Chef Christina Nguyen of Hola Arepa's Essentials
Five things chef Christina Nguyen of Hola Arepa can’t live without
Illustration by James Kloiber
I’m a ginger freak. I love it in soups, congee, pickled in ramen, and in drinks like our ginger lemonade or the Temper Tantra. It’s spicy and kind of tart and adds oompf to everything.
Find elements you really love and work around them, like our turquoise color—now it’s everywhere. We had this bizarre textured wall to contend with and we couldn’t afford to replace the whole wall, so we got particle board and painted it and secured it over the ugly one with liquid nails.
Don’t be afraid of fat and salt. That’s why restaurant food tastes so good. If you taste something and it needs some unnameable something more, you need more salt.
Our creepy, wacky little God of Abundance from South America reminds us of hanging out in Bolivia and brings a lot of love to our space. He’s terrifying in a cute kind of way.
Our aji verde (AH-hee VAIR-day) is extra hot, green, creamy, and garlicky. You just blend up herbs, garlic, and a little more and add it to everything. I can’t eat an arepa without it. Is it sad that I still could eat an arepa every day? We picked the right thing to base our business on.
Digital Extras: Hola Arepa’s Creamy Avocado Aji Verde recipe
Makes about 1 quart of salsa
- 1 lb. jalapeno (about 16 peppers)
- 2/3 c. water (reserved from boiling jalapenos)
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 avocado
- 1/3 c. canola oil
- Aprox. 2–3 tsp. kosher salt or to taste
- In a saucepan, cover jalapenos completely with water and boil until they change color from bright green to a more yellowish color; they should be soft.
- Remove jalapenos from water and once cool enough to handle, remove stems.
- Add jalapenos, reserved 2/3 c. water from boiling jalapenos, garlic and avocado to a food processor that has a hole where oil can be added while blending.
- Blend all ingredients until smooth. While food processor is running, slowly add the canola oil into the mixture in a VERY small stream to emulsify and make creamy.
- Add about 2–3 tsp. kosher salt into mix and season to taste.