. Top with butter and melted cheese.
- Other possible fillings: grated white or cheddar cheese; guasacaca, ham and cheese, hard-boiled quails eggs.
- The sautéing step is sometimes skipped and the arepas are simply baked. In the countryside arepas are often cooked on the grill.
- Small arepas can be made and served as appetizers with garnishes on top instead of inside. Or they can be eaten as small biscuits.
- Sometimes a little sugar is mixed in with the dough to form sweet arepas (arepas dulces).