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Great street food

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After almost a week in Boston and beyond, I never had food so greasy, laden with decadence and so delicious as I did while stopping at every food truck I could find. By far, the best "had-food" was the arepa. Many vendors were making them and no wonder. They are great!

Arepas (Venezuelan corncakes)

These stuffed corncakes are original to South America and are generally served in areperias, Venezuelan restaurants. They are stuffed with anything under the son or just enjoyed for breakfast with better melting inside or on top. Making your own is worth the effort, especially when you can't find pre-made anywhere.

Makes 5-10 arepas

  • 2 c. Masa harina* (found in most supermarkets and health food stores
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 3 c. boiling water
  • 3 T. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal and salt. Pour in 2 1/2 c. of the boiling water and mix with a wooden spoon to form a mass. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Using wet hands, form balls of dough out of about 1/4 c. of dough and press to form a cake about 3 inches wide and 3/4 inch thick. If the dough cracks at the edges, mix in a little more water and then form the cakes.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the patties, a few at a time, to form a light brown crust on one side, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and brown on the other side. When all the patties have been browned, transfer them to a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they sound lightly hollow when tapped.

*Masa harina is the traditional flour used to make tortillas, tamales, and other Mexican dishes. Literally translated from Spanish, it means "dough flour," because the flour is made from dried masa, a dough from specially treated corn. In essence, Masa harina is corn flour or meal.

To fill arepas: Split the arepas in half when finished and scoop out a little of the soft dough filling. Stuff with your chosen filling. Popular fillings are listed below.

  • Arepa de pabellón: shredded, seasoned meat and black beans.
  • Reina Pepeada: chopped chicken, avocado, and mayonnaise mashed together.
  • Arepa de dominó: black beans and crumbled Cheddar cheese.
  • Arepa de perico: scrambled eggs with tomatoes, peppers and onions.
  • Columbian arepas: make smaller and thicker and don't bake. Top with butter and melted cheese.
  • Other possible fillings: grated white or cheddar cheese; guasacaca, ham and cheese, hard-boiled eggs.

The sautéing step is sometimes skipped and the arepas are simply baked. In the countryside arepas are often cooked on the grill.

Small arepas can be made and served as appetizers with garnishes on top instead of inside. Or they can be eaten as small biscuits.

Sometimes a little sugar is mixed in with the dough to form sweet arepas (arepas dulces).

If you want the true taste of a Columbian sandwich, add some aji sauce. Simply mince 1 bell pepper, 2 jalapenos, 3 garlic cloves, 1/4 of an onion and 12 or so stems of fresh cilantro. Add to a bowl with 1/2 c. white vinegar, 1/2 c. water, 1 t. lime juice and 1 t. sugar. Combine well and let sit in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

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