Plantain, cheese, yuca, beans and chocolate. The main ingredients to some of the best Colombian dishes. Oh and their favourite means of cooking is deep frying. I guess you can stop reading now, I’ve pretty much covered Colombian cuisine.
But for those curious chefs, the question is, how do they use these ingredients to give flavour to Colombia…
Bandeja Paisa. The number one most traditional dish of Medellin. You can understand why, when you see that it’s made up of beans, plantain, chicharron (pork crackling), morcilla (black sausage/ pig’s blood), arepas, chorizo, egg, avocado and rice. Yep it’s very carb and protein loaded, but it contains traditional ingredients and a good balance. You won’t be hungry for most of the day after a plate of Bandeja Paisa.
On the JS scale: 8/10
Lechona. A common find in fast-food eateries. It’s an interesting process. The bones are carefully taken out of a pig (ensuring that it stays intact) and it’s stuffed with various ingredients and spices including rice, onion, peas, drenched in orange juice and set in the oven for up to 12 hours. If you’re around at the end of the day, you often see the cooks putting the pig into the oven to have the lechona ready for the next day. It’s then served up as a big blend of rice, pork and its stuffed ingredients.
On the JS scale: 6/10
Sopa de frijoles. I love the mixture in this soup! It’s very Colombian with its use of chorizo, beans and plantain. You might think the plantain is an unusual addition, but I loved it! It adds just the right balance to the salty beans and chorizo. Often the whole dish is topped with scrunched-up cold chips and an arepa or two on the side. On the JS scale: 9/10
Sancocho. Another soup on the list. Soups are a big part of the cuisine, especially in colder Bogota. This one isn’t quite as thick as sopa de frijoles, but it definitely hits the spot. With it’s boiled yuca, plantain, chicken, potato and its numerous other spices, the soup has a great range of flavours. You can both slurp up the rich flavours that have dissolved into the soupy liquid and bite into the soft yuca, potato and plantain that have absorbed a good balance of the flavours floating around them. On the JS scale: 9/10
Ceviche Colombiano. Like most Latin countries, Colombia too has its version of ceviche. It’s not hard to guess how they add their Colombian touch. (Hint: take a look at the image on the left.)
On the JS scale: 7/10
Colombian Street Food: Empanadas Colombianas and Papas Rellenas
Despite all the pictures I have featured, I rarely ate out during my stay in Colombia (let’s say once a month), unless it was cheap street food to eat on the go. There are so many delicious options lining the street. Let’s take one example: Empanadas. I’m mostly mentioning this one because this was mum’s favourite snack. It wouldn’t take long after we had hit the streets for mum to ask: ‘So when are we getting an empanada?’
Every country in South America have their own version of an empanada. Colombia’s (and apparently Venezuela’s) are known to be deep fried (surprise, surprise) and made with corn flour, giving them their yellow colour as opposed to the soft brown colour on most other national empanadas. I often picked this one up from the side of the street, however my favourite street food option was Papas Rellenas. This deep fried potato and meat mixture had the perfect balance of a soft and crunchy texture and hits all the right spots on my taste buds.
Empanadas on the JS scale: 6/10
Papas Rellenas on the JS scale: 9/10
Cheesy hot dog. Hot dogs are international hey? It’s practically the national dish of Chile, so why mentioned it here? Well let’s talk about this particular one featured on the left. The sausage is cooked and the bread ready to go, but first the preparer slathers on a cheesy spread over the bread, the sausage is dipped in a cheese fondue and slopped onto the bread and more cheese is sprinkled over the top. Remember the very first line of this blog post, well this just proves why.
On the JS scale: 5/10. ( I do like cheese, but is this much worth the calories?)
Pastel Enyucado. This wasn’t every Colombian’s favourite dessert, but to me it definitely tasted Colombian. Typically this is found on the coast and like it’s name suggests is made primarily from Yuca, with coconut, cheese, sugar and ground star anis (if you can find it [or cinnamon if you can’t]). Why I know it’s ingredients so well, was because I made it myself -twice. I first tried it at a family easter party and felt it was pretty Colombian, so thought I should give it a shot. First round I used too much anis, which became an overbearing flavour. However, next time round, I acquired the help of a native Costeño (and fellow housemate) to give me the perfect balance to give to my mum on her arrival in Colombia.
On the JS scale: 6/10
Cholado. Colombia, without doubt has the best fruit in the world! This means they have an amazing range of fruit juices, deserts and fruit concoctions. Cholado is the perfect example. Pretty much it’s a heap of different fruits piled up and over a blend of ice and shredded coconut, topped with condensed milk, dribbled with either berry or passionfruit syrup and sprinkled with chocolate powder.
On the JS scale: 10/10 (I am 100% a sweets person, so obviously I score it favourably.)
Torta Negra Envinada. My parents and I heard about this cake on our Free Walking Tour of Medellin and made it our mission to hunt it down. At the very end of Carrera 70, in popular Laureles we finally find it. It’s described as a key sweet during celebrations, filled with raisins, prunes, figs and cinnamon and left to sit under a coating of wine and rum for a couple of days. Honestly at the end of the day it tasted a lot like Christmas pudding.
On the JS scale: 8/10
Cheese and hot chocolate. Yes you read that right. And to clarify, it is cheese inside a cup of hot chocolate. This is very popular up in the mountains surrounding Medellin. The view is beautiful, especially at night, but it is very cold. So a hot chocolate is very welcomed. And you’re not there to have a small cup, but rather a small bowl, so the cheese fits right in. Ideally you are going to use some sort of white cheese, whether that’s farmer cheese, halloumi cheese, mozzarella, but nothing too strong.
On the JS scale: 6/10