After all this talking about Colombian food, the least I can do is leave you with a recipe.
One morning in Santa Marta, as I was recovering from a particularly retch-worthy day before (don’t drink the water…), we breakfasted on arepas e’ huevo. A typical arepa is a flattened, relatively bland disc of dough that’s been cooked in a skillet with just a little oil. Then, it’s topped with a slice of white farmer’s cheese and spicy ají.
But an arepa e’ huevo is something entirely different. This is an arepa, deep fried once, then stuffed with a raw egg and deep fried again. Double deep fried. Waistline death by delicious excess.
I watched a few YouTube tutorials on making these arepas, and decided that it was going to be either impossible or phenomenal. Though watching someone deftly slip an egg into a tiny arepa glistening with hot oil is supposed to inspire you with confidence, it had the complete opposite effect on me. So I told the friend coming to dinner that depending on the way the experiment turned out, we might just be having ají for dinner.
In the end, inviting a friend to dinner turned out to be my saving grace. There’s too much to coordinate on your own – making sure the arepas don’t stick together in the oil, holding one open and dropping in the egg, sealing the hole shut with dough and frying it again. But the process is fun, and at the end of it, you’ve worked up quite an appetite.
My dimly-lit Berlin kitchen might be pretty far from a breezy seaside town on the Colombian coast, but just one bite of these delicious, rich, and dense arepas brought me right back.
Arepas e’ Huevo
For the ají:
1 yellow onion
3 tbsp. cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
2 splashes Tabasco (opt.)
For the arepas:
2 cups P.A.N. harina (corn flour)
1 cup water
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ cup grated white farmer’s cheese (or feta)
Sliced farmer’s cheese or feta
Make your ají first, since you’ll a) want to let the flavors blend and b) want to eat the arepas hot.
Finely slice onion, chiles, tomatoes, and avocado. Add chopped cilantro, salt, sugar, rice wine vinegar, and the juice of 1 lemon. Season with Tabasco depending on how spicy you like your ají. Mix well and set aside.
To make your dough, knead P.A.N, water, salt, and cheese together with your hands until the dough is no longer lumpy. Rest the dough for 15 minutes.
Divide dough into 9 equally-sized segments and roll them into balls. Flatten each ball between the palm of your hand to form a ½ inch-thick disc. Make sure the edges are smooth – the dough tends to crack as you flatten it.
Fill a frying pan with oil – about 1 inch deep – and heat to 350°F. The oil is hot when bubbles form around a wooden spoon inserted into the oil. Add two arepas at a time (otherwise your oil will cool down too much and the arepas will become greasy) and fry for about 4 minutes per side, or until each side is golden brown and the arepa has slightly puffed up. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel-covered rack. Repeat with the remaining arepas, making sure to reserve the 9th ball of dough for later. Replace any depleted oil and allow it to heat up.
Crack an egg into an espresso cup and set aside. Take a small, sharp knife and cut a small slit (about 1 inch long) in the side of the arepa. Insert your finger into the slit and create a pocket inside the arepa. Holding the arepa with one hand so that the pocket remains slightly open, use the other hand to pour the cracked egg into the pocket. Take a bit of raw dough (from the 9th ball of dough) and press it carefully over the hole. Try not to break the yolk or leave gaps. Place the arepas in the hot oil two at a time and fry about 4 minutes per side, making sure they don’t burn. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on a paper towel-covered rack. Repeat with remaining arepas.
Serve hot arepas with ají and slices of avocado and farmer’s cheese. Makes 8 arepas.