One of the best things about traveling is the opportunity to experience new and exciting foods. The flavors of Colombia absolutely kept us excited. We wanted to share with you some of our wonderful new finds:
Nispero which kind of looks like a potato, but it tastes like a cross between a pair and a date. They make amazing liquados, fresh fruit blended with milk. Tastes like a milkshake. Tastes like heaven.
Also love zapote which is related to the nispero but is orange and fleshy inside. Makes great juice.
This fruit has to be one of my all time favorites. I can eat papaya for breakfast, drink it with lunch and make a salsa with it to go with fish for dinner. The papayas are especially sweet in Colombian, and for that, I was so happy. Yes, the papayas always excite me.
Tomate de árbol
Another popular fruit, mainly used for juices. But I have heard of using tomate de árbol for medicinal purposes like using for sore throat, healing scars, and calming rough skin. The fruit tends to be acidic which is why when used for juice, a quite a bit of sugar is added. Tomate de árbol tastes like a cross between kiwis and tomatoes, and is also used in an aji (chili) salsa.
This is a Colombian favorite, but Miro and I both didn’t get onboard. The fruit has a mucus texture, that reminded me of kiwi with a strange after taste. The funny thing is, people LOVE this fruit. I have only seen lulo used in juices though, as the fruit itself does not look very appealing.
Uchuvas which are tiny orange-like grapes which are sweet and sour at the same time. So easy to keep popping then in my mouth.
Maracuyá, or passion fruit tastes similar to the flavor of mango, but more pungent, and not quite as sweet. It’s a really good fruit to try in smoothies with a little added sugar.
Guayaba – Guava
This popular fruit is found in pastries, jams and breads. Guavas can also be eaten raw if you get a nice ripe one and you can consume all three distinct parts of this fruit. It has a grainy flesh that looks like and you can take a bite through it, just like a pair. Then the firm, inner flesh area, which is a distinctive layer just within the rind which is almost identical in texture to a pear. Then I was surprised when I found the center, a soft, central section – containing hard little seeds (which you can eat) surrounded by a softer, stringy flesh. The texture is a little off putting, but it reminded me of a strawberry, which has seeds as well.
Another amazing fruit, and one of my top favorites for smoothies, blended with milk and a little sugar…. yum! Guanabana tastes exactly like what it sounds like – the marriage of guava and banana.
Pitaya / Dragon fruit
This is one of those amazing fruits that beckoned our attention at the market, so unusual to look at, it called me from across the aisle. The yellow outer skin reminded me of an artichike, but I was told they also come in pink in Asia. We opened up one, and were surprised by the white fleshy inside with tiny black seeds. The flavor is more sour and refreshing, with juicier flesh and a stronger taste. All I can say is we tried it.
Bleh! It tasted like wet chalk and Miro and I both thought they were disgusting, much to the dismay of our hosts in Popayán, Colombia’s “White City”. We tasted the chontadoro, toasted on the street, and seem to be a favorite among the locals. We didn’t get it.
But in spirit of full disclosure, I don’t like roasted chestnuts either found on the streets of New York.
Mora is another name for blackberries, which is common in the United States, but rather expensive. In Colombia, mora is abundant, cheap and always available for smoothies. Because of this fact, Miro has become a mora addict.
One of our staples in Colombia, costing roughly around 80 cents. These delicious fritters are made with shredded pork or beef, but can find them stuffed with a cheese and potato mixture. Even on the street, they are served with aji (chili sauce) and lime wedges on the side.In Colombia you can find empanadas sold everywhere, from street vendors in parks to stands outside of the churches. We admit to eating these tasty fritters at least 2 or 3 times a week, and felt not a tinge of guilt about doing so. (Miro even had a crazy dream about empanadas, posted here.)
I found this great recipe on making empanadas here.
An arepa is a dish made of ground corn dough or cooked flour, popular in Colombia, Venezuela and other Spanish speaking countries. It is similar to the Mesoamerican tortilla and even more to the Salvadoran pupusa.
The predecessor of the arepa was a staple of the Timoto-cuicas, an Amerindian group that lived in the northern Andes of Venezuela. Other Amerindian tribes in the region, such as the Arawaks and the Caribs, widely consumed a form known as casabe made from cassava (yuca). With the colonization by the Spanish, the food that would become the arepa was diffused into the rest of the region, known then as La Gran Colombia (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama).Both Colombians and Venezuelans view the arepa as a traditional national food. It has a long tradition in both countries, with local recipes that are delicious and varied.
In Colombia, the arepa has deep roots in the colonial farms and the cuisine of the indigenous people. While its preparation was once a tedious process of processing and cooking raw corn, today, they are usually bought already prepared or made from “instant” flours.Arepas are usually eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Common toppings include butter, cheese, scrambled eggs, Colombian chorizo, and hogao.
We’ve had fried plantains all through out Central America, but there was something very special about the patacones we tasted for the first time in Colombia. They looked like tiny plantain pancakes, golden brown, sweet, but balanced with enough sea salt. We were in love from the first one, so when I tried to make them, I assumed the plantains needed to be mashed first then fried. Instead, I kept making a crumbled mess and ended up frying plantain chips instead. Then, one day I asked a Colombian woman in the kitchen of a restaurant to show me how to make them… and I have never been so grateful. Simple and it’s about timing. I found a wonderful recipe link for you with a step by step process. Yes, patacones are another Colombian food staple, and actually I made these again, yesterday for breakfast. We love them!
Also known as a giant plate of food. Luckily when Miro was in the middle of a growth spurt, we discovered this plate. Paisa platter must be served in large oval-shaped trays. There are 13 main ingredients that must be present for the dish to be considered a canonical bandeja paisa:
- Red beans cooked with pork
- White rice
- Ground meat
- Pork rind
- Fried eggs
- Chorizo with lemon
- Hogao sauce
- Black pudding
- Side dish:Mazamorra (maize-derived beverage similar to atole) with milk
- Ground panela
The origin of the bandeja paisa was influenced by several different cultures that inhabited Colombia throughout the centuries, including the Indigenous peoples of Colombia, as well as colonial Spaniards and Africans. In the 19th century, there was presence of French and British colonialists who brought their cuisine with them.
In 2005 the Colombian government planned to make bandeja paisa the national dish, with name changed to “bandeja montañera” (mountain tray) to avoid the exclusion of people outside the Paisa Region.A number of people opposed this designation, arguing that only a small percentage of the Colombian population consumes it in regular basis, that it is originated in a single region of Colombia (Antioquia) and so on.
Ok, this isn’t something we tasted or encountered, but thought it was interesting and wanted to include this in our Colombian food list. Apparently ants are not a a common food, but it is still a large enough phenomenon to mention Prepared ants are often given as a wedding gift, because they are believed to be an aphrodisiac and this tradition dates back to pre Colombian times.
During the raining season ants are harvested, and the queen ants are used with their large legs and wings being removed and then soaked in salty water and roasted in a ceramic pot. In Colombian Spanish they are called “Hormigas Culonas” (literally translated as big-ass ants). Check out how these ants are prepared with photos.
Arequipe is also called dulce de leche, but we are more familiar with the word caramel. Whatever you call it, it’s aboslultely delicious and consumed by the gallons in Colombia. This was the first time I’ve tasted it after it was freshly prepared, and Colombian’s consume arequipe casually on bread. I found this great recipe is you want to try it at home:
Miro and I stayed in the coffee region in Colombia for 6 weeks and noticed that along with coffee, pastries, sweets and cakes were the perfect accompaniament. Over the six week period we were there, we sampled quite a bit of these delicious treats. Check out this post we wrote (with a tasty photo essay) focusing on the fabulous sweets we found in Manizales.
Volumes could be said about Colombian coffee. It is the foundation of this country. Coffee is grown in 18 different provinces, and directly affects the economies of 590 towns throughout the country. Here are some fun facts about coffee production in Colombia:
- Colombia is a leading exporter of coffee beans, second only to Brazil.
- There are over 500,000 coffee farmers (called cafeteros) in Colombia.
- The average size of a coffee farm in Colombia is 1.6 hectacres (or about 2 acres).
- After it is planted, a coffee tree needs three or four years to grow to its full-size and blossom.
- Coffee trees bear flowers and ripened fruit, called coffee berries, at the same time.
- When the coffee berries turn bright red, they are ready for harvesting.
- Coffee berries are usually picked by hand. A fast worker can pick between six and seven basketfuls a day.
- The fruit is placed into a de-pulping machine. This machine removes the two coffee beans that are found inside the red fruit. The beans are then soaked in cold water for 24 hours.
- The coffee beans are dried in the sun, and then taken to the market to sell.
- The average coffee tree produces one pound of coffee a year.
If you are a coffee lover, as I am, Colombia is definitely the place to be.