A girl can only eat so many arepas and empanadas before the fried foods set like stones in the stomach. I can’t complain though because, in Colombia, they’re cheap, readily available, and the go-to comfort foods in dire times when all the restaurants close up shop for the day at 4 PM (something I learned the hard way my first night in Bogota). Thankfully, as I covered more ground in each city, I learned that healthier options are available and with a little extra effort, it’s not difficult to eat an appropriately portioned, balanced meal. It has been a while since I’ve done a photo essay so come along to briefly explore Colombia through my eyes and stomach.
Sanocho de Pescado aka Fish Stew, served here with orange juice, arepas (corn pancake usually served solo or with cheese in the middle), and a tamale (off-camera). Served with catfish in a very warm, heavy broth that better suits wintertime.
Yuka (a type of root vegetable, sort of similar to potato) Empanadas
Healthy breakfast from a place in Medellin called Al Alma. Scrambled eggs, spinach, bacon, and artisanal bread with cream cheese and sliced avocado.
The best meal I had in Colombia was on my day trip to Guatape, a small town about 2 hours outside of Medellin. The meal was prepared by my tour guide who cooked everything out of the back of his van. The menu included fresh cucumber and starfruit, avocado salad with cherry tomatoes, rice and lentil beans, salted mango and red bell peppers, mild curry chicken, mahi fish, and a beef dish. A great feast after a long drive.
Fresh fruit stands abound in Plaza de Mercado Paloquemal. Colombia is home to the most unique, exotic fruits that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. We’re talking lots of fruits from the papaya, guava, and passionfruit family and of course MANGO!
Neon shades of chili peppers. Apparently, there is only one woman in all of the Plaza de Mercado Paloquemal who sells chili peppers, and she is popular among the expat community and those who prepare home cooked Asian meals.
Ajiaco is a famous Colombian soup served with chicken, potatoes or yuka, capers, cream, and a small corn on the cob. This particular meal came with a side of rice and half of an avocado. When in Bogota, head on over to La Puerta Falsa, a restaurant specializing in Ajiaco that has been in business since 1816 and is Anthony Bourdain certified.
This is Almojabana. It is a sweet cheesy bread that you can get with bocadillo (guava jam) inside or arequipe (dulce de leche). My favorite is the bocadillo!
A plate of shaved pork and rice is a Colombian staple. I’m told this is what the locals like to eat for lunch at the market.
On a sweltering hot day, cool off with Guarapo juice, a mix of sugarcane and lime juice. Only 30 cents/1,000 Colombian pesos, and you’ll find vendors walking around most major tourist areas with trays full of juice.
Finally, perhaps my favorite snack purchase is a fresh coconut from a street vendor in Cartagena for $.60/2,000 pesos. So refreshing when walking around on a hot day and cheap enough to buy several throughout the day.
When you go to Bogota or Medellin, I highly recommend taking a food tour to learn about the kinds of foods that are special to each region of Colombia. In Bogota, go with Loon Lio who runs Bogota Foodie tours to Plaza de Mercado Paloquemal. It’s a good intro to where chefs get their ingredients for restaurants, where you can shop for fresh local ingredients (especially if you have diet restrictions), and get an idea of what/where people in Bogota go for lunch. Also, don’t forget to try lulo juice (a fruit that looks like a mini orange on the outside but a tomato on the inside) and/or guanabana (sort of a sloppy white pineapple fruit) juice. Nearly every establishment sells lulo juice, and the markets will have guanabana juice. Buen Provecho!
Which of these Colombian dishes have you tried or do you want to try?