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When it comes to international cuisines, this South American country often gets overlooked. A tapestry of Spanish and Caribbean influences, Colombian food is rich, flavoursome and suited to even the most modest budget. These are ten of the nation’s best dishes you should try.
10 Traditional Foods to Try When Visiting Colombia
1. Bandeja Paisa
This meat-heavy colossus is remarkably just a portion for one. The dish generally consists of chicharron (fried pork belly), steak, fried plantain, frijoles (beans), rice, sliced avocado, salad and a small arepa. Try it at Mi Pueblo restaurant in Medellin for the equivalent of less than £2.50.
An iconic dish of Bogota, ajiaco is a heavy stew comprised of pulled chicken and corn thickened with potatoes – it’s made tart with briny capers, and cream is sometimes added for a touch of luxury. Tuck into the dish at one of Bogota’s oldest restaurants, La Puerta Falsa.
3. Chocolate con queso
A curious amalgamation of ingredients, this cheese and hot chocolate combination is sure to raise an eyebrow with tourists. Locals dip the cheese into the rich cacao and leave it until it becomes gooey before consuming.
Complete with a small arepa and crispy skin, this is a dish commonly eaten at the weekend or on special occasions, due to its enormity. It’s created by stuffing a whole pig with more pork as well as rice, peas, onions, garlic and spices.
5. Fried mojarra
Venture north to Colombia’s tropical coastline and you’ll find that the mojarra fish is king at local restaurants. It’s often served with a patacon, a fried green-plantain fritter.
6. Arroz con coco
This is a dish that weaves together Afro-Colombian and Spanish cultures, two influences that have helped shape the historic city of Cartagena. Coconut fried rice pops up frequently on the city’s menus – compared to standard rice, it offers a certain caramelised depth.
A Colombian prawn ceviche shares more similarities with the Ecuadorian version of the dish than that made in Peru. A generous squeeze of barbecue sauce, tomato ketchup and tabasco are often added to produce a unique flavour – don’t miss it.
Making an appearance up and down Latin America, tamales are all-in-one meals containing meats, vegetables, cheese, fruits and the like. The filling is engulfed in a corn dough and wrapped in a banana leaf which is then steamed until cooked.
Deemed to be an aphrodisiac, this starchy nut also known as a “peach palm” can be bought as a snack in Cali’s central market, Galería Alameda. They are typically consumed adorned with salt and a drizzle of runny honey.
Crisp on the outside, fluffy in the middle, arepas are neutral-tasting patties made from precooked corn flour. They’re perfect as a sandwich around slow-cooked pork shoulder, black beans, queso fresco (fresh cheese), fried plantains and a piquant pepper sauce.
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