K…so obviously Spanish is not my first language. 🙂 Maybe that should read “arepas con plátanos y caraotas o reina pepiadas y guasacaca”. Or maybe I should have mentioned “pabellón” or “pabellón criollo” somewhere in there… Whatever. What I meant to say was “arepas with plantains and beans or chicken and guasacaca.” That’s what I made, and that’s what I hope to share with you today.
There’s a restaurant that a friend and I typically visit when we want to catch up. It is pretty much our hotspot. That restaurant is Arepera.
Arepera is a Venezuelan restaurant in the Plateau area of Montreal. It’s one of the few places I know where I can go get a soursop (guanabana) drink or authentic mango juice. It has many vegan, vegetarian options and gluten-free options. It was also the place where I was introduced to the magic and wonder of the arepa.
Arepas are little corn cakes/bakes, almost like Colombia’s/Venezuela’s version of the Jamaican fried dumpling. It’s eaten in much the same way — as a snack as a side dish or as part of a meal. It can also be stuffed with any number of yummy foods — from avocados to cheese to salmon to beans…you name it, you can put it into an arepa. For some ideas, see here, here, and here.
This is what I ordered last time I went to Arepera:
Then it hit me — I could easily make this at home! So I tried, and this was the result:
But still, I hadn’t mastered how to make the famed arepa. So I
called up (who does that these days?) What’s Apped my friend who comes from Colombia and begged her to teach me her ways…she agreed and she taught me how to make arepas. I think I can now say that I’m an expert. 🙂
I like to fill my arepas with fried ripe plantains, cooked black beans, slices of avocado, shredded poached chicken, guasacaca or any combination thereof. This is how you make ’em:
2 cups pre-cooked P.A.N. white corn arepa flour (masarepa, masa de arepa, masa al instante, or harina precocida) as pictured above (you must get this particular type of flour, which can be found at ethnic food stores. I bought mine at Adonis in Montreal. Regular cornmeal or cornflour or masa harina just won’t do).
1 – 1 1/2 cups warm water (you can add more if you find that your dough is too dry)
1/2 cup butter or margarine or coconut oil (you can use Earth Balance, but remember that EB is naturally salty)
1 tsp of salt (or more to taste)
Cheese (vegan, like Daiya cheddar, if necessary) (optional)
There are instructions on the back of the package, but here’s what I did:
- Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and knead until you get a smooth, moist dough with an even consistency.
- Roll your dough into small balls.
- Flatten the dough balls into little rounds of 1 cm to 2 cm thickness (the thickness is up to you; I like my arepas on the thicker side so it’s easier to cut into them and fill them later). You can flatten the dough between two plastic bags or use parchment paper so that they don’t stick. I find that pressing a cutting board on top of them to flatten it is easier than using a rolling pin. The arepa should be about the size of your palm. It will probably have cracks around the edges. You can either do one of two things: 1) use a small bowl to cut out perfectly round circles with smooth edges (that’s why I did as depicted in the photos just above) or 2) wet your hands and gently go around the arepa, smoothing and sealing any cracks.
- Place your arepas in your non-stick pan or a lightly-greased pan on medium heat. Cook for 2 mins each side (approx). Your arepas are done when they are slightly browned on each side.
- Serve hot. Carefully (’cause they’re HOT) cut an opening into each arepa and stuff them with whatever you want. Eat and enjoy.
Arepas taste best the day of. I haven’t tried freezing them but that’s an option too.
I also like to eat my arepas with an avocado sauce called guasacaca. As mentioned before, guasacaca tastes especially yummy with shredded chicken. Here’s my recipe. It’s what has worked for me. I don’t guarantee that it’s an authentic recipe:
1 – 2 ripe avocados
Juice from 1 lime
1/2 red onion (or 3 stalks green onion)
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1 – 2 tsp garlic powder (or 1 to 2 cloves garlic)
1/3 cup olive oil
Many recipes call for parsley, vinegar, green peppers, chile/jalepeno peppers…I find it to be extraneous so I left these things out. You can add them if you wish.
- Put the avocados in a food processor and process a little until chunky. Then add all of the other ingredients until smooth.
- Stuff your guasacaca into an arepa and eat. Leftover guasacaca can be stored in the fridge.