Arepa is a type of food made of ground maize dough or cooked flour prominent in the cuisine of Venezuela and Colombia.
It is eaten daily in those countries and can be served with accompaniments such as cheese (cuajada), avocado, or split to make sandwiches. Sizes, maize types, and added ingredients vary its preparation. Arepas can also be found in Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and the Canary Islands. It is similar in shape to the Mexican gordita and the Salvadoran pupusa.
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, Areparina in Colombia.
Cachapas are a traditional Venezuelan and Colombian dish made from corn. Like arepas, they are popular at roadside stands. They can be made like pancakes of fresh corn dough, or wrapped in dry corn leaves and boiled (cachapa de hoja). The most common varieties are made with fresh ground corn mixed into a thick batter and cooked on a budare, like pancakes; the cachapa is slightly thicker and lumpier because of the pieces from corn kernels.
Cachapas are traditionally eaten with Queso de Mano (hand made cheese), a soft, mozzarella-like cheese, and occasionally with fried pork chicharrón on the side. Cachapas can be very elaborate, some including different kinds of cheese, milky cream, or jam. They can be prepared as an appetizer, generally with margarine, or as a full breakfast with hand cheese and fried pork.
In Costa Rica, chorreadas are similar.