It’s been raining a lot lately in Bogota and not the regular Bogotano rain which is usually followed by sunshine and blue skies. I’m talking about the all day event, dark and grey, windy, drizzly type cold rain that’s just heavy enough to justify having an umbrella on hand but not so heavy that you can get away without gum boots.
Yep, it’s been freezing these days in the capital, and today is no exception. I am stuck in a Juan Valdez cafe writing this piece, fantasising about sitting on my couch with a hot cup of agua de panela and a fresh from the grill arepa con queso (cheese arepa).
I’ve spoken before about my love for arepa rellena, but sometimes I just need to eat something before my next big meal and I don’t want to ruin my appetite for lunch/dinner. Like a grilled cheese sandwich, the arepa con queso (cheese arepa) is the perfect snack when that next meal seems so far away. They’re tasty, not hard to find and for the inexperienced chef they’re pretty easy to make too.
Cheese arepas are commonly sold by street vendors and eaten in the morning or at night when hungry office workers are scrambling between home and work, looking for something quick to fill their bellies. As most Colombians don’t tend to eat huge meals for breakfast or dinner during the week, arepa con queso is a great option to have on the menu when you don’t feel like actually cooking anything. You just need a pack of pre-made arepas, cheese and butter (the more the merrier). I try to avoid buying packaged arepas as they are made with commercial masa (dough) and are no way near as tasty as the ones made with pure maiz (corn) but when I have no other choice they’re still pretty damn good.
Unless you have access to a Colombian who knows how to make real home made arepas, or are inclined to make them yourself, your best bet is to get them from street vendors or at the market where it’s common to find hole in the wall type restaurants that push out hundreds of arepas per day. How do you know if it’s good? the cheesier and greesier they are, they better they’re going to taste.
So next time you see an arepa con queso make sure you try it out. You will probably find yourself going back for seconds pretty soon. I guarantee it.