So what should be on your hot list of Colombian foods to try when you visit Bogota? Here are some of our favorites.
(Disclaimer, warning and apology: You will not find arepas on this list. Not because we don’t love them, but just because we’ve talked too much about them already.
And we promise to not mention coffee.)
For meat lovers
Bandeja paisa is not for the faint of heart. Born in the “paisa” region of Colombia, it’s called bandeja because it’s served, not on a plate, but on a tray (bandeja) to accommodate the huge portions. Rice, plantain, chicharron, ground beef, blood sausage, avocado, arepa, and red beans, with a fried egg on top. Did we mention the large portions? (Tip – plan on a nap).
This famous dish pleases just about everyone: a whole pork gets oven roasted for hours until it’s perfect, with a crunchy outer skin and deliciously soft meat on the inside. See what we mean? Delicious.
Lechona is served throughout Colombia at little roadside stands, fine restaurants, or food fairs.
While we’re talking about pork, let’s discuss chicharrones. Perhaps one of the most common ways to eat pork (and a fun word to try to pronounce), these fried pork rinds are readily available everywhere and are inexpensive. Deep fat fried until crispy, they’re cut into small pieces and served with arepa, plantain or potato. Pick it up from street vendors throughout the day.
This is another one for meat lovers. Fritanga is a bunch of fried meat cut up into small pieces, thrown together and served with yucca or plantain. Good with beer. Bad for cholesterol.
For those who are braver, try mondongo (tripe soup) or hormigas culonas (large fried ants).
For carb lovers
Pan de bono
These small puffy breads are light as air and common throughout Colombia. Made with yucca flour and queso costeño, a hard white cheese, they make an excellent breakfast or snack. A word of warning: they are addictive.
Mazamorra, or peto, is corn that’s cooked very very well until it reaches a soupy consistency. Mazamorra antioqueña is usually served in milk and with heaping servings of grated cheese and panela (raw sugar cane). It’s common to see people selling it from carts on the streets; listen for their call of “Pehhhhhto.”
Buñuelos are one of my favorite Colombian foods, when they’re done right. Made of cassava flour and cheese, they have to be freshly fried and served warm (or preferably hot). If not, they tend to take on the consistency of a rubber ball. So get them in the morning at a place that sells a lot of them.
If you like everything thrown in…
You’ll find tamales throughout Latin America, but Colombia puts a different spin on them. Families in Bogota have the weekend tradition of eating them for a late breakfast in restaurants and bakeries. Large and steaming hot, they are made with ground corn or corn flour and are filled with meat, chicken, pork, vegetables, and rice, then neatly tied up in plantain leaves and boiled. Each region of Colombia has their own version of tamales. Look for variations where rice or plantain encase the meat. They may also throw in peas, beans, egg, veal, chicken, capers or raisins.
As the name suggests, Calentao (which means warmed up) began as warmed-up left overs served for breakfast. Rice, ripe plantain, chicken, chorizo, potatoes, beef, beans, and sausage are all thrown into the pan and heated up together. Corn, lentils, and even pasta can also be added to the mix. And don’t forget the fried egg to go on top.
On the sweet side
Fruit in Colombia comes in all colors, sizes, shapes and flavors. The names are tantalizing and unusual – lulo, maracuyá, granadilla, pitaaya, and nispero. Tart mango biche is green mango that is cut into thin long strips that have a spaghetti-like appearance. You can ask for it sprinkled with lime, pepper, salt or even doused with sweetened condensed milk. Salpicon is a huge serving of tropical fruit salad (with or without ice cream).
These thin, round wafers are an inexpensive sweet snack, served sandwich-style and filled with arequipe (a South American caramel-type sauce). You can also choose from grated white cheese, peanuts, passion fruit sauce, mora (berry) sauce, or cream.
What are your favorite Colombian foods? Please tell us about them in the comment section.