Making La Sureña
That glistening spoonful is the "always enigmatic"* spicy chimi-churri sauce that tops the chorizo, grilled chicken, and avocado arepa called La Sureña, meaning "the southerner".
*actual menu description
In The Beginning...
But what defines an arepa is not the filling, but the soft on the inside, crisp on the outside golden cornmeal patty that encases it. And that starts here. First, a tub of water gets the addition of salt, oil, and several giant scoopfuls of corn flour.
That slurry get mashed around and thickened with more scoops of corn flour until it is thick and knead-able.
Once the mixture has fully transformed into arepa dough, it gets hand-patted into shape.
To the griddle!
I loved the hand prints on all of the arepas that have been freshly smacked onto the griddle.
Not done yet...
Once they get a good griddle-ing, the arepa patties are finished off in the oven.
Now THAT looks happy. Ready for stuffing!
Griddled cheese = happiness
Now this was revolutionary to me, as someone who frequents Caracas. A handful of grated cheese was thrown straight onto the griddle, and as I watched it slowly transformed into La Mulata, which for those who don't know is a very happy and delicious thing. Keep clicking and you'll see what I mean...
It keeps getting better
The cheese and jalapeños get topped with sautéed peppers...
...and more cheese.
Yes! THAT is the beautiful and delicious arepa filling that I know and love. The transformation is complete.
Add some black beans and fried sweet plantains, and you have La Mulata.
I'm not going to personally vouch for its vegan status, but I did see them make quite a few cheese-less versions of La Mulata for the dairy-averse.
A cheeseless La Mulata
No cheese here!
The super-duper-extra-really-really-top-secrect sauce
I knew the chances that they would reveal even the tiniest detail about this sauce were slim, but I had to try. I carefully chose my words as I asked, "So... do you make the sauce here too?" The cook replied that they did, but gave a small smirk and added "but it's a secret". Damn.
Double, double, toil and trouble...
That happily bubbling mixture is the filling for the Leek Jardinera—made of sundried tomatoes, carmelized onions, and grilled leeks, which is added to some guayanés cheese.
The grilled chicken that went into the La Sureña from the first slide.
This is one of their most popular arepas (and one of my favorite). Shredded beef, black beans, white salty cheese, and sweet plantains make for a very delicious mix.
Holy chip-mountain, Batman!
Every so often a basket of these with a side of guacamole flew by.
This, children, is where fried plantains come from
Plantains never looked so good.
Fried sweet plantains
Although they look nearly as good on a plate!
Sweet plantains that have been stuffed with cheese get dunked in a cinnamon-plantain batter...
...and get sent to the fryer, where magical things take place.
Yoyo cross section
The batter gets all poofed up and pancakey, resulting in a sweet-salty-cheesy bite. A very happy ending for any plantain.
Making Tostones Mochimeros
Fried savory plantains get smeared with a delicious mojito mayo.
A generous helping of cheese, and they're ready to go!
These dough-wrapped sticks of white cheese are about to get fried...
...and turn into these. Like mozzarella sticks but EVEN BETTER.