The Hola Arepa food truck is known for using many local and sustainable foods in their Venezuelan cornmeal sandwiches. That includes cheese: “We couldn’t find an organic queso fresco that we liked,” says Christina Nguyen, co-owner of Hola Arepa food truck, “so we decided to make our own.” In the quest for the perfect arepa, Nguyen and co-owner Birk Grudem (above) are not afraid to put in time to get their ingredients right.
We followed the process as they made their weekly queso in Kitchen in the Market at Midtown Global Market, where most of the food for their truck is prepped each week.
Queso fresco starts by combining whole milk and kosher salt over low heat.
As the milk warms, it can boil over quickly if not watched. “You need to keep a close eye on it and catch it on the rise,” says Nguyen.
When the milk is warm, fresh lime juice is added, separating the whey from the milk solids, and giving the queso fresco a distinctive tang. “We get more flavor, and we can customize the flavor,” says Grudem.
The cheese is then strained through a triple layer of cheesecloth. The cheese must be strained and then be flipped to remove most of the whey.
When the cheese is firm enough, it is broken apart and salted. By controlling the heat for their cheese when they make it, they are able to get a better crumble than most commercially available cheeses. The queso fresco is used primarily on the truck’s vegetarian arepa.