Let me start by saying that I am not Venezuelan. My mom’s side of the family emigrated to United States from Cuba in 1970 and after a decade of setting their roots in Miami, Florida, my grandfather’s inability to live mundanely took him to the Venezuelan countryside in search of acquiring some land.
…And some chickens.
…And some cows.
…And a new life where he’d cultivate corn, while the rest of the family split their time between Miami and his new life just outside Valle de la Pascua. This is the long and short of how I spent every summer of my childhood wearing rubber boots, carrying a machete for the occasional encounter with a snake and eating the freshest food of my life.
I tell you all of this so that on a platform of confidence I can say that contrary to what they tell you at your local county fair – this is NOT an arepa:
This is actually a cachapa – a corncake made with fresh corn, or a combination of fresh corn and cornmeal. Sugar is added, giving it a slight sweetness, which contrasts perfectly with savory queso blanco.
Arepas de choclo can look similar to a cachapa, but are made solely with fresh corn and have no sugar added to the batter.
THIS is an arepa:
Crisp outside, with a warm, doughy center intended to melt butter, cheese or anything your gluttonous heart desires.
Arepas are made with masarepa – a precooked, ground corn flour where the seed germ and outer lining of the corn is removed prior to grinding. Masarepa is not to be confused with masa harina, which is ground corn that has been treated with lime.
If the difference between the arepa and the cachapa is the only thing you ever learn about Venezuelan food, then you’re already a step ahead of every vendor at every county fair across the country.