Its crazy how we don't realize how much we will miss something, until we can't have it. This is what happened to me the first time I moved out of parent's house. I was 16 years old, and decided to do an exchange year with a French family in the south of France. I was young, yes, but I was so ready to feel some sort of independence. I still remember the morning after I arrived, I had to wake up in this unfamiliar house, and try to find my place in their routine and lifestyle. The goal was for me to master the French language, and with the little I understood and spoke, it felt extremely intimidating. Breakfast was the only meal of the day we would enjoy on our own, so we could decide at what time, or what to eat. That first day, the only thing I wanted was my Arepa with butter, salt, cheese, and a fried egg on top, my staple breakfast back home. Now that I could have it as easily, I realized how much it comforted me.
I believe that year was the longest I have spent without eating arepas, and I have committed to never let that happen again. Instead I learned how to make them on my own, and now anybody that gets to see me in action in the kitchen, has gotten to try them.
The fun thing about arepas is that there is not just one variety, they can be prepared and enjoyed in many different ways.
These are my favorite Colombian arepas:
The Arepa de Huevo
This style of arepa is a ver common treat from the Caribbean region of Colombia. It is made with yellow corn dough and consists on deep-frying it until it floats (which means it puffed), then removed from oil to make an incision throughout, adding a whole egg, and refrying until the egg cooks. As you can see, I like the yolk still runny, but when purchasing in the streets of Colombia, the egg will be fully cooked, and even with shredded meat inside. People have them for breakfast, snack, lunch, or even dinner.
The Arepa Boyascense
Sweet and savory staple in the Andean region of Boyacá. The fresh cheese called cuajada is salty and goes perfectly in between the fluffy and sweet yellow corn flour. The arepas are first cooked on plantain leaves and over hot stone plates. However, what gives them that slightly smokey flavor is the finished touch of the firewood stoves. Which also makes them crispy in the outside and moist in the inside.
They are commonly found when in rout to the outskirts of Bogotá, towards Macheta and Boyacá. They are a common street-food and they vary according to each vendors. Some will have the arepa stuffed with more cheese than dough, making them extremely gooey in the inside (these are my favorite, but are quite filling). Others are thinner and with more dough than cheese. Nevertheless, all are amazing when enjoyed freshly out of the woodfire oven with some freshly squeezed tangerine juice or tinto (what we call our tall black coffee.)
The Arepa de Choclo
This arepa is definitely a must try, as it is slightly sweet and usually found stuffed with cheese and a side of Suero Costeño, our version of sour cream. They could resemble a fluffy pancake made from sweet corn, that still gets crunchy when cooked on the pan. Unlike the other arepas, that you can eat with your bare hands, these ones are softer, so we enjoy them with cutlery.
Venezuela, our neighbor country, has a similar version called Cachapa. They originated in the Andean region, which is shared by both countries, which explains the resemblance in product.
As extra and always doing the opposite to what is "common", I like to eat this arepa unfolded, and with savory toppings on top.
Have you tried arepas? Was it one of the ones I mentioned above? Let me know in the comments below.