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Best 7 Colombian Foods

Colombian food does not have the international fame of some of its neighbors. To many foreigners the Colombian cuisine often appears less than excellent, with the chief complaint typically being its lack of variety. It's true that Colombia lacks the pizzazz of some other regional cuisines: Argentina with its spectacular cuts of beef, delectable pizzas, and incredible Italian dishes; Mexico with its famed burritos, flautas, tacos, and tortillas; Peru with its out-of-this-world ceviche, seafood, and the amazing papa a la huancaina.

However, Colombian food is not bad. You just need to know what you should try. Colombia is undoubtedly a paradise for lovers of fruit, in the first place. The beer is excellent. And while most almuerzos (lunches) in Colombia are simple affairs of rice, chicken, salad, and potatoes, there is a whole world of excellent Colombian food, just waiting to be explored. With that in my mind, Colombia Backpacking presents the following seven best foods of Colombia. If you just have a week to spend in this wonderful country, here's what you need to try!

1. Bandeja Paisa:

Bandeja Paisa

OK, this one is pretty obvious, and you'll also find it on anyone's list of Colombian foods. Bandeja means tray in Spanish, and paisa refers to the department of Antioquia in general, and Medellin, specifically. For starters, if you get a bandeja paisa, you're getting two meals in one: it's almost always too big to finish. It's basically a smorgasbord of the best Colombia has to offer. It typically includes ground beef, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), a large slice of avocado, fried eggs, rice, frijoles (beans), chicharron (crispy, crunchy cut of pork, somewhat akin to bacon), fried bananas, and arepa.

The only thing that I don't care for in the bandeja paisa is the morcilla. Everything else is usually quite good. Ask for some aji (a spicy sauce) to throw on your rice, and wash it down with a delicious Aguila beer or Colombiana soda. We are in Colombia after all!

2. Lechona

Lechona

Walk down a typical Colombian street, and you will see a pig's head in a glass case. This is lechona, one of the most delicious dishes in the country, and typical of the department of Tolima, southwest of Bogota. The pig is stuffed with pork, yellow rice, arvejas (a type of pea), and a mixture of spices which typically includes onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin. Then it is traditionally baked for ten hours in a brick oven.


Lechona is usually served with an arepa, and I personally love to wash it down with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Lechona is readily available throughout the country. Typically a smaller portion will cost around $5.000 COP (about $2.75), while a large portion will cost around $8.000 COP (about $4.40).Ajiaco

 

 

 

 

3. Ajiaco:

Ajiaco is probably the most famous soup of Colombia, a land where soups are very important. Typical ajiaco includes chunks of chicken, corn, three types of potatoes: the tiny, ubiquitous papa criolla, the sabanera, and the pastusa (as in from Pasto), and guasca (a Colombian herb).

It is then served with a plate of rice and avocado, which can be mixed into the soup at your discretion, and capers and cream. I like to throw everything into the soup and eat it all together. Ajiaco is a rich and filling meal in and of itself, and you won't be disappointed. An inexpensive ajiaco might start at $10.000 COP, while a more sophisticated restaurant might charge up to $20.000. Remember that prices are always going to be higher in the big cities.Caldo de Costilla

 

 

4.  Caldo de Costilla:

Caldo de costilla is my favorite soup/stew in Colombia. It's typically eaten as a breakfast food, and served with rice, eggs, and hot chocolate. Costilla means sparerib in Spanish. The caldo de costilla is a rich and hearty beef broth, seasoned with onion and spices. 

If you're  eating a really good costilla, the meat should fall right off the bone. This dish is typically served piping hot, so be careful. I like to take the sparerib out of the soup, let it cool down a bit, and then cut the meat off the bone with a knife and fork. Breakfast is a  great value in Colombia. For around $5.000 COP you should be able to get a complete desayuno: caldo, rice, eggs, and maybe even a coffee or hot chocolate as well!Fried Chicken

5.  Fried Chicken:

Alright, this one is not that exotic, or necesarrily that quintessentially Colombian. But the fried chicken in Colombia is out of this world. You can find chicken rotisseries everywhere in Colombia, from the big cities, to little villages. Typically you can purchase a quarter, half, or whole chicken, and it comes with boiled potatoes, arepas, and possibly rice or salad as well.

Colombian fried chicken is flavorful and rich, with a delicious crispy skin. It's usually a little heavy on the salt, but if you like chicken, you can't go wrong. I honestly can't recall ever having a bad fried chicken meal anywhere in Colombia. Expect to pay around $7.000 COP for a meal with a quarter chicken and $12.000 for a meal with a half chicken.Empanadas

 

6.  Empanadas:

Again, empanadas are not distinctively Colombian. They are a staple of Latin American cuisine, in Ecuador and Chile as well. In my experience, empanadas in Colombia are really hit or miss. But you find the perfect little empanada shop, and they will absolutely blow your mind. Typically an empanada throughout Colombia will cost about $2.000 COP, but in little villages you can find nice old ladies selling empanadas for as cheap as $200 COP. And sometimes those ones are the best of all!

Empanadas are shell-shaped dough balls, stuffed with filling, and then fried in oil. Colombian empanadas have a wide variety of fillings, but the most popular are ground beef, chicken, and ham and cheese. Colombians also are famed for putting a bunch of sauces on their empanadas. Popular choices are aji (Colombian hot sauce), salsa rosada, and salsa de pina (pineapple). In Cali, they even make empanadas stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese!

Cazuela de Mariscos

7.  Cazuela de Mariscos (Seafood Stew):

So, you've eaten your way through six delicious days in Colombia. Finish off the week with a tasty seafood stew. Seafood stew in Colombia typically contains fish (pescado), shrimp (camarones/langostinos), mussels (almejas), and squid (pulpo), among other things. It's usually served up in a small metal cauldron, in a rich, creamy brown broth.

I've never had a bad seafood stew in Colombia, and it's widely available throughout the country, although, you're probably better off at a restaurant that specifically caters to seafood. Seafood stew is usually offered in a medium or large-sized portion. Expect to  pay about $10.000 COP for a medium, and $15.000 for a large.

 

Well, I hope you've enjoyed eating your way through Colombia for a week. Keep checking back at Colombia Backpacking's Food and Drinks section for more information about delicious food and drinks throughout Colombia! 

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