Colombians love fast food. Walk down any main street in Bogota and you’re likely to find Colombianised versions of American fast food i.e hot dogs, burgers, pizzas, fried chicken etc. While Colombians have grown to love these Western Classics, they too have always had their own Classic fast food in the Arepa Rellena (stuffed Arepa). What is an Arepa you ask? A flatbread made out of maiz (corn), the Arepa isn’t just any Colombian staple, it is THE Colombian staple. While these little white discs are painfully bland, when you grill it over charcoal, lather it up with butter and stuff it with slow cooked meat, they start to taste pretty amazing.
Arepa Rellenas can usually be found at specialised Arepa joints or grilled straight out of a street cart. The Arepas are first lightly toasted over a charcoal grill, filled with some sort of meat or eggs, then finally returned to the grill until the Arepa is cooked to a golden brown. A final swab of butter and salt and you’re good to go.
Like a Burger, the original Arepa Rellenas only had one or two options so traditionally they are stuffed with stripped beef (my favorite) or chunks of Chicken breast. If you’re grubbing on the street as I often do, you’ll usually get to choose between beef, chicken or egg but if you’re dining in, don’t be surprised to see shrimp or even Hawaiian on the menu. I recommend going traditional and getting beef or chicken, it’s a no risk order really.
I can’t count the amount of times where I’ve been starving on my way home after work or craving some decent fast food after a big night out where I’ve been saved by the Arepa Rellena street cart. It’s really a must eat for anyone visiting Colombia.