Did I ever tell you that I was a super picky eater when I was younger? I pretty much only ate Kraft Mac and Cheese and sugar on top of more sugar (but not necessarily together). My mom made all of these amazing gourmet meals—that I now want all of the recipes for—and I would turn my nose up at them and tell her I just wanted mac and cheese. My parents always made me try everything and kept telling me that someday I would like all of these foods, but in the meantime, they let me be picky.
My mom always bought crunchy peanut butter—because that’s what my dad likes—and whole wheat bread, but bratty little me told her I would only eat creamy peanut butter and white bread. I later admitted to my mom that I really did like all of those things, I just told her I didn’t because at Amanda’s house they ate creamy peanut butter and white bread—and I wanted to do everything Amanda did. What a little brat I was!
Luckily I grew out of those habits and now love all of those gourmet meals my mom makes—well, most of them. I still don’t like salmon and I’m sorry to say Mom and Dad, but I don’t know if I’ll ever like salmon. Thanks for making me try all of those other ‘weird’ things though because I now consider myself to be quite a good eater.
Many of the things that I used to classify as ‘weird’ were foods from other countries. My dad owned a stained glass studio for 40 years and during that time we had many artists come and stay with us. During my childhood, there were always people living with us, which meant that we always had people cooking all sorts of foods I had never heard of. On top of that, both of my parents have done a lot of traveling and both have lived abroad, so we were always trying foods from other countries.
While we were growing up, Amanda’s family had many foreign exchange students. These students often made us some of their favorite foods from their home countries. Some of the foods we loved and others we weren’t so crazy about, but Venezuelan arepas (pronounced ah-ray-pas) are one thing that we have really grown to love and continue making to this day. Amanda and I even made them for Mother’s Day when we each picked something to make to honor our moms J. Amanda chose arepas because her mom lived in Venezuela when she was in high school.
Arepas are made out of white corn meal. We use the brand called P.A.N. I have found it in the ethnic food aisle at Safeway in both DC and CA. I’m sure they carry it at Hispanic Food Markets too. (I’m sorry to say Oki friends, but I’ve never seen this at the commissary. If you want to try them though, you’re more than welcome to come to my house and I’ll make them for you!)
Arepas can be baked, fried, or grilled. We usually brown them in a pan on the stove and them bake them the rest of the way. Amanda said they are excellent when grilled so I’m going to try that next time. They can be eaten open-face or as a sandwich as you’ll see in the pictures below. We always top them with ham, cheese, and perico (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions), but the possibilities are endless. Amanda and I like them with cream cheese and I had some avocado on hand so we used those this time too. Amanda’s dad loved to eat them with peanut butter (to her mom’s dismay)!
I know they might sound kind of strange, but they are so tasty—crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The white corn flavor provides such a nice background for the ham, cheese, and perico. They are also really easy to make so don’t be afraid to go out and try them!
Venezuelan Arepas with Perico
*Recipe from the back of the P.A.N. bag
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 cups PAN corn meal
1 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the water in a bowl, add the salt and slowly add the corn meal. Knead the dough a bit until smooth. Set aside for about 10 minutes.
Form the dough into round patties. Saute the arepas in pan until golden on both sides. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes (**This will vary depending on the size and thickness of your arepas. When the arepas are done they should sound hollow when you tap them.)
Remove from oven and fill with toppings of your choice. (They should definitely be served warm, but can be reheated the next day in the microwave or oven.)
Perico (serves 2-4)
1 medium to large tomato, chopped
1/2 medium onions, diced small
Melt butter or oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions and tomatoes and cook until the onions are soft. Add eggs and scramble until no longer runny.
**I promise you that these are very easy to make and are a fun alternative to the norm!
Question: What is your favorite food from another country?