It is eaten daily in those countries and can be served with accompaniments such as cheese, cuajada (fermented milk) or avocado, or split to make sandwiches. Sizes, maize types, and added ingredients vary its preparation. Arepas can also be found in the Canary Islands.[better source needed] It is similar in shape to the Mexican gordita and the Salvadoran pupusa.
The arepa is a pre-Columbian dish from the area that is now Venezuela and Colombia. Instruments used to make flour for the arepas, and the clay slabs on which they were cooked, were often found at archaeological sites in the area. Throughout its history, the arepa has stayed mainly unchanged from the arepas that pre-Columbian native peoples would have consumed, making the arepa one of the few pre-contact traditions that have remained popular in the years since colonization.
The arepa is a flat, round, unleavened patty of soaked, ground kernels of maize, or—more frequently nowadays—maize meal or maize flour that can be grilled, baked, fried, boiled or steamed. The characteristics vary by color, flavor, size, and the food with which it may be stuffed, depending on the region. It can be topped or filled with meat, eggs, tomatoes, salad, cheese, shrimp, or fish depending on the meal.
The flour is mixed with water and salt, and occasionally oil, butter, eggs, and/or milk. Because the flour is already cooked, the blend forms into patties easily. After being kneaded and formed, the patties are fried, grilled, or baked. This production of maize is unusual for not using the nixtamalization (alkali cooking) process to remove the pericarp of the kernels. This makes arepa flour different from masa flour, which is used to make tortillas.
Arepa flour is specially prepared (cooked in water, then dried) for making arepas and other maize dough-based dishes, such as hallacas, bollos, tamales, empanadas and chicha. The flour may be called masarepa, masa de arepa, masa al instante, or harina precocida. The most popular brand names of maize flour are Harina PAN, Harina Juana, and Goya in Venezuela, and Areparina in Colombia.
The arepa is an iconic food in Colombia, with some 75 distinct forms of preparation. According to a study conducted by the Colombian Academia of Gastronomy, "The arepa is part of our cultural heritage and can be considered a symbol of national gastronomic unity."
In the Paisa Region, the arepa is especially important to the local people and accompanies some times all meals of the day. In addition, arepas are strung into necklaces and placed around the necks of honored dignitaries as a sign of praise.
In Colombia, the arepa is sold on a commercial level in neighborhood stores, chain supermarkets and market plazas and packaged with preservatives as a pre-molded white or yellow corn dough that is ready to grill or fry at home. It is also sold in the form of industrialized corn flour that requires hydration before preparation. In addition, arepas are sold by street vendors, in cafeterias, and in neighborhood stores. Restaurants of the Paisa Region, offer a wide variety of arepas including a unique style of stuffed arepa that can be filled with eggs, meat or cheese.
The Colombian Arepa Festival is celebrated in the following five major cities: Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, and Bucaramanga. According to the program calendar, each city takes turns organizing the festival between the months of August and December.
According to a 2015 survey of the Venezuelan people, nearly 70 percent of the nation ate arepas on a regular basis. It is common for Venezuelans to eat arepas throughout the day, both as snacks and as sides to meals, creating a culture where these corn products can be found almost everywhere. The arepa is seen as a cornerstone of a Venezuelan diet, and in a good financial year, the average Venezuelan consumes about 30 kilos of the corn flour used to make the arepas. Venezuelan arepas are commonly filled with a great variety of different fillings, from beef and avocado to yellow cheese, varying widely by the location of where they are sold and the ingredients that can be obtained.
Since the 2015 food shortages began, the consumption of arepas has severely decreased. These shortages have caused the citizens of Venezuela to be unable to get enough basic food supplies, including the corn flour used to make arepas. The consumption of the corn flour per capita have decreased from 30 kilos per year in 2014 to 17.5 in 2016. These shortages have caused some to say that the arepa is dying in Venezuela. Venezuelan citizens who want to buy corn flour in order to make arepas must wait in lines for hours to receive government price-regulated corn flour, or they must purchase for much more in the black markets.
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