Food blog: Colombia

After 8 months in South America, we’d grown a little weary of the regular fare by the time we hit Colombia, and sadly it didn’t offer masses of variation. Having said that, we did find some new artery-bursting dishes, interesting boozes and an abundance of tropical fruits and fruit-related goods due to the extreme variety of climates on offer in the country. Here’s our run-down of the top Colombian foods:

1. Bandeja Paisa

A dish invented in the proud, fiery Paisan region of the country, this is basically a super-hearty version of a fry-up. Think eggs, sausages, chorizo, beef, beans, avocado, probably some fried bread… all smashed together on a plate. Cover in seasoning and sauces and get involved!

2. Chocolate Santafereno
A steaming cup of dark hot chocolate served puzzlingly with a big wedge of acidic white cheese. Apparently the local way to do it is dropping the cheese into the chocolate then drinking it. Crazy old Colombians, what will they think of next?!

3. Postobon and beer
Oh, this is what they think of next. So Postobon is a national obsession – the Inka Cola of Colombia, this is a bright pink fizzy apple drink that sponsors most things in the country. Locals like to mix it with a beer (like a delicious light Pilsen) and make a kind of Colombian shandy. Weirdly, it really works!

4. Aguadiente (see above image)
Devil’s liquor. I partook in far too much of the old clear throat-burner in my time in Colombia, and on more than one occasion, it resulted in a macho drinking competition and subsequent vomming. It’s aniseed-y, but more intense than sambuca, and comes in sugar-filled (bearable) and sugar-free (revolting) versions. Make like a Colombian and drink a whole bottle with your mates and a few shot glasses. Or don’t.

5. Arepa
Pretty grim cornmeal pancakes that are served everywhere as breakfast or drunk snacks. We tried one covered in veggies and sauce that was passable, but the regular (with aforementioned acidic white cheese and a huge frankfurter) was a pretty tasteless, weirdly gritty experience

6. Exotic fruits, fruit juices and pastries!
This was a real winner. So Colombia’s massively diverse geographically which means it has one of the biggest ranges of fruit produced in any one country! Which means fruit is cheap and bountiful. So we frequently raided local fruit and veg shops for new weird and wonderful fruits to try, and often stopped at incredible bakeries where you could get a fresh juice (with milk, as is the fashion) and a huge fruity pastry for about a quid, together. Some of our faves were Pittayas (yellow dragon fruit), guava-filled round pastries, and ‘Lulo’ juice which was a mad-good cross between passionfruit and banana. Mmm.

7. Big-assed ants
Known locally as ‘hormigas’, these ‘big assed ants’ are found in the Santander region and are harvested annually to control the population (apaz they can eat through walls!) We found some fried ones in a little colonial town, and they were pretty good! If you can get over the fact that it VERY clearly looks like a HUGE ant.

8. Mojarra
Delicious trout-like fish that you’ll find in most local little eateries. He looks a bit scary but tastes good inside. A dude on our table took to sucking the head dry afterwards, but I refrained.

9. Tinto coffee
The local way to drink coffee is strong, black and out of a tiny cup. Super cheap but often lacking in flavour (sadly Colombians are mostly priced out of buying their own delicious locally produced fresh coffee) – it’s nevertheless a pretty good energy-boost for those long hot Colombian days.

10. Delicious, crispy chicken
So this was an ongoing theme for much of South America, but Colombian chicken was extra good. Served either roasted or fried, on a plate with a salted new potato, usually some sweet potato, and often with a packet of honey to drizzle on. My favourite part is you don’t get a knife and fork, you just get some plastic gloves to wear so you can dig right in. Heavenly!