I do not usually post about food. While I am not a foodie, I appreciate well-made and unusual food; the catch is that it has to be vegetarian. Food does not have to be Indian; even a salad will do, but no oyster sauce, fish oil, eggs and the like. Most times, especially when travelling overseas, the local food that one MUST try ends up being non-vegetarian. So, food never gets any importance when we travel.
I have seen many Indians post queries on travel forums asking about the availability of pure vegetarian food in whichever city they are travelling to 🙂 The concept of pure vegetarian food causes indigestion in forum posters! Some are outright rude, some are ignorant about the concept itself, and some think it is about being vegan 🙂
During our travels, we have, for example, had excellent Ethiopian in Malaysia and finger-licking-good hummus in Bali. Sometimes local vegetarian has awed us (think Greece/Poland) and some other times, we have been stumped, a flavour that just does not agree with the palate forcing us to avoid those cuisines altogether 😦
And then I had arepas for the first time!
I hadn’t even heard about arepas until I had them and got curious enough to learn more about them. After seeing off my daughter at her University, I simply wanted to get a meal (my first without her) close to where I was staying. I found this little place that called itself ‘Arepas Cafe’. I stepped into a small, packed place with vibes of a diner and discovered arepas, almost making me feel like Columbus 😉 😉
Arepas (singular: arepa) are made of cornmeal (which is roughly ground corn) and cooked on a griddle. They are predominantly a part of Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine and, to some extent, Bolivian too. Arepas have been cooked and consumed almost from the time corn (maize) was available in the region, which is since 3000 years! They are tasty enough to be had plain (like I had for the first time, with sour cream on the side as a dip) or stuffed like a pocket full of surprise (meat, cheese, mix of salad veggies). There are close to 70+ variations in Colombia only and can be eaten for breakfast or as an anytime snack/meal. I think it makes a complete filling meal!
Strangely, arepas reminded me of a deep-fried snack that is very local to Mangalore called ‘kayi vada’. Kayi vada is made of rice flour and fresh coconut that is mixed into a dough, rolled into small circular discs (like puris made for Pani Puri) and deep-fried. Also strangely, even though the base ingredient of arepa and the popular Punjabi ‘Makki ki roti’ is corn meal, the two do not taste similar at all! By the way, corn meal is a staple is almost every continent – it is eaten in some form or the other across the world!
I loved these arepas so much that I had them again for another meal. Since I never think to take pictures of food, I remembered to do the needful only after I took a bite. No, there are no half-moon arepas….I am pretty sure of that 🙂