The history of Panama and Colombia separated about one hundred years ago. Before the US decided to acquire the ill fated French attempt at building the Panama Canal, Panama existed as a provence of Colombia. It is therefore no surprise that many of the traditional foods in Panama came from Colombia. If you go to the Tuesday market you can try an Arepa or if you are willing to get your hands wet make some yourself in minutes.
One very traditional food here is the tortilla, if you are familiar with tortillas from Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador or Guatemala, these are not the same thing. The Panamanian tortilla asado is a direct descendant of the Arepa of Colombia, it is the same thing thinner and dryer.
Arepas are simple to make, tasty and have lots of cheesy calories.
The ingredients are:
Donarepa, corn flour and some grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup precooked corn flour (A dry corn, maize, flour, precooked and dried. There are many brands in Latin American markets. Look for a fine corn flour that is precooked, the word is precocida. It will usually say for Arepas.)
1 cup of grated fresh cheese, Queseo Fresca in Panama, try cottage cheese in the US, it might work, farmers cheese or a Mexican queso fresca would be better.
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs of cooking oil or melted butter
1+ cup of warm water
Mix all the ingredients together continuing to add water until is a smooth paste that you can form into a ball. You can do golf balls, tennis balls but not basketball sizes.
Heat a flat oiled grill over low heat, and put the ball on the grill flattening it down to about 1/3″ thickness. The moister the batter and thicker the tortilla the better the texture and flavor. You want them moist inside and crunchy outside when done.
Panamanians overcook tortillas asado until they are dry inside. The Colombian version is moist and cheesy, much better. So look for bubbling on the surface and golden brown against the grill. Flip them and when browned on both sides they are ready to eat hot from the grill.
golden brown and delicious. Enjoy for breakfast, I do.