About the Food of Colombia

At the tippity-top of South America sits the great country called Colombia. Colombians benefit from a varied landscape, from mountains and rainforest – typical of South America, to sun-bleached Caribbean beaches. To quote National Geographic (and the prettiest sentence I’ve read in recent history – it actually makes me hungry for sand)…

Wedged between Venezuela to the east, Brazil to the south, and the Caribbean to the north, it’s the only country in South America whose sugared beaches are lapped by both the Atlantic and Pacific.

If this sentence also made you hungry, Colombian food will satisfy. Aside from their world famous coffee, the food and drink is hearty and plentiful. Eggs and meat provide the basis for most meals. Avocado and corn also contribute to an endless bounty of salads, dressings, sauces, tamales, and breads.

The “national dish” is considered bandeja paisa, a giant platter filled with meats, sausages, fried eggs, beans, rice, fried plantains, salad, and cornmeal fritters. I’m not exactly sure how all that food could possibly count for just one dish!

If you’re heading to a festival in Colombia, you’ll probably sample a sweet rice dish which tastes hauntingly familiar. Ask the name and the secret is out – Colombians love Coca-cola Rice, often prepared with additional ingredients such as onion, raisins, or other aromatics.

On the lighter side, Changua con Huevo is a much loved brothy, milky soup served with plenty of green onion, cilantro and poached egg. With a crusty loaf of bread, this warm breakfast food is filling enough for supper.

Cold drinks include thick and creamy Avena, made with oatmeal, cinnamon, and sugar.  For those who prefer corn – they even have a corn milkshake called mazamorra. While these are sweet enough for dessert, those with a serious sweet tooth can hunt down dulce de leche desserts – like stuffed crepes. Also enjoyed are coconut rice puddings, curds in syrup and guava-jelly filled pastries.

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Comments

  1. Collette Lemons says:

    Years ago i used to make Crepes for the kids.

  2. Here is my ode to the Bandeja Paisa, also known as Plato Montanero (hillbilly platter). It’s hardly the apex of Colombian cuisine but I like it.

    In that wonderful black comedy set in Medellin, “Our lady of the assassins”, which plays like a mix between Kubrick and Visconti, one character says, lets go far far away to New York City. And the reply… no, too many Colombians. Most of the Colombians in New York live and eat near Roosevelt Av and though I’ve never been to Medellin, whenever I go to a Colombian resto on Roosevelt Av in Queens, I always get the plato montanero.

    There are a lot of other Colombian dishes, some I’ve seen only in cookbooks. I think the coastal regions have special seafood dishes. But I’ve never tried to find them. So this post is a panegyric to the plato montanero.

    The mountain platter, which some people have tried to make the Colombian national dish (but people from Bogota and the coast oppose) is indeed a mountain of food. It is too blg for the biggest platter so it’s usually served on two huge plates, sometimes three. It contains… a huge floppy top round steak, a piece of fried pork belly as long as my forearm and half as big, rice, brown beans, two fried eggs, some fried plaintains, an arepa, maybe an avocado. There’s also bread and salad in case you’re still hungry.

    I think it’s more a symbol of abundance than a dish people like to eat, but whenever I get one on a cold winter day I devour it all in a fit of gluttonous ecstasy. My favorite part is the pork belly, the chicharron. I skip dessert though.

  3. Kay from Toronto says:

    This is a side note about travelling and food. You have reminded me by taking us to Colombia this week. I went to Cartagena, Colombia on one of my first out-of-country (out of Canada) trips in 1990.

    We attended several buffets and I kept asking what this meat was in this stew, and what that meat was in that dish — after already tasting them and not quite being able to place things. I would be told chicken or pork or beef or lamb, always something I was already rather familiar with at home. Astoundingly they tasted different than at home.

    This was when I learned what a great impact the diet of an animal can have on its taste. Colombian farmers feed their livestock quite a different diet than Canadian farmers do. It wasn’t just flesh either. Eggs tasted different, and milk too — imagine what a difference in their milk process and ours. Fruits, veggies and grains likewise dependent on the make-up of the soil and other environmental factors, although my palate notices it more with meats and fish. I started looking for this when I travel as it gives me food for thought about both home and wherever I visit.

    Here is an example more commonly known. Canadian salmon: beautiful. Australia salmon: bland. But I didn’t know until I got to Australia that their tuna was so much tastier than ours!

    Keep up the great work! It really is food for thought around here.

  4. Kay from Toronto says:

    This is a side note about travelling and food. You have reminded me by taking us to Colombia this week. I went to Cartagena, Colombia on one of my first out-of-country (out of Canada) trips in 1990.

    We attended several buffets and I kept asking what this meat was in this stew, and what that meat was in that dish — after already tasting them and not quite being able to place things. I would be told chicken or pork or beef or lamb, always something I was already rather familiar with at home. Astoundingly they tasted different than at home.

    This was when I learned what a great impact the diet of an animal can have on its taste. Colombian farmers feed their livestock quite a different diet than Canadian farmers do. It wasn’t just flesh either. Eggs tasted different, and milk too — imagine what a difference in their milk process and ours. Fruits, veggies and grains likewise dependent on the make-up of the soil and other environmental factors, although my palate notices it more with meats and fish. I started looking for this when I travel as it gives me food for thought about both home and wherever I visit.

    Here is an example more commonly known. Canadian salmon: beautiful. Australia salmon: bland. But I didn’t know until I got to Australia that their tuna was so much tastier than ours!

    Keep up the great work! It really is food for thought around here.

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