If there is one thing I personally enjoy about travelling the world, it's the food. For every country and for every region there is a distinct flavour. A special dish. A delicacy. In Colombia, the cuisine is influenced by a mix of Spanish, African, and indigenous cooking. Menus vary regionally and are further influenced by the ingredients available to that particular area.
A personal favourite of mine is ajiaco. This soup is from the Bogotá and Andean regions of Colombia and is traditionally prepared with potatoes, chicken and a local herb called guasca. I like to eat mine with rice and avocado but it's also common to add capers and cream.
Justin's favourite is from the region of Medellín where locals eat a feast of beans, ground meat, chorizo, fried egg, pork crackle, rice, avocado and arepas. This meal is gigantic and is referred to as bandeja paisa.
And just outside of Medellín and nestled on the banks of the Peñol Reservoir, one can acquaint themselves with another regional specialty, trout. While I tucked into my succulent whole fish smothered in a creamy garlic sauce, Justin once again ordered the bandeja paisa.
Like the rest of Latin America, Colombia has no shortage of street food stands and vendors. A runaway favourite is the empanada. They're delicious little deep-fried parcels stuffed with a range of different ingredients including chicken, meat, potato, rice, and egg...(anything really). It's also imperative to do as the locals do and eat yours at the cart. Vendors will have a range of different sauces including our favourite - ají. It's a little spicy and made from cilantro.
Another street fave is the arepa. Personally, I like to fry mine up with a little garlic butter at home, but on the street stands you'll find them stuffed with cheese, egg, and other tasty morcels.
Another Colombian favourite is the humble panaderia, or bakery. There are 6 on our street alone, and our street is only 1.5 kilometres long! You can enjoy fresh bread, cookies, brownies, and other delicious desserts at really cheap prices.
During a visit to the coffee region, we visited the small town of Salento. We drank coffee (of course) but we also had the opportunity to eat a giant banana nacho! Ok, it wasn't even really a banana but instead plantain that had been squished and squashed before being deep-fried, covered in meat, sauce, and cheese and served up with an icy cold beer.
It was on another out-of-city adventure, we tried sancocho de gallina or chicken soup. There are a number of variants for this soup but it can be eaten much the same way as ajiaco - with rice and avocado.
Before Christmas, Colombian's celebrate the Novena which is a ritual of prayers and blessings over sweet treats and bell ringing. One of those tempting treats was natilla. It's similar in consistency to a firm custard but tastes more like a caramel fudge.
Fruit and vegetables are also reasonably well-priced in the city. For everything in the above photo, we spent roughly AUD $7-9 from the local vendors. Super market chains charge a considerable amount more.
Drinks are also important to mention and we'll start with coca tea. Tasting very similar to green tea, this stuff is brilliant in assisting with altitude sickness. Colombians also really enjoy juice. They practically juice every fruit available to them and stands are frequent in high traffic areas.
As well as juice, the local liquor is a nasty aniseed flavoured thing called aguardiente. Justin doesn't mind it but my stomach doesn't care much for the taste. Instead I prefer to stick to beer or a warm cup of tinto (black coffee).
Milo is also an extremely popular beverage here too...only Colombians enjoy it a little differently to what we're used to. It is common to see people dipping their bread into the cup, or even stranger adding double cream cheese which melts into a rubbery blob. Can't say we felt the same way and still prefer to eat ours straight from the tin with a spoon...
We've enjoyed a varied diet during our stay in Colombia and while we can't mention everything we've tried and tasted we can recommend taking a Bogota Foodie Food Safari, owned and operated by fellow Aussie, Loon, if you're in Bogotá. Loon will take you for a tour of the Paloquemao markets and feed you so much food you'll almost burst. It's a great afternoon and Loon's knowledge of food and Bogotá makes for a great starting point if you're new to the city or culture (http://www.bogotafoodie.com/bogota-food-tours/).
I also have to make special mention of these fabulously delectable treats, milhojas, or a thousand leaves. This is what happens when a matchstick and a vanilla slice have babies without the strawberry jam of course and loads of arequipe (caramel sauce)!!
AND a big thank you to one of my awesome students for this particular milhoja that I was able to enjoy for my birthday. It was delicious!!
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