These miniature arepas are a jalapeño-filled bite-sized riff on the classic Venezuelan-style cornmeal cakes from which Minneapolis’s Hola Arepa takes its name. The food truck–turned–restaurant specializes in Latin American street food inspired by Chef/Owner Christina Nguyen’s travels through the region. For best results, use precooked white cornmeal like Harina PAN, also called masarepa or arepa flour.
Goat Cheese Arepitas
Courtesy Christina Nguyen, chef/owner, Hola Arepa, Minneapolis
- 8 ounces goat cheese
- ¼ cup diced jalapeños, seeded and deveined
- 1½ cups precooked white cornmeal
- 1¼ cup warm water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 quart canola oil, for deep frying
- Honey, if desired
- ½ cup guava jam, if desired
In large bowl, mix goat cheese and jalapeños. Use teaspoon to scoop mixture into balls. Roll each with hands to smooth. Set aside on plate. Cover cheese balls and freeze until hard.
Mix 1 cup cornmeal with warm water and salt. Cover, and rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Use hands to form dough into 20 balls slightly larger than cheese balls. If dough becomes too dry, add water. Flatten dough balls into small disks, and place cheese ball in center of each. Fold sides of dough over cheese to envelope. Pinch edges to seal, then use hands to smooth dough all over.
Pour remaining ½ cup cornmeal on plate. Roll balls in cornmeal to coat lightly.
Add oil to saucepan. Heat to 350˚F, as measured with candy thermometer. Fry balls in small batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Do not let balls touch pot.
Use slotted spoon to transfer arepitas to paper towel. Serve immediately, drizzled with honey or with guava jam for dipping, if desired. Makes about 20 arepitas.
The Airmail, “a classic cocktail created in Cuba in the 1940s to celebrate the advent of post by plane,” says Katy Dimick, Hola Arepa’s bar manager, would harmonize with the arepitas. A mix of rum, lime juice and honey syrup that’s topped with sparkling wine, it would be especially good if the arepitas are served with honey. “Plus, anything topped with sparkling wine feels celebratory,” she says.
Dimick believes Chenin Blanc matches best with these little arepas. “Chenins are incredibly versatile, going from dry to being tropical fruity and a little nutty,” she says. She recommends False Bay Slow Chenin Blanc from South Africa. It’s an especially refreshing accompaniment to the tangy goat cheese and fried exterior, and it would also reflect the sweeter notes found in both the honey and guava jam, if used.