Colombia is not the country to be counting calories in. In fact, it’s the kind of country where you need to discreetly unbutton your pants under the table and tuck in for something delicious because great food is around every corner.
Like most countries, cuisine differs depending on the region, and Colombia is not an exception. But even though food differs from city to city, Colombian cuisine still has common characteristics no matter which part you visit.
A classic Colombian meal consists of a slab of meat, usually chicken, pork or beef. Next to the meat, you will probably find some white rice. What little plate room left over is normally reserved for a mixed of cooked vegetables and potatoes. Soup usually comes before the entre and is included in the price of the meal. (Soup is a staple in Colombia, no matter how high the outside temperature climbs.) The great thing about this traditional type of meal is the price. Soup, an entre and a drink will cost about 9,000 to 12,000 pesos. That’s about 3 to 4 USD. This is the perfect meal for travelers who want to eat traditional Colombian cuisine, but don’t want to break the bank.
If you visit Colombia, there are certain foods you just have to try. The country has so many delicious dishes, we could be here all day listing them. For time’s sake, here are just a few:
Arepa: An arepa is cooked dough full of possibilities. These corn or flour patties can be found anywhere in Colombia. The most basic kind of arepa is filled with cheese and butter, but these babies can get extravagant. Some arepas are served filled with various meats, egg, cheese and crispy potato bits.
Empanada: Like arepas, empanadas can be purchased from street venders. Empanadas are fried dough pockets filled with anything from rice, cheese, meat or egg. These are great for an on-the-go snack, although many people huddle around the empanada stand while eating, often to be close the various sauces that are spooned onto the empanada.
Bandeja Paisa: Let’s just call this dish a “festival of meat.” This traditional dish originates from Antioquia, where Medellin is located. The dish consists of pork rinds, ground beef, two types of sausages, beans, rice, a fried egg and an avocado slice. The story goes farmers use to eat this protein packed meal for breakfast before they went to work the land. Since you probably won’t be “working the land” on a visit to Colombia, it might be a good idea to order the half-portion of the Bandeja Paisa.
Ajiaco: As we mentioned before, soup is a big deal in Colombia. One of the most popular types of soup is called Ajiaco. It hails from the Bogotá area, but people all over Colombia sip on this soup. It is made up of chicken, two types of potatoes, a half an ear of corn and guasca leaves. It often comes with a side of rice and an avocado slice. Many people like to put rice in their Ajiaco.
One of the best parts of Colombian cuisine is learning how to actually make it. Why just stuff your face with arepas on vacation when you could learn how to make them so you can stuff your face at home, too? Taking a cooking class while in Colombia is a great way to learn more about the traditional cuisine, and gain new skills and memories in the process.