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Arepa (Spanish pronunciation: [aˈɾepa]) is a flatbread made of ground maize dough or cooked flour prominent in the cuisine of Colombia and Venezuela. It is eaten daily in those countries and can be served with various accompaniments such as cheese (cuajada), avocado, jelly or jam, or (especially in Venezuela) split and used to make sandwiches. Various sizes, maize types, and added ingredients are used to vary its preparation. It is similar in shape to the Mexican gordita and the Salvadoran pupusa. Arepas can also be found in Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and the Canary Islands.
The arepa is a flat, round, unleavened patty made of soaked, ground kernels of maize, or—more frequently nowadays—maizemeal or maize flour which can be grilled, baked, fried, boiled or steamed, etc. The characteristics vary by color, flavor, size, and the food with which it may be stuffed, depending on the region. Arepa is a native sort of bread made of ground maize (or flour), water, and salt which is fried or grilled into a thick bread. It can be topped or filled with meat, eggs, tomatoes, salad, cheese, shrimp, or fish depending on the meal. Breakfast egg or cheese are the most common arepa fillings. There are several recipes for fillings.
The dough can be prepared two ways. The traditional, labor-intensive method requires the maize grains to be soaked, then peeled and ground in a large mortar known as a pilón. The pounding removes the pericarp and the seed germ, as only the endosperm of the maize seed is used to make the dough. The resulting mixture, known as mortared maize, or maíz pilado, was normally sold as dry grain to be boiled and ground into dough.
The most popular method today is to buy cooked arepa maizemeal or flour. The flour is mixed with water and salt, and occasionally oil, butter, eggs, and/or milk. Because the flour is already cooked, the blend forms into patties easily. After being kneaded and formed, the patties are fried, grilled, or baked. This production of maize is unusual for not using the nixtamalization, or alkali cooking process, to remove the pericarp of the maize kernels. Arepa flour is lower in nutritive value than nixtamal, with its niacin value reduced by half.
Arepa flour is specially prepared (cooked in water, then dried) for making arepas and other maize dough-based dishes, such as hallacas, bollos, tamales, empanadas and chicha. The most popular brand names of maize flour are Harina PAN in Venezuela and Areparina in Colombia. Arepa flour is usually made from white maize, but yellow maize varieties are available. Arepa flour was first developed and produced by Empresas Polar of Venezuela, owner of the PAN brand and the primary distributor in the country.
Electric arepa makers
In Venezuela, various kitchen appliance companies sell appliances such as the Tostyarepa and Miallegro's MiArepa, similar to a waffle iron, which cook arepas using two hot metallic surfaces clamped with the raw dough inside. In Venezuela, the arepa is traditionally grilled on a budare, which is a flat, originally nonmetallic surface which may or may not have a handle. Nowadays, it is common to follow the grilling process that forms a crust, known as a concha, with 20 to 25 minutes of cooking at high heat in an oven. Electric arepa makers reduce cooking time from 15 to 25 minutes per side to seven minutes or less.
The predecessor of the arepa was a staple of the Timoto-cuicas, an Amerindian group that lived in the northern Andes of Venezuela. Other Amerindian tribes in the region, such as the Arawaks and the Caribs, widely consumed a form known as casabe made from cassava (yuca). With the colonization by the Spanish, the food that would become the arepa was diffused into the rest of the region, known then as Viceroyalty of New Granada and later became La Gran Colombia (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama) at the time of Independence.
The term arepa comes from the word "erepa" which means corn bread in the language of the Indigenous people of Venezuela and Colombia.
Venezuelans view the arepa as a traditional national food with diverse local recipes.
In eastern Venezuela, the most common variety is usually about three to eight inches (7.5 to 20 cm) in diameter and about 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick. Larger arepas can be found, made with either white or yellow maize. In the western Andes they are flatter, are typically quarter of an inch (0.6 cm) or less in thickness and three to four inches in diameter, and are made of wheat flour. An arepa can be eaten with a filling or with a topping. A filled arepa is called an arepa rellena or a Venezuelan tostada, although the latter term is not commonly used today. Also, there are plenty of sauces to season them while eating them, such as guasacaca and picante (hot sauce).
Venezuelans prepare arepas depending on personal taste or preference and the region in which they are made. Venezuelan varieties include:
- Traditional corn (maize)
- Maize flour (arepa blanca or viuda)
- Wheat flour (preñaditas in Venezuelan slang)
- Sweet (arepa dulce)
- Cheese (arepa de queso)
- Coconut(arepa de coco)
- Andean (arepa andina)
- Manioc (arepa de yuca)
- Reina pepiada - filled with avocado, chicken, and mayonnaise
- Baked (arepas horneadas)
- Fried (arepa frita)
- Arepa pelúa - with yellow cheese and pulled beef
- Arepa con queso guayanés - with soft Guayanés cheese, similar to mozzarella
- Arepa con queso de mano - with firm white cheese from eastern Venezuela
- Arepa catira - with yellow cheese and shredded chicken
- Arepa de chicharrón - with crisped pork skin
- Arepa de dominó - white cheese and black beans
- Arepa de Perico - made with perico, a Caribbean type of scrambled eggs
- Arepa viuda ("widow" arepa) - an empty arepa usually eaten with soup
- Arepa rumbera("party" arepa)- with pork meat
- Arepa llanera - with cuts of beef (parrilla or barbecue), tomato slices, avocado slices and fresh white cheese
- Arepa con cazón - with school shark
- Arepa Cabimera - from the city of Cabimas in Zulia state. They are fried arepas cut into squares covered with cheese, jam, grained carrots, chicken, and boiled eggs.
In Colombia, the arepa has deep roots in the colonial farms and the cuisine of the indigenous people. While its preparation was once a tedious process of processing and cooking raw maize, today, they are usually bought already prepared or made from "instant" flours. It is important to state, however that, unfortunately, these "instant" flours are now made using corn that has been genetically modified (GMO-corn), as clearly stated in the package.
- Egg (arepa de huevo or, colloquially, arepa 'e huevo) - this variety originated from the Caribbean coast, but is popular in most major cities. This arepa is deep fried with a single raw egg inside that is cooked by the frying process. Egg arepas are made with yellow maize dough and fried in the same manner as Colombian empanadas, and are often sold alongside other traditional Colombian foodstuffs at food stands. One variety of egg arepa has shredded beef added as well.
- Cheese (arepa de queso, arepa de quesillo) - is either made with cheese mixed into the ingredients or filled with grated cheese before it is cooked (grilled or fried, in this case).
- Arepa Boyacense - these come from the department of Boyacá. They are very hard and dense, and are typically about three to four inches across and filled with a sweet cheese.
- Arepa Valluna - is the variety unique to Cali and the rest of the Cauca valley. It is made only with maizemeal, water and salt, and it is buttered before eating, much like toast.
- Arepa rellena
- Arepa cariseca
- Arepa de laja
- Arepa de maiz pelado
- Arepa de peto
- Arepa de choclo (or chocolo) - is made with sweet maize and farmer's white cheese.
- Arepa antioqueña - a small, spherical arepa, without salt, served to accompany soups, especially mondongo is common in the department of Antioquia.
- Arepa paisa - a very large, flat arepa made of white maize without salt, but accompanied by meat or butter on top is common in the coffee-producing region, often served with hogao.
- Arepa de arroz - is made with cooked, mashed rice instead of maize dough.
- Arepa santandereana - originates from the area around Bucaramanga. It is also called arepa de maiz pelado. It is made with yellow maize and has a distinct flavor due to the pork fat added during the preparation. It is usually dry, but soft.
- Baked - is variously called arepa de maiz or arepa de queso at bakeries. Bakeries in Bogotá rarely sell the typical fried or grilled arepas, but instead sell a large, baked version, made with yellow maize flour and often with a single cube of cheese on top. It has a similar taste and texture to a North American corn muffin.
Companies, such as Don Maíz, have started to market new, less traditional varieties in Colombian grocery stores that are growing in popularity. These include cassava-flavored arepas (based on the more traditional pan de yuca) and whole-grain arepas made of brown rice, wheat germ and sesame seeds.
In Colombia, the arepuela is similar to the traditional arepa. It is made with wheat flour and sometimes anise, and when fried, the layers expand and the arepuela inflates, similar to miniature tortillas or pancakes. This is very common in the interior of Colombia. In the north, bollos are popular for breakfast and made with the same dough as an arepa, but boiled rather than fried, giving them a texture similar to matzo balls or Czech bread dumplings.
In Costa Rica, Arepas can be made from batter, and may be similar to pancakes. There are at least two sorts, the "pancake" arepa, which is made with baking powder, and the "big flat" arepa, which is made without baking powder. These big flat arepas are, in size, not unlike the big tortillas one finds in Guanacaste (northern Costa Rica), (i.e. some twelve inches in diameter) and are made of white flour and are sugary. Once perfectly cooked, they should resemble a "giraffe skin", or a "jaguar skin" (i.e., white/yellowish with brown spots).
In Puerto Rico, arepas are made with maize meal, coconut milk, lard, butter, flour, and baking powder. Preparation and cooking varies according to city and family tradition.
In El Salvador, Pupusas are similar flat cakes, but the most important difference is the traditional dough is made from nixtamal. It is also filled before it is cooked, usually some pork, white cheese or black beans. Other stypes of pupusas are now made from rice dough, particularly in the town called Olocuilta in the department of La Paz. There are also some newer versions of the dish based on plantain dough.
- Food and Agricultural Organization, United Nations. Maize in Human Nutrition
- Dr. Nelson Solorzano, specialist in food and nutrition and in Caribbean Region Culture. Socio-economic Development Planner specialized in Latin American Socio-economic Development History, Agriculture and Culture. (CENDES-UCV), USA, May,2007
- De los timoto-cuicas a la invisibilidad del indígena andino y a su diversidad cultural
- Pequeña Historia de la Arepa|Author: Mariano Picón Salas| Suma de Venezuela. Caracas,1966
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