Arepa is a delicious flat, round, unleavened patty made of corn meal, which can be grilled, broiled, steamed, fried or prepared any way you like it. The arepa is stuffed with prepared meat or fish. It is a prominent dish in the Colombian and Venezuelan cuisine, however you can find it in many other South American cuisines as well. If you are looking for the real deal on Curaçao, we recommend heading ASAP to the Latin deli “Deli Arepa” in Salinja (just across the street from Seguros Brouwer N.V.). They offer a large selection of fillings for the fresh homemade arepas – including carne mechada, chicken, shrimp and kari-kari (tender shark meat)- and a small selection of fresh juices to wash it down.
Leendert Dijkhuizen and his wife Nelsa started Deli Arepa nine years ago with a little help from the family. “Arepa is a great snack for any time of the day. We noticed that you couldn’t get a snack on the island without resorting to the usual fast food options,” Leendert says. So they bought a food truck and started to fill in the void. Deli Arepa’s menu offers traditional fillings as well as fillings with a more local touch. “We get our inspiration from our regular visits to Venezuela, however sometimes our customers suggest a filling. Of course, not everything goes well with arepas, but we do have some local alternatives like mero fillet and we do use Dutch cheese,” he says.
While chatting away with Leendert under the huge parasol, we ate several arepas. Our favourite must be the shrimp paired with garlic sauce and plenty of pika. Generously filled with good-sized shrimps, it went great with the watermelon, melon and passion fruit juices we ordered. While we were enjoying our meal and a great conversation with the owner, a long line of customers was patiently waiting for the arepas Nelsa was preparing. Some drove off with their snack, but most people just sat in their car and ate the arepas while they were still hot.
The couple is proud of what they have achieved so far and are not planning on expanding the business any time soon. “We are popular, because we are still relatively small. I am here from 8 am to 8 pm to ensure our customers get the service and quality of food they have come to expect from us,” Leendert says. “It is hard work, but then again which job isn’t? I enjoy my work and after nine years it’s part of who I am.” According to the couple, the enthusiastic feedback they receive from their customers is the only thing they need to keep them going. “It gives us such a boost and makes all the hard work worth it.” The couple is especially proud of their loyal local customers and occasional international tourist.
Food: 8– great snack or a quick lunch
Ambiance: 7– it’s a take out place, so laid-back vibe
Location: 8– easily accessible
Service: 9– owner operated, so great attention to detail