Many foreigners in Colombia will see the title of this post (in spite of the ‘?’) as pure sacrilege: the humble arepa is often treated with barely masked disdain by the growing number of foreigners visiting Colombia or calling the country home. Many Colombians might be in pretty strong disagreement as well, citing ajiaco, bandeja paisa, sancocho and a litany of other traditional Colombian foods to prove that, in actual fact, I am completely wrong and don’t know what I’m talking about. However, I don’t care, so I’m calling it now: the arepa de huevo is, without any doubt in my mind, the best Colombian food!
To start with: what is an arepa de huevo? Well, the traditiona arepa is made with cooked flour or ground maize dough, and is prominent and popular throughout Colombia (as well as many other countries, most notably Venezuela) in a variety of different styles and preparations. Some of these styles I love, some I actively dislike – I mean, what’s up with that weird little tiny arepa that comes with bandeja paisa?! Anyway, the arepa de huevo is especially popular on the Colombian Caribbean coast, where it has it’s origins. Even more specifically, in the city of Cartagena and Bolivar and Atlantico departments. This is the place to travel to experience a truly authentic egg arepa. In fact, there’s even a festival (yep, a whole festival!) dedicated to celebrating the majesty of the arepa de huevo in the municipality of Luruaco in Atlantico department, near to Barranquilla. That’s right: since 1988 (the year I was born – coincidence? I think not!) people have gathered in Luruaco for 3 days to make and eat egg arepas, even hosting competitions to determine the tastiest, biggest, smallest (a bit weird, that one!), and most innovative arepa de huevo. I can’t really imagine an ‘innovative’ arepa de huevo…maybe with no egg – edgy!!
Anyway, all of this should stand as evidence that we’re dealing with a pretty special food here: if a dedicated festival isn’t enough to convince you, then I guess I’ll just have to describe the magnificence of the arepa de huevo myself! Made by deep-frying dough balls in hot oil until they puff up, slicing a small incision to form to pocket inside the dough ball, cracking a whole egg inside the dough, sealing the incision, then frying until golden-brown; the arepa de huevo is greasy, salty, crunchy, and highly satisfying all at the same time. And it contains a whole fried egg – what’s not to like?! In short, the complete dream snack! Health-nuts might not appreciate the glory of the arepa de huevo (I mean, it’s in absolutely no way healthy!), but anyone with an appreciation for the brilliance of a good unhealthy snack will fall head over heels in love! Best eaten fresh out of the fryer with a generous sprinkling of salt on top, the egg arepa might just be the best thing to come out of the Colombian Caribbean since Shakira and Falcao!
I was reminded of the beauty of the arepa de huevo on a recent visit to Tayrona National Park. I was hiking through the final sweaty stages of the forest between Arrecifes and Cabo San Juan, when I stumbled across a small restaurant advertising various snacks and cold drinks. I asked for an arepa de huevo, and was told they’d have to make a fresh batch, and ‘did I mind waiting?’ ‘Hell no, I’ll wait!’, was my (not actual) response – like I said, the fresher the better! After about 10 minutes my (2) arepas de huevo appeared, still piping hot and glistening from the fryer. I had to restrain myself from biting into the boiling hot pockets of deliciousness right away, but when they cooled a little I started to eat and realized that the statement I confidentally made at the start of this post was 100% true and accurate – the arepa de huevo: Colombia’s best food!