Like all traditional meals, Venezuelan cuisine often varies greatly from one region to another. The food in Venezuela has a lot of European influences (especially Italian, Spanish and French). But you can also find indigenous as well as African influence. For example, the Venezuelan arepa has been a traditional dish for hundreds of years.
Corn –it is thousands of years old, with hundreds of native species from Canada to Argentina. Historically it is a defining ingredient in the cuisine of the Americas, predominant in most civilizations, with great mythological as well as nutritional value. In Venezuela the species primarily used to make the arepa (fresh or with white corn flour) is called cariaco (or amapa) since it grows in abundance in that region.
What was initially made with fresh corn, today is made by using pre-cooked white corn flour. Whether prepared with fresh corn or packaged corn flour, the arepa represents Venezuelans’ daily bread. It is eaten across the country, across all socioeconomic groups, and at all times of day. Their versatility is one of the constant reasons why in Venezuela they are at the center of every meal; from breakfast to lunch, dinner, and the occasional after party treat.
Both Colombians and Venezuelans view the arepa as a traditional national food. The dish has a long tradition in both countries, with local recipes that are delicious and varied.
An arepa can be eaten with a filling or with a topping. A filled one is called an arepa rellena or a Venezuelan tostada, although the latter term is not commonly used today. Also, there are plenty of sauces to season them while eating them. Each region has its own specialities, some even sweeten them with “papelón” (unrefined brown loaf sugar) and spice them with aniseed. You can stick to the classic ones or you can create your own based on inspiration from other dishes. You can combine flavors and ingredients that you love, or simply use the ingredients you have available at home.
The United States, being the world leader in corn production has exceptional corn quality, which produces a delicious, crunchy Arepa. With the migration of many Latinos, and the growing popularity of the Latin American cuisine, Arepas are quickly gaining popularity in mainstream America. Especially popular among Americans are Arepas de Queso (Cheese Arepas).