to many it would be an easy way out to compare it to a tortilla but there is a huge difference starting with the corn and method of preparation. An arepa is a native bread made from hominy, which is corn with the hull and germ removed, very popular in Colombia and Venezuela.
It can be grilled, baked, or fried. Both Colombians and Venezuelans view the arepa as a traditional national food. Arepas are usually eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack (merienda). It is our pita or Naan and very similar to the Salvadorean Pupusa.
For Colombia, the arepa has deep roots in the colonial farms and the cuisine of the indigenous people. There are two ways to prepare the dough. First one requires maize grains (hominy) to be cooked to softness, strained then grounded in a mortar or pilón. The end result is maíz pilado. The second method is the most modern used today, which is packaged cooked arepa cornmeal. The flour is mixed with water and salt, and occasionally oil, butter, eggs, and/or milk.
The characteristics vary by color, flavor, size, thickness, fillings or stuffings depending on the region. In the Carribean coast arepa de huevo is very popular. This arepa is deep fried with a single raw egg inside that is cooked by the frying process. The arepa valluna the dough is salted and once cooked, buttered before eating.
Arepa de choclo is made with sweet corn that is ground and that batter is cooked on the griddle in laddled rounds then once golden toped with fresh farmer’s white cheese. Arepa paisa – a very large, flat arepa made of white maize without salt, but accompanied by meat or butter on top and is common in Antioquia. In the north, bollos are popular for breakfast, which are made with the same dough as an arepa, but are boiled rather than fried, which gives them a texture similar dumplings.
The dough lends so well for creativity, I have even used arepas as canape bases topped with crumbled home-made colombian chorizo and garnished with queso fresco. So get creative with your arepa! Make it fun and make a whole meal out of it.