Some of you may have wondered what is that thing I’m eating on my blog main page. It’s called an arepa and it’s awesome!! One of the best things to come out of Colombia along with my wife Monica, Shakira, and Sofia Vergara. (Monica is #1, and Arepas are #2, the other two a distant 3rd Okay story time. Ever since I have known my wife, my mother in law has been making me arepas. Arepas are basically white corn meal, salt, and butter that can be either fried or grilled. The Colombians eat their arepas grilled for the most part, and they eat it with pretty much anything. My mother in law Carmen would make fresh arepas for breakfast, and then cut them in half and fill them with pericos (scrambled eggs, tomato, and green onion), cheese, and occasionally a slice of ham. For lunch time we would have arepas with mayo, and carne asada inside. Heck, we even had them for dinner! Arepas are absolutely delicious!
With that said, I was really excited last year for my first trip to Colombia. It was my first trip outside the United States, and I was pretty much excited for two main reasons. The first reason of course was to try all the delicious food down there. The second reason was to go to an ATM and get something besides dollars out. Here is a picture of me taking out my first pesos.
It didn’t take long to find many delicious things down in Colombia. After spending a few days in my wife’s city of birth Cali, we journeyed a few days to a town called Armenia, where we checked into a small hotel on the outskirts of town. After leaving out things inside the hotel, we stepped outside to get some fresh air and perhaps get something to eat. Well we didn’t have to go very far, because right across the street in a little dirt parking lot, an old lady and man had set up an arepa stand and were already grilling fresh arepas there. It had literally not been there 15 minutes earlier, but was already attracting crowds of people on the streets. I managed to convince our group to check out the arepa stand so we walked across the street and approached the stand. The couple basically had 4 different areas to their stand. They had a huge drum of the arepa dough where they formed the arepas, then they had another big grill where they had shredded chicken cooking, to the right of that was another grill where they combined ingredients, finally they had a cooler full of Postobon and Colombiana soda (apple flavor and creme soda flavor). I asked for a chicken and cheese arepa for each person in our group, which at the time was 7 or 8 people. Now I’m about to get emotional as to what happened next. My homeboy old man takes my arepa and absolutely stuffs the hell out of it with chicken and cheese. I’ve never seen anything like it. After stuffing it full of yummy wonderfullness, he sealed the sides of it and placed it on the hot grill, starting the cooking process where all the flavors ran together in perfect harmony. You ever take a bite of something, and you not only get this awesome food in your mouth, but also juices from the cooking mixed in at the same time? AWESOME! This thing was practically 2 meals in itself. As you can see from my picture, I was in heaven.
After we were all happily eating our arepas and drinking our ice-cold Postobon, I took out some of my pesos to pay the lady on the end. I have to admit she was a little surprised to have this gringo in a Utah Jazz shirt throwing out Spanish to her like it was nothing. She told me the meal was 20,000 pesos, which is only like $10 dollars U.S. I felt a little bad paying her so little money, so I gave her 30,000 pesos as price of the meal and a tip. She was so happy, but I can guarantee you not nearly as happy as I was.
So now for the question swirling around in everyone’s minds right now. “Hyrum, I don’t have $1000 bucks for a round trip ticket to Colombia. How can I enjoy also the deliciousness that is the arepa?” GREAT QUESTION!!! I of course have your answer, and since I love pretty much all arepas I will give you 2 options as well as what to ask for when you go for the first time.
There are basically 2 places that I go in Salt Lake City for delicious arepas. The Andinita is the first one. They are located at Carriage Square on the corner of 4100 South and Redwood Road. There is a Godfather’s pizza behind the 7-11 there. You will find the Andinita about 4-5 stores south of Godfathers. Your second option would be on the corner of 7800 South and Redwood Road. There is an Arepa food truck there parked on the North-East corner in front of a few stores. Each place has awesome arepas. The following are a few hints and suggestions for arepas first-timers.
Here are a few good tasting options:
Pabellon Arepa – Usually has your choice of carne asada or chicken, with Plantain bananas (YES PLEASE), cheese, and black beans. While this is one of my favorite arepas, if you are going for the first time, this one might be too awesome for your mouth to handle.
Reyna Pepiada – This arepas is really good for beginners. You got your chicken, avocado, and a yummy potato salad that usually has carrots and peas inside. This one has tons of flavor and is my personal favorite
Chicken or Shredded Beef arepa – Another good choice when getting an arepa. You got your cheese, chicken or shredded beef, or ham along with some lettuce and tomato.
Something else not to forget is both places offer some green avocado sauce that is awesome. I hold this green sauce in the same regard as I hold Moochies jalapeno sauce. I make sure each bite of my arepa is properly garnered with sauce.
Finally bypass your typical American sodas and get yourself a Colombiana (tastes like creme soda) or a Postobon (apple soda). I can tell you that nothing beats an ice-cold Postobon on a hot day.
Andinita closes at 8 pm, but the food truck on 78th is often open later until 10 pm on some nights. I can promise you great eats at any of these places. I’ve taken several of my co-workers to these places and every single one of them love them. You don’t have to be from South America to appreciate these treats. Also if you go to Andinita you can get a Bandeja Paisa. It’s looks something like this and it is awesome too!! Those yellow things on top are one inch sliced pieces of plantano banana, which are then smashed, lightly salted, and then fried. Nothing like them!