Aripo’s has been open for over a year now, and I’ve been there a few times to eat arepas stuffed with meat or to simply buy the fresh-cooked cornmeal discs to bring home for stuffing with my own ingredients.
When I’m not in the mood for the fresh-baked namesake dish (a simple composition of hand-formed cornmeal, salt and water), I get a salad. Aripo’s chicken salad, for instance, is composed of potato, peas, mayo, some carrot and what seems like a few pounds of chicken. Really, it’s a lot of chicken, and could easily be shared by two average appetites.
Of all the arepas I’ve had at Aripo’s, my favorite is the one stuffed with chorizo and potato.
Though we may tend to think of Latin American cuisine as pepper-hot, I believe this perception is due mostly to our proximity to Mexico and the predominance in the Midwest of Mexican-Americans who frequently make up a large percentage of any professional kitchen staff.
Mexico is home to many of the peppers that, thanks to Columbus, spread across Europe and Asia and are now considered integral to the cuisines of those regions.
In Venezuela, however, as with many other South American countries, the flavor profile of the food is modest, much less assertive, and usually not hot. A good example is Aripo’s chicken salad, which seems almost seasoning-free. This is not a bad thing: the fresh, clean flavors of the ingredients come to the surface, unclouded by potentially tongue-numbing capsaicin.
The choriarepa, or chorizo arepa, is my best bite at Aripo’s because it packs a little heat and yet the peppery punch is pulled, it’s restrained, so it’s not overwhelming but rather quite complementary to the corn meal arepa that cradles it. To further tone down any heat, the chorizo (a sausage that appears with variations throughout Spain and its former colonies) is mixed with potatoes (another of the region’s contributions to world cuisine).
The choriarepa is $5.25; at lunchtime, you can get two of any of the arepas and a drink for about $9.