Arepas are a staple food in Colombia, like tortillas in Mexico. Here’s a pic of the grocery store’s arepa shelf:
Arepas are basically cornmeal biscuits. There are different kinds, but they all derive from corn and they’re all shaped in a patty. They taste like a biscuit with less moisture and less flavor. They’re featured in my 3 Things You Don’t Have to Eat in Bogota. It’s impossible to visit Colombia and not eat arepas.
The arepa played a key role in my initial cognitive dissonance after moving to Colombia from Peru. The Colombian food is so awful compared to Peruvian food that for my first six weeks or so, I was on the verge of depression but had no means to go back. The arepa was the focus of my early displeasure with Colombian cuisine.
The most basic arepa is the paisa variety, the blandest, most flavorless of them all. Pure white foodstuff without any taste-bud stimulation whatsoever. I never eat these. I usually leave the little bag unopened on the table so it’s not wasted, but this time I needed a photo to show the insides.
The arepa antioqueña may be the same as the arepa paisa, but you can almost taste the corn. It’s sometimes served with butter. The arepa antioqueña comes with bandeja paisa and street foods. Alone, it’s worthless, but sometimes comes with criollo sauce, which is basically stewed tomatoes with oil.
The boyacense variety, from Boyacá, is where arepas start to add flavor. Boyacenses are yellowish and taste sweet. There’s cheese inside but so little you can’t really taste it. They’re sweet like a dry muffin. The boyacense arepas can be moist if you get them fresh.
Arepa con queso
The arepa with cheese is the best, most reliable arepa. It’s exactly as it sounds – the paisa antioqueña mix filled with mozzarella. I fry them in butter.
Arepa de huevo
Arepas with egg are a street food variety. They form the patty with the arepa mix around a raw egg. Then they deep-fry it to cook both at the same time. It’s a deep-fried biscuit with egg inside. They’re OK with lots of ají. Very greasy.
Arepa con bocadillo y queso
Another fast food variety, this arepa is stuffed with cheese and guayaba jelly so it’s sweet and the sharp cheese is a contrast. I liked these for a few weeks but got burned out on the grease (they’re also fried).
Arepa de choclo / chocolo
Choclo in Spanish means yellow corn, as opposed to white corn. Yellow corn is sweet. So the bread they make from choclo is sweet like cornbread. In Peru, they serve a similar food called pastel de choclo, or corn-cake. The Peruvian variety is thicker, not in patty form, and drier. The Colombian arepa de chocolo is in disc / patty / arepa form and filled with a slice of cheese. The arepa de chocolo is the most edible arepa in Colombia.
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