Foreign restaurants in Beijing when I was a child definitely lacked diversity. There were the French, the Italian, the Japanese – all of which were mediocre at best. More “exotic” ones did open but their lifespans lasted as long as this arepas dish would in your fridge. My favorite pastime was reading Time Out to discover all the new strange and wonderful openings and sell the idea to my father. Trying out these restaurants with my father was my second favorite pastime.
London was a whole other world for little curious me. Name it: Ghanaian, Laotian, South African, Hawaiian, Nikkei. Anything you want! The wonderful and diverse restaurants owned by the wonderful and diverse immigrants is what made London my favorite city up until Brexit happened.
So. I was introduced to arepas back in 2012 in London’s Camden Market. The stall Arepas and Co now has a permanent restaurant, but I remember buying arepas there was a ritual for me. It was something I had to do every time I visited London and I would buy many many arepas and cachapas to bring back to Scotland and freeze in my student flat.
Sometimes I don’t make a dish because I can’t be bothered to buy a whole bag of an ingredient, use a fraction of it and leave it in my cupboard for years along with my spices. But you know when you have those cravings? I really wanted to eat arepas, and Arepas and Co is not walking distance from my home so I bought a pack of masa harina. The fillings inside are up to you – I thought a sour cream and salsa made a nice base, and I just spiced up some leftover chicken with black garlic, my favorite ingredient.
Arepas (recipe from Bon Appetit)
1 cup flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 cooked chicken breasts (poached or leftover rotisserie), shredded
4 cloves black garlic
1 tsp paprika
4 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime (or to taste)
1/2 small birds eye chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped (or to taste)
A bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl, make a well in the center and drizzle in the warm water. Gradually mix the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until no dry lumps remain. Cover with cling film and leave to rest for five minutes.
Knead the dough a few times in a bowl, then divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten to about 1cm thick.
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add arepas, don’t overcrowd them, do in batches. Cover and cook until golden brown, about 6-8 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown, but leave the pan uncovered.
Mix all the ingredients together and add enough olive oil and salt to taste
Mash the back garlic with 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a medium bowl. Add salt and paprika. Add chicken and toss
Assemble arepas with sour cream, salsa and chicken