“To travel is to eat.”Michelle Shappirio
One of the greatest joys of traveling to a new country is tasting its unique cuisine. And this was true when I moved to Colombia over a year ago. After trying everything I could for the past year, here are my top 10 favorite Colombian foods and drinks I recommend that every traveler tastes.
Arepas de Choclo
Don’t judge an arepa until you’ve tried an arepa de choclo. These are unlike most arepas that arrive on your dinner plate at any basic “tipico” restaurant here. Arepas de Choclo are usually made from scratch and stuffed with cheese. The result is a soft, corn dough that melts in your mouth. Learn more about how they’re made in this article by Andrés Jaramillio of the popular Chia, Colombia restaurant Andrés Carne de Res at Animal Gourmet.
Colombian Empanadas are a fried cornmeal pastry filled with meat, potatoes, and hogao (a mix of onions, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro). They are probably the number one reason my pants are too tight since moving here. They’re served with fresh ají picante if you’re lucky.
This soup is from Bogotá, but it can be found throughout Colombia. It’s a chicken and potato stew typically garnished with avocado, capers, and cream. What makes this stew special is two things: the buttery papa criolla (one of Colombia’s many different varieties of potatoes) and the originally grown in the Andes herb, Guascas.
Colombian tamales are bigger than Mexico’s and are wrapped in plantain leaves. The corn dough, vegetables, and chicken are steamed to perfection. My favorite tamale is found in Bogotá’s La Puerta Falta. Anthony Bourdain called this restaurant’s tamale: “a thing of beauty!” And don’t forget to order a hot chocolate with cheese too.
Pescado Frito con Coco Rice
This is my meal of choice in the coastal cities of Cartagena and Santa Marta. It’s a fried, whole fish (usually red snapper or mojarra) served with fried plantain patties known as patacones and a sweet rice cooked in coconut milk.
Ceviche is also popular in Cartagena and Santa Marta, but with its own Colombian twist. My favorites were a shrimp and avocado ceviche from the Lulo Cafe Bar in Santa Marta, and the ceviche bathed in mango sauce from La Cevicheria in Cartagena.
A paisa is someone from the Northwest region of Colombia including Medellín, Manizales, Pereira, and Armenia, and this is a platter of the region’s best food. It usually includes red beans cooked with pork, rice, ground beef, fried egg, chorizo, arepa, avocado and chicharrón (fried pork belly). So yes, it is big enough to share.
Limonada de Coco
My beach drink of choice, this rich coconut limeade, or limonada de coco, won’t disappoint. The refreshing blend of coconut cream, lime juice, and sugar is just the thing after a day in the sun. And for the record, rum is an excellent addition!
This fried pastry ball is especially popular around Christmas, and it might even be filled with a Colombian white cheese. They’re only slightly sweetened, and they are a perfect complement to a cup of locally grown coffee.
No mention of the flavors of Colombia would be complete without mentioning the country’s diverse and delicious fresh tropical fruits. You can check out Colombia Eco Travel’s Complete Guide to Colombia’s Exotic Fruits here.
Want to learn more about Colombian cuisine? Consider making the Cartagena Gastronomic Tour, the Bogotá Food Safari, or the Medellín Street Food Tour part of your next trip. Tours can be arranged as a part of your complete itinerary through Colombia Eco Travel.