Arepas define Venezuelan cooking. These thick cornmeal patties are griddled, then baked, and then stuffed while warm with anything from white cheese to this zesty chicken salad with avocado mayonnaise (Johan Santanas first choice). The salad is named in honor of Susana Duijm, Miss World in 1955 and a popular Venezuelan celebrity. (Reina means "queen" in Spanish, and pepiada is perhaps most politely translated as "curvy.") The recipe comes from Maribel Araujo of New York's always-packed Caracas Arepa Bar in the East Village and her executive chef, Ilse Parra.
For arepas, you must use precooked cornmeal (labeled harina or harina precocida), imported from Venezuela. American cornmeal or corn flour and Mexican masa harina will not work. The most popular brand of precooked cornmeal is P.A.N., found at Latino markets or online at www.amigofoods.com. Use white (blanco) cornmeal only.