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The Cuisine of Colombia

I find myself now at the end of my journey to Colombia. I'm sort of sad to go, feels like home to me...I'll be back soon! Having spent 10 days here, I have a pretty good idea of the cuisine. I also did a considerable amount of cooking in my casa, which included of course shopping for local products. There isn't much you cant find here to be honest, and the food quality is very high. I'm going to break this down into three categories, street food, restaurants and home cooking.

Colombian food is a unique blend of indigenous and European traditions with a strong Afro-Caribbean influence. The two largest indigenous groups prior to European conquest were the Tairona, who lived along the Caribbean coast, and the Muisca, who lived in the highlands to the South. Arepas, made from ground corn, are one of the oldest cooked dishes in Colombian cuisine. It is believed that the name derives from the word for corn in the Chibcha languages.[4] Arepas are a popular modern Colombian dish.

Street food is a staple for most Colombians. Everywhere in the nation, from parks and metro stations to busy intersections, you’ll find vendors selling delicious fruits and all manner of corn manifestations and meat-filled treats. Sampling these goodies is a great way to familiarize yourself with Colombian culture and feel like one of the locals. You'll also develop a taste for native ingredients and regional dishes. Colombian street food varies from region to region, so an arepa or tamale in one region won’t be the same as those in another.

No matter where you are in Colombia, make sure to enjoy these quintessentially Columbian delicacies:

  • Bandeja Paisa - The bandeja paisa is Colombia’s unofficial national dish. This mega-calorie meal was originally devised to provide peasant workers with sufficient energy to keep them going throughout the day. Nowadays, it’s a substantial lunchtime meal that’s eaten on special occasions or just when you’re feeling incredibly hungry. It consists of rice, plantain, arepa (corn cakes), avocado, minced meat, chorizo, black sausage and fried pork rind. There’s also a fried egg thrown on top for good measure.

  • Empanadas - Empanadas are the perfect treat to eat on the go! Similar to an English pasty or Jamaican patty, these stuffed pastries can be filled with just about anything, but popular fillings include meat, chicken or cheese. They’re nearly always deep fried.

  • Sancocho - This traditional Colombian stew often includes chicken, pork or beef. All are delicious, but for a really hearty dish, opt for mondongo (tripe soup).

  • Fritanga - Fritanga is a wonderful mix of fried offal. While that might not sound delicious—and it’s most certainly an acquired taste—fritanga is a great way to try out bits of meat you wouldn’t normally eat.

  • Arroz con Pollo - Arroz con pollo (rice and chicken) is stewed together with chicken stock. The dish is hugely popular and simply delicious. Traditionally served with a large squeeze of tomato ketchup, this is a great cheap eat that’ll fill almost anyone up.

  • Pan de Bono - Pan de bono is a small, round bread-like bite that’s flavored with a sweet cheese. Popular all over the country, pan de bono is eaten as a snack throughout the day and is often served alongside a delicious hot chocolate early in the morning. For bread lovers, this Colombian specialty is a must try.

  • Arepas - Arepas are arguably the most famous part of Colombian cuisine. They’re like empanadas in that they’re made with either white or yellow corn tortillas, but arepas don’t have any fillings. They’re also bigger and toasted. Think of them like super thick Mexican corn tortillas.

Now in terms of restaurants, you can find everything from McDonalds to Fine Dining, and everything in between.

I never had a bad restaurant meal in Colombia, that's pretty rare for me to say! The one quasi fine dining experience i had was good, not exceptional, but good value. Dinner for two with a lemonade, glass of wine, shrimp dish and a steak was $80,000, YIKES!!! That's, around $25 Canadian. Same meal in Canada, $100+. Tiping exsists here as well, 8-10% is the norm. The above hamburger combo, and typical Colombian lunch, less than $20,000 pesos or $5 Canadian.

Now, a little bit about what I cooked and procured while in Clombia.

I cooked a lot while here, more than I ate out. Fortunately i had friends to share with, nothing satisfies a chef more than cooking for others, at least it should. Buying produce and meat is not unlike how we do it in canada. You can go to farm markets, grocery stores, butcher shops and convenience stores. Some of vendors come to your door with there cart full of todays best produce! I used my philosophy of TPU, total product utilization. I wasted nothing, and ate well for the whole time I was here in Colombia. The cost of preparing a nice meal for 3-6 persons with chicken beef, pork or seafood is less than $20,000 pesos or $5 Canadian...WOW!

Anyway folks, thats a wrap! Ive had an excellent time here in Colombia...maybe come join me in October 2022 for an excursion. Chhers, and have a great day!

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