Depending on who you ask, “Arepa” can mean something very different for each person, originating from the northern region of South America in pre-Columbian times, “La Arepa” is a staple of Colombia and Venezuela gastronomy.
Arepas are, in essence, little patties made out of fresh corn and cooked slowly until golden crisp, you can find it in many versions, plain or with all kind of fillings. In Venezuela, the difference lies in the kind of filling: shredded meat, chicken, different kind of cheeses and even seafood.
In Colombia arepas are generally not filled, they differ from each other based on the kind of corn, the added ingredients to the masa, and also the region they are originating from. Most popular arepas from Colombia are arepa paisa, Boyacence, Valluna, arepa e’ huevo and the delicious arepa de Choclo.
Is this last one “the arepa de Choclo” was the one we had the pleasure to try at Las Orquideas restaurant and one of the most sought out dishes of the restaurant. People from all over the county make the daily commute to the restaurant to try this delicacy fresh out of the oven. But what’s the secret and how is made? We were invited to a little tour to learn some secrets.
La arepa de Choclo is a sweet patty made out of yellow corn, it is a tick masa that feels soft and creamy inside and toasty on the outside. The secret behind this arepa lies is the kind of corn. To achieve the wonderfully creamy texture is necessary to use only fresh “maiz” or “elote” those are the kernels of the corn that when fresh grounded expel a “milky” juice conferring that creamy texture to the arepa.
At las Orquideas the preparation starts before the sun comes up. The cooks had previously sheared the cob from the maize and are now ready to grind the kernels, as the corn is passed through the machine additional ingredients are added to the mix. Some of the ingredients are: butter to give it its softness, “masarepa” a typical precooked cornmeal traditional to Hispanic households, tapioca and a hint of raw cane sugar to intensify the sweetness of the masa.
The ingredients are mixed well until they form a soft creamy dough preserving some of the kernel pieces, this gives the masa that particular raw texture that gets caramelized once the arepa is baked.
Little pieces of masa are then transformed by hand one by one into arepas, is a laborious task as they should have a consistent thickness and size to bake them uniformly. Trays of arepas are then lined ready to be baked and served before the first rays of the sun. As the restaurant opens its doors, the sweet smell of baked fresh corn inundated the kitchen, the arepas are ready and they are requested by clientele right away.
The arepas are served with authentic shredded “queso paisa” on the top. Queso paisa is a kind of fresh cheese typical of the Antioquia region, its consistency and freshness make it for the perfect arepa complement. As the cheese melts away, orders of hot chocolate and tamales are passing by on the hands of gracious servers.
My arepa is even better than what I have imagined soft on the inside and crunchy golden outside, the sweetness combined with the natural savory cheese create a perfect flavor on the palate. I couldn’t wait for my cheese to melt and my arepa was finished in no time.
If you want to have this arepa experience first-hand come to Las orquideas restaurant, with location in fort Lauderdale and pompano beach, now is easier than ever to indulge in authentic Colombian dishes!