Arepas are fried or baked yellow or white corn pancakes, either plain or with a filling. Most Venezuelans and Colombians eat them as part of their daily diet in place of bread, mostly at breakfast, at least in Colombia. 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.
Arepas have been an important staple in the diets of the poor Venezuelan's diet for centuries; today they are eaten by rich and poor alike. Originally they were made from dried corn kernels which were soaked in water and lime to remove the skins, then cooked, drained, dried and ground into flour. Thanks to modern technology, it is now possible to buy the "harina de maíz precocida" (corn flour) ready to use, cutting out the lengthy soaking and drying process, which means they can be prepared in just a few minutes.
Arepas can be eaten for breakfast; at any time of the day as a snack; as an appetiser or starter, especially when accompanied with a sauce; or as an accompaniment to a main course, much like bread rolls. They can be eaten plain; cooked with a filling of meat, poultry or cheese; simply split open and buttered; or filled like a sandwich. They can be poached, grilled, baked, griddled or (most often) fried, making them not only of the most traditional but also one of the most versatile foods in Venezuela.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and white cheese. Stir in enough water to make a firm, slightly moist dough. Cover the dough and let it rest for 5 minutes. Divide the dough into 10 pieces and form each piece into a ball. Flatten the ball slightly.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 °C).
- Oil a griddle very lightly and warm it over medium heat. Cook the arepas on the griddle for about 5 minutes on each side, until a golden brown crust forms. Transfer the arepas to a baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes, turning them several times as they bake.
Serve immediately, with cheese, ham and black beans.