Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Earlier this month, I paired an Indian flatbread (dosas) with a complimentary condiment - in that case chutney.  Tonight, I decided to try a similar pairing from a different part of the world - South America.  Arepas are a thick corn pancake often eaten in Venezuela and Chile, where they are served with numerous toppings or fillings (two arepas take the place of sandwich bread).  Tomorrow night, I intend to make a salsa to pair with this recipe, but for the bread itself, read on.

  • 2 and 1/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups masa harina*
  • Cooking spray
1. Combine the water, salt, and olive oil in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Place the masa harina in a large bowl, and pour in the boiling water mixture; stir with a wooden spoon to combine.  Cover and let stand for 15 minutes.

2. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions (use caution, because the dough will still be a bit hot at this point).  With moist hands, and working with 1 portion at a time, roll the dough into a ball, then shape into a 1/2-inch thick patty.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Coat 1 side of each patty with cooking spray.

3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  Add 4 patties, cooking spray sides down.  Flatten with a spatula to about 1/4-inch thick.  Cook for 5 minutes on each side - the arepas will be crispy and speckled brown by the end.  Repeat in 2 more batches, with the remaining patties.

Tonight, I served the arepas with a pinto bean filling, but feel free to get creative. Other great options include guacamole, shredded vegan cheese, strips of vegan chicken or vegan ground beef crumbles, or sun-dried tomatoes and grilled eggplant.

*I should note that these corn cakes are not true arepas, in the sense that I used masa harina (corn flour) rather than arepa flour.  As I understand it, the difference between the two is that the former is treated with lime and the latter is not.  Although on the one hand this means that my arepas have a more tortilla-ish taste than they should, it also means they have a higher nutrient value, since the lime increases the amounts of niacin and calcium absorbed by the body.

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1 corn cake), Calories 90

Tasting Notes:
Think of a cross between a thin cornbread and a thick corn tortilla, and you pretty much have this recipe.  Nice and crisp on the outside, with a soft, chewy interior.  A tiny bit bland on its own, but then, that's not how the arepas are meant to be eaten.  As the "bread" for whatever sandwich filling you can think of, these were quite good.  A great, simple recipe to have in your tool kit.

Update: I served the arepas with my Tomatillo Salsa the following night, and loved the combination - both recipes tasted better than when solo.  Add a cold pilsner-style beer (such as Presidente, Landshark, or Pacifico, all vegan), and you have the perfect tasty snack.


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