I still can't believe I've only just recently discovered arepas. I live in San Francisco, blocks away from one of the largest Latin-American neighborhoods in the country, yet somehow I'd never tasted an arepa?
All those wasted years I could have been eating this amazingly simple, yet brilliant concoction. Thank goodness one of the stops on a recent field trip to NYC was a hole-in-the-wall called Caracas Arepas Bar. It was at this east village eatery where I fell in love with a stuffed white corn cake.
Halfway through my first arepa, one stuffed with black beans, beef, plantains and salty cheese, I vowed to learn how to make these at home. Upon my return to San Francisco, I headed straight to the Mission, where the first Latin grocery store I checked had what I needed, harina P.A.N., a kind of boiled white corn meal vital to this recipe.
As you'll see in the video, if you can find this product, the rest is extremely simple. You make a dough with some salt and warm water, and then you fry patties until golden brown. The resulting corn cake, once split open and stuffed, is a tour de force of textual pleasure.
Sure the ingredients in a BLT all taste great, but it’s the perfect blend of textures that makes it a charter member of the sandwich hall of fame. Same goes for arepas. The golden brown outside gets crispy and crunchy, yet the inside stays soft, moist, and somewhat chewy.
It's a truly magnificent delivery system for any number of your favorite fillings. I went with some spicy pork and avocado, but you can also see a version I made a few days later, stuffed with caramelized plantains and salty goat feta. To die for.
Anyway, I hope you watch the video and decide that arepas need to be part of your life also. Here are some links to help you with what I promise will be a delicious journey. I hear you can get the P.A.N. corn meal at any Latin-American foods market, but it's also easy to find and order online. Here is an Ebay page with all sorts of options.
For ideas on what to stuff into these beauties, here's a link to the official Caracas Arepas Bar website. If you check out their downloadable menu, you can see what they use in theirs and go from there. I really hope you give these a try. Enjoy!
Note: at the time of this posting, I still hadn’t learned what P.A.N. stands for. If you know, please share. Thanks! Update: P.A.N. stands for National Alimentary Product.
Ingredients: (Note: I only made half a batch. These ingredients are for a full batch, which will give you about 8 arepas.)
2 1/2 cups tepid water
1 teaspoon salt
about 2 cups of P.A.N. white corn meal
(By the way, don't ask me if you can use other corn meals or flours, because I don't know!)
For even more information on making arepas, check out this great post from my friend Shauna's blog, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.