Colombian cuisine is rich and varied. It combines features of Indo-American, African and European gastronomy, regional and non-Colombian products and a variety of cooking methods. Each region of the country can present dishes common to all departments as well as those typical only of a particular place. In this regard, it is curious to learn about the most unusual Colombian food.
Ormiga coulona, or mayera, are, simply put, large-sized leaf-cutter ants with smooth and shiny bodies ( A tta laevigata). They are eaten everywhere from Mexico to Paraguay, but the tradition comes from the ancient pre-Columbian Guan people of the Santander department. Live ants are roasted in a dry pan and seasoned with salt before being eaten. Analyses of this product have shown that it is high in protein and very low in saturated fat. They are eaten only by queens who set out in the rainy season to establish new colonies, and they are harvested by peasants for whom this trade is a temporary source of income.
Characteristics of Colombian cuisine
Jute, a product characteristic of the Boyaca department, is a fermented, or fermented, white potato. It is made from tubers left over after the crop has been sorted and selected for sale, that is, from those that have been found to be of poor quality, small in size. The potatoes are washed very well and put into canvas bags. By a stream or other body of water with clean running water, a hole about a meter deep and 60 cm in diameter is made, in which these bags are left for two months, covering them with reeds, straw or ferns and pressing down on stones. As a result, the tubers acquire an original rich flavor and a viscous texture. Huta dishes can be salty or sweet. The salty version is soup with huté, peas, fermented corn, beans, and meat. Huté dessert is cream, to which pineapple or other fruits are added.
Mojohoy are the larvae of the palm longhorn beetle (Rhynchophorus palmarum), part of the traditional diet of the peoples of Amazonia, particularly the people of Amazonas and Vaupes departments. They are collected in April and May on the fallen trunks of fruit palms, and can be eaten alive or in various dishes, such as put on a wooden skewer and grilled, fried on a dry pan or in various stews. Mohoja is an exotic attraction of Colombian gastronomy and also a dangerous agricultural pest, because these larvae are very voracious. They gnaw at the roots of palm trees and fruit trees and attack potato and other crops.
Iguana eggs are an exotic dish that is forbidden to eat, but is still common in the departments of Magdalena, Atlántico, Córdoba and Bolívar. The consumption of iguana eggs and the barbaric method of extracting them from the bodies of pregnant females lead to a drastic decrease in the population, and yet, in the markets of cities in these regions, the eggs remain on sale – the environmental police intercept the illegal sale of the product time and again. Eggs are added to stews and dough for tortillas, an ancient Indian practice that is very difficult to eradicate. Locals consider them an aphrodisiac, good for male health, but studies have shown that this is not true, and iguana eggs contain a lot of cholesterol.
Helatina de pata is a typical sweet product of many Spanish-speaking countries, and especially of the Colombian departments of Valle del Cauca and Antioquia. From its appearance it is impossible to tell at once how it is made. In fact, its base is the gelatin excreted when beef bones from the bottom of the legs are cooked. Cane paneer, condensed milk, cinnamon, cloves, sugar and vanilla are added to the thick broth and allowed to set. The resulting solidified mass is cut into rectangles or any shapes and rolled in powdered sugar.
Red-eared tortoise stew is a dish favored by the inhabitants of Colombia’s Atlantic coast during Holy Week, and at the same time hated by all zoologists because of the destruction of the animals. This species of marsh turtle is on the verge of extinction, and despite government attempts to control the situation, they continue to be caught. They cook the stew with cassava, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, coconut milk, herbs, and spices, preserving the turtle broth and serving the finished dish with cassava flour farinya. One tradition is to cook the turtle in its own shell.
Food of the Peoples of the World
Unborn calf soup – that is, from the fetus of a pregnant cow. The name of the dish is impressive, and those who have tasted this food say the taste is too. The dish is common in the department of Cauca, and is made with vegetable bananas, garlic, onions, annatto and roasted peanuts. The soup, which is bright red in color, is accompanied by unleavened flatbreads-arepas and ahi de piña, a pineapple hot sauce. If you really want to taste it, it’s easy to find it in the market square canteens of Popayan City.
Fried guinea pig
Fried guinea pig
Cuy asado , or fried guinea pig, is a Colombian food with ancient Native American origins, common in the department of Nariño. The little rodents eat grass and seeds, so they are easy to raise, which is what farmers do for meat. They are usually cooked on small roasters or spits, pre-cleaning and soaking the carcasses. The pigs are eaten with potatoes, fresh vegetables, herbs and various sauces. Consumers of guinea pig meat claim that the most delicious is from the cheek.
Roasted capybara , or chigüiro , is a dish whose consumption is not seriously regulated in Colombia. It is traditional in all areas of the Eastern Plains, where capybaras live in large numbers and are hunted by cattle herders. There are many ways to cook this animal, such as in a stew with onions, tomatoes and other vegetables, but the most common and very simple is asado. The capybara carcass is cleaned, washed, seasoned with salt and placed on a grill, and beer is poured over the meat to keep it from drying out during frying.
Herré-herré is the meat of the seven flavors, tatu, gurré, mulita, armadillo, or, in simple words, armadillo. Its meat is used to prepare many dishes on the Caribbean coast, and in other regions as well. It is very typical to add it to sancocho, Colombia’s national tuber and plantain soup. Another variation is to roast armadillo in its own shell. It tastes like beef, pork, rabbit, chicken and turkey at the same time. The fillet is also cooked by soaking it beforehand and marinating it with orange juice, hot pepper, cloves, and milk.
National dishes of Colombia
Colombia is a country with a long history. Before Christopher Columbus came here there were many Indian tribes, later settled by the Spanish conquistadors and later by settlers from Asia and Africa. This multinationality could not but affect the development of Colombia’s cuisine, which absorbed many culinary traditions of different peoples. Today it surprises tourists with bright flavors and original dishes that combine seemingly incompatible ingredients.
The main characteristics of Colombian cuisine are
Potatoes, beans, rice, corn, poultry, and pork are the main products. Due to the fact that the country is washed by two oceans, seafood is also widely used in Colombian cuisine. Freshwater and sea fish are popular here.
Regional peculiarities of food in Colombia are also interesting:
- Andes – rich soups and thick broths, hearty meat dishes;
- Southern regions – river fish, exotic fruits, porridges;
- Pacific coast – banana dishes, coconuts, plenty of seafood;
- Caribbean coast – variety of seafood and fish, fresh juices.
10 dishes you must try in Colombia
Some people may like or dislike the local dishes, but it is impossible to remain indifferent to them. In Colombia you will not find bland and tasteless food – the food here is very bright, lavishly flavored with sauces and spices. No tourist will be able to leave these dishes without attention:
- Bandeja paisa. Pieces of meat, fish or chicken served with a side dish of beans, rice, potatoes, avocado and fried bananas. The taste is quite exotic. You can order this dish at any restaurant serving Colombian national dishes.
- Cazuela. This is a stew of vegetables with the addition of cereals, meat, or seafood. The name of the dish comes from the earthenware dish in which it is cooked and then served.
- Lechona. This is a dish of piglet baked whole and stuffed with vegetables, peas, and rice.
- Ahiko. This is a poultry soup cooked with yucca and potatoes. It is present on the menus of many restaurants and cafes where it is served for lunch. Other popular soups include mazamorro (of meat and beans), aijaco santafereno (dairy with vegetables), and sancoche de galina (light chicken soup).
- Ceviche. This dish “came” to Colombia from Peru, where it is very popular. It is a raw fish marinated in lime juice. Hot peppers and spices are usually added to the marinade, and fish is often replaced with seafood. In its historic homeland, ceviche is served with corn and sweet potatoes, but Colombians consider it a dish in its own right.
- Arepa. A flatbread made from cornmeal that is baked over a fire. Arepas come in a variety of fillings, and you can try them at any place that sells street food. This flatbread, which replaces bread for Colombians, is served in all restaurants.
- Papas Chorreadas. Among the fried potatoes, it is the most popular dish, which is also filled with tomatoes, herbs and cheese.
- Empanadas. These are patties with a variety of fillings that are popular throughout South America.
- Cabaños. Spicy sausages roasted over an open fire, slightly spicy and very tasty.
- Ahi. An original flavor salad that includes chili peppers, vinegar, and several different types of spices. This dish will please only those who like spicy and do not have digestive problems. The Colombians like other salads with vegetables, meat, and seafood just as much.
Colombia is a country of eternal summer, and fruit is very popular here. When tourists come here for the first time, they notice many kinds of exotic fruits, even the names of which we don’t know, not to mention the flavors.
As a rule, most of the local fruits are not used for eating, because they are very sour, but for making refreshing freshes. Freshly squeezed juice can be bought on the street in any major city for as little as $1.
Some of the most popular fruits among tourists are:
- Mango – its fruit comes in soft yellow (for desserts, sauces and juices) and hard green (eaten with salt);
- avocado – used in many traditional dishes, and the pulp of the overripe fruit is spread on bread;
- sycamore – resembles a green hard banana and is used to make fried and baked foods;
- papaya: this fruit makes very tasty juices;
- guava – tender flesh of this fruit, reminiscent of a mixture of peach and pear, which is used to make juices, cocktails, marmalade, or just eaten fresh;
- Lulo, which only grows in Colombia and is very acidic, so it is mostly used to make lemonades;
- tomate de arbol, the famous “tomato tree”, whose sour fruits are used to make juices.
Among the alcohol tourists very much like the local rum and liqueur with a taste of anise – aguardiente. Wine in Colombia is not very good quality, but beer is in demand, especially the varieties Aguila, Dorado and Club. Colombian law allows alcoholic beverages to be consumed from the age of 18.
Coca leaf tea is a very popular drink here. Contrary to popular belief, it has no narcotic effect, but simply invigorates, tones and helps to overcome the period of adaptation, especially in high mountain areas.
Fragrant coffee and delicious hot chocolate are the main drinks for every Colombian. They are also in demand among tourists, who take home coffee beans and cocoa beans as tasty souvenirs.
Desserts and Sweets
Colombians are just as fond of sweets as other nations, and for the preparation of desserts they use the gifts given to them by nature. Tourists rate the following dishes as very tasty:
- arroz con coco – rice boiled in coconut milk;
- manhar blanco, a sweet, vanilla-flavored dish made from eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and milk;
- buñuelos – cheese balls fried in oil;
- maria luisa – delicate apple pie;
- bocadillo – a delicious guava paste with a sweet flavor;
- tentacion – fried bananas flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar.
What do you need to know about eating in Colombia?
The best place to enjoy the vibrant flavors of Colombian food is in gourmet restaurants, where dinners start at $30 per person. Here you can be assured of freshness and decent cooking conditions. In addition to Colombian cuisine, Argentinian and European dishes are popular in the cities of the country. If you wish, you can find sushi bars, food stalls, and Pan-American cuisine.
Most tourists eat at mid-priced establishments. You should know that breakfast in Colombia is very hearty, and lunch includes 3 courses plus drinks. Dinner will cost about $10. As for tips, the check usually adds 1-2 thousand pesos. The choice of street food is also vast: inexpensive pies and burgers, traditional arepa and ceviche. Juices should be purchased only those squeezed from fruit in your presence.
Souvenirs from Colombia are of high quality and low cost. Emeralds, coffee and the ubiquitous ponchos lead the way as gifts. This list is not limited to the assortment of stores, shopping centers and souvenir shops of Colombia. Let’s find out what’s fun about shopping here.
Beach holidays in Colombia are no less in demand than excursions. The country’s access to the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean contributes to this. Their beach resorts are different in many ways, and experiencing it for yourself is the main goal of any tourist!
Every city in Colombia has at least a few monuments that take the imagination to the distant past, surprising or making tourists laugh. Archeological and religious monuments, which Colombians are very proud of, also belong to this category.
A visa to Colombia is an important nuance in preparing for a South American trip. For those who understand when and where to apply for it, what certificates are needed for it and what tourists show at the border, getting a visa will not be a difficult task.