Potatoes, Peppers and Corn at a Colombian market

Corn, peppers and potatoes are staples of many Latin American diets, and Colombia is no exception. During a recent visit to the Palo Quemado market in Bogota, I found some interesting variations of basic ingredients I thought I knew plenty about.

This corn is missing a few teeth….

Colombian corn pp

But husked and cleaned…

Corn husking pp

and then ground….

Corn work pp

I added eggs, milk and a touch of salt and raw sugar and made some nice corn pancakes.

Purple corn pp

And corn comes in this festive purpule hue also, good for making chicha.

This man makes a living selling husked corn for 2,800 pesos/kilo….

Corn seller pp

While this one dedicates his time to potatoes…

Potato seller pp

Potatoes that come in odd colors and sizes, like these blackish/purple ones…

More purple potatoes pp

And these little bright purple beauties….

Purple potatoes pp

Peppers are also abundant in this market:

Pepper baskets pp

Available in a rainbow of colors.

Peppers pp

Off to the Market: Paloquemao Food Market

Paloquemao is one of the largest food markets in Bogota. They sell both wholesale and retail, and you can buy meats, fish, veggies, fruit, flowers, beans, quinoa, seeds, coffee…and anything else you can think of (and many things you’d never imagined).

A good place to start the morning is at one of the bakeries. The intoxicating smell of fresh Colombian breads led me here – almojabanas, buñuelos, pan de bono. Of course, accompany it all with a tinto (the traditional way to drink coffee in Colombia, black).

You can also try a truly Colombian breakfast – caldo or calentao. 

The flower selection at this market is unbelievable. Come early and browse through the flowers that farmers bring in every morning; there’s a huge selection and cheap prices.

Paloquemao is the place to get all your vegetables. You can even pick up fresh sugar cane to sweeten your coffee or for baking. You can get fresh ground corn as well as banana leaves, which are great for wrapping tamales.

Eggs are available in large quantities, whether from quails or chickens. Apparently, some retailers believe no refrigeration is necessary in cool Bogota.

Peppers come in bright colors and varied sizes.

Peppers in Paloquemao Market, Bogota

And root vegetables take on odd shapes (these are cubios).

Cubios

And after all that exertion, fuel up with the excellent lechon on the loading dock beyond the fish section.

Lechon Paloquemoa Market Bogota

Calle 19 #25-02, Bogota

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A Restaurant Called Abasto

The facade is plain white and the blue letters simple. Abasto. As in, going to the store. We step in the restaurant and the first thing we’re hit with is the sight of some crumble-topped muffins which are just gorgeous.  I hadn’t actually been hungry before that moment but quickly got hungry.

Crumble wr

Since we were with a large group, we were ushered back to the despensa (which means the pantry).  This back room was dominated by a large wood table that seats about 14 people, with a wall stocked full of wines behind it. Hanging on the walls were dried garlic, loufas and flowers. There was an area to buy things, like olives and their oil, quinoa, corn meal and other organic products.

Inside Abasto wr

Then we started searching the menu. I remember some talk about some eggs in olive oil and oregano, but got lost in one word…pancakes. The unfortunate thing is that I didn’t ask what kind of pancakes they were offering. American pancakes?  South American pancakes? The South American ones I’ve had have all too often been rubbery, served in a leisurely manner so they always arrive cold, and no one else seems to care that the butter won’t melt on those hard slabs of wheat flour.

Anyway, without asking, without preparing myself, I ordered those pancakes.

In the meantime, the scones arrived. Oh, the scones. Made with delicious cream. Tender. Studded with berries. Served with a little pot of house-made berry jam and some very tempting butter. Then the bread basket arrived, thick slices of house-made bread, full of healthy grains, with lots of butter and fresh-made berry jam for the top.

scones wr

Bread basket wr

Then the eggs arrived. Not mine, since I had opted for the pancakes in all my American greediness, but my friends’ eggs arrived. Two little eggs nestled in their own little frying pan, with some cream and spinach. The deep orange yolks stared up at me. Wow. How did they get that orange? A taste, offered by a generous friend, was surprising. What flavorful eggs. Apparently that’s what happens when chickens are happy, they produce good eggs. At least, that’s what the sign on the wall led me to believe. And they cost more, too. Another friend had ordered an arepa, a thin toasty looking arepa with lots of grated cheese on top.

Then my plate arrived. Three pancakes, some more of the berry jam, and a sliced banana off to the side, served on a large white plate.

Three pancakes. I stared at them. Were those pancakes? Really? How did the shape get so perfect? They looked suspiciously like arepas. They were perfectly round, rather thick, and very browned, the kind of browned that only comes from adding lots of butter. I moved one with my fork. The butter was melting on top of them, so the temperature was right. Although it wouldn’t be for long on this cool Bogota morning.

Ok, so back to the look of the pancake, and the real question. Was it really an arepa? As I prodded with my fork, my curiosity was satisfied; it was a pancake. Wheat flour. I spread some jam on it (no syrup available) and cut into it. Good texture, though a little too firm for me. Like a stressed out pancake, not soft enough.

A bite.

Wow. What kind of pancake was that? Pancake meets organic and healthy. Not very sweet, but with good flavor. And what was that white layer inside? A closer look revealed a thin layer of ricotta cheese within the pancake, as if enclosed in it. How in the world did they get that in there? Delicious.

Honey was also served with it, a thick, almost solid honey that I had last tried years ago in the mountains of Venezuela. A delicious topping to the pancakes, though perhaps a little insipid. With a little berry jam, it was perfect.

Pancakes wr

An American pancake? By no means. Excellent? Definitively.

After the meal I got a chance to look around the restaurant, which has a marketplace feel to it. Comfortable, busy on a Sunday morning, with an emphasis on getting together with loved ones for a cheery meal.

I received the most unusual surprise when I opened the bathroom door. My surprise wasn’t so much in the clean bathroom (an important detail) but the smell.  A fresh smell of flowers…in the latrine. Hmmm. Unusual indeed. I looked right and left, saw the usual mirror, soap dispenser, sink…where was that smell coming from…

The rafters. I looked up, and imagine that, tied from the wood rafters were bunches of fresh and dried flowers, giving a feeling of an upside down garden within the bathroom.

Flowers from the rafters wr

Overall, visiting Abasto was an enriching experience. It wasn’t just some decent food, but a feeling that more than my stomach had been fed. It was a whole-person experience, satisfying my taste buds, my health considerations, and my love of all things natural.

Abasto, Carrera 6 #119b-52, Usaquen, Bogota

Street Food in Bogota

Something that amazes me when I walk around Bogota is street food. Now, I don’t mean just any street food, but food that shows the ingenuity and creativity of Colombian people. Here, foods that perhaps should only be made in a restaurant are taken to the street, made right in front of the client, taste good, and as a bonus, are really cheap.

Continue reading Street Food in Bogota

Everything Edible in Colombia