Arepas are a type of flatbread made with precooked corn flour and are eaten daily in Venezuela and Columbia. Recipes vary in different regions; Columbian arepas are generally thinner while Venezuelan arepas tend to be thicker. Precooked corn flour, harina precocida or masarepa, can be found in grocery stores or Latin specialty stores.
- Place warm water, vegetable shortening and salt in mixing bowl and stir to combine.
- Slowly add maize flour, while stirring, until all of the flour is combined and there are no lumps.
- Cover bowl with clean kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Place dough on a clean work surface and divide into 8 even pieces.
- With your fingers and the palms of your hands gently pat each ball of dough into a 4" x ½" round. If the dough is cracking around the edges, lightly moisten your fingers with a little water. Place dough rounds on a sheet pan until ready to cook.
- Preheat pan over medium-low heat until several drops of water sprinkled on pan skitter and dissipate, approximately 8 minutes.
- Carefully transfer dough to pan and cook 6 - 8 minutes on each side. The arepa is done when crispy on the outside. Pick up arepa and gently tap center; it should have a hollow sound. Split arepas open with a serrated knife. The inside of the warm arepa should be slightly sticky with bits of dough that stick to the knife.
- Serve arepas warm with butter or split open and fill with your choice of fillings.
- Arepas can be filled with a wide variety of ingredients: shredded steak in sofrito sauce, shredded chicken in spicy barbecue sauce, pulled pork, shredded cheese, seasoned black beans, tomato, cilantro, plantains, avocado or whatever you like.
- Leftover arepas can be stored in a sealed bag.
- To reheat arepas, wrap in foil and warm in a 350°F/177°C oven.
- If arepas are too thin to split open, use two arepas with sandwich fillings in-between.