How to make arepas with Alma Cocina Latina

Now is the time for the arepa.

At least that’s how Enrique Limardo sees it. But as co-executive chef at Alma Cocina Latina in Canton, a Venezuelan and Latin American fusion restaurant, he might be a little biased.

“30 million people eat the arepa, so how could you not like it?” Limardo says of the corn flour pocket-like sandwich (pronounced 'ah-ray-pah'). He says people in Venezuela will eat arepas for any meal.

Limardo has been a chef for nearly 20 years. He's worked in Spain, France, Mexico and Barbados before coming to the United States to work at Alma, which opened in April. He is joined by co-executive chef Federico Tischler.

“I think that the United States offered to us a great possibility to develop Latin American food,” Limardo said.  

Limardo doesn’t like to compare arepas to other cuisine, but if you’ve never heard of it before, think of it like a marriage between a soft taco and a pita pocket.

The dough is made with just white corn flour, water and salt. Limardo swears by the brand Harina P.A.N. for the flour. The filling can be like anything you would put in a sandwich -- meat, vegetables, cheese, sauces, etc.

“Everybody can love it, and you have to come here and taste it.”

Or try making it yourself at home:

Arepa dough Ingredients

  • 1 package of White Instant Corn Flour (35.2 oz), preferably Harina P.A.N.
  • 2 liters of warm water (not hot)
  • 1/5 oz of fine kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place the warm water in a mixing bowl and add the salt. 
  2. Add flour to it, slowly, like a soft rain. Knead together the flour and the water with your hands until the mixture is thoroughly blended and there are no grainy lumps, and it is smooth.
  3. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 5 minutes. Wet hands and knead again a little, making sure that your fingers are not sticky.
  4. Pull off a large handful of dough and form a thick patty
  5. Cook on a griddle until the sides start to turn a little brown
  6. Bake in the oven at 450 degrees for about 5-6 minutes
  7. Cut the arepa like a bagel, but only halfway down. Scoop out the insides, fill with your desired fixings and enjoy! 

The dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days. 

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