Arepas are by far the most commonly eaten and versatile food in Colombia. Just like Mexico has tortillas and Western countries have bread, Colombia has arepas. Traditionally, arepas are made fresh every morning but for those of us who can’t seem to find the time, the supermarket packaged variety are a pretty good substitute. These corn-based discs may look like plain and boring but actually pack a fair bit of flavour when you know what to do with it. As a bonus, they are a great back up meal when you’re feeling lazy and economical. I always make sure I have packet or two in the fridge. Here are five Colombian arepas that I normally keep in stock:
- Regular white arepas
These are the simplest and most commonly eaten arepas. They are usually eaten toasted with butter and salt (lots of it) but they also go well with anything savoury. If I’m hungry and want something quick and tasty, I’ll usually have a toasted arepa with eggs. Also, for a simple home-made arepa con queso; lightly toast your arepa, slice it through the middle like you’re making a sandwich, stick in a few slices of cheese and toast it again until the cheese has melted.
Arepas Santandereanas (Arepas from the Santander region) are my new obsession. I first had these when I visited Santander a few years ago and haven’t stopped eating them since. They are made from a type of yellow corn and mixed with small pieces of fried pork belly which is what gives it its flavour. I would eat these arepas every day if they weren’t so difficult to find in Bogota. If you arrive early, you can find them at certain stalls in the Paloquemao market otherwise you can get them at restaurants that specialise in Santander cuisine.
Originating from the department of Boyaca, these small yellow arepas have a flavour that’s cheesy and sweet at the same time. They make for the perfect snack any time of the day and get be quite filling with a mug of hot agua de panela on the side. I love having these as a night cap (with agua de panela of course) when Bogota is unbearably cold.
These yellow arepas are made from a type of sweet corn called choclo and are absolutely delicious on their own. I always think of them as Colombian pancakes as they are soft and sweet. If I had a stack of them in front of me, I would probably eat them all. While they regularly make an appearance on my breakfast menu, arepas de choclo are a great snack any time of the day.
- Arepa con queso (cheese arepas)
Arepas con queso are basically regular arepas filled with cheese. While they are best experienced at an arepa stand, the package versions aren’t bad at all. They are a great snack on their own but are also commonly eaten as a side. I love eating these with carne desmechada.