Colombia’s cuisine, influenced heavily by the Spanish and Indigenous populations, is not as widely known as other Latin American cuisines such as Peruvian or Brazilian, but to the adventurous traveler there is plenty of delectable dishes to try, not to mention bizarre fruits, rum, and of course, Colombian coffee.
Daily Meal Plan – Colombian’s eat three meals a day: a light breakfast, a large lunch between 12-2, and a light dinner.
Fruit – Colombia is home to numerous tropical fruits endemic to the country and rarely found elsewhere. There are several varieties of bananas including a very small, sweet version. Others include zapote, lulo, uchuva, boroja, curuba, guayabamanzana, and many others. Fruit and juice stands are found all over the place, particularly on the Caribbean coast.
Ajiaco – A traditional Andean dish that originated from BogotÃ. Basically it’s a chicken, corn, and potato stew with a hint of guasca, a local herb.
Tamales – A corn cake is wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. They can be filled with everything from chicken, potatoes, peas, carrots, to rice. Many consider the Tamales from Tolima, which are made with lechona, a roast pig, to be the best.
Bandeja paisa – Considered one of Colombia’s national dishes. The Paisa platter combines white rice and red beans with ground beef, plantain, chorizo, chicharron, arepa, avocado and a fried egg.
Sancocho –This stew originated from the Cauca Valley, but can be found around the country and elsewhere in Latin America. Ingredients vary but usually contain some form of meat or fish with vegetales such as potatoes, yuca, corn, or banana.
Arepas – these are Colombia’s version of the tortilla. There are numerous versions depending mostly on the region. Most are made of corn, or choclo, and are sweet. Others are made from yuca or egg. The often accompany breakfast and are served with butter or sometimes cheese.
Carribean Coast – Colombia’s north coast uses lots of seafood, including lobster, and cocnut rice is a frequent side dish.
Amazon dishes – Everything you thought you knew about Colombian cuisine can be thrown out in Leticia and the amazon regions. The influence of Peruvian and Brazilian cuisine is more prominent here. Try paiche, the world’s largest freshwater fish, in a ceviche, fried, grilled, or any number of ways.
Coffee –Without a doubt, coffee is one of the most important pieces of Colombia’s gastronomy and the product is renown throughout the world. It is consumed around the clock. Men walk around almost everywhere selling small, plastic cups of strong coffee with lots of sugar in it.
Rum –Rum, or Ronn, is the preferred spirit. Ron Medellin is the most popular label.
Beer –Colombia has one of the better selections of beer in Latin America as well. The Bavaria Brewing Company or Bavaria S.A, founded in 1889 by a German immigrant, was South America’s second largest brewer before being purchased by SABMiller in 2003. The company produces mostly lagers under the labels of Aguila, Club Colombia, Leona, Pilsen, and Brava.
Pony Malta, is a dark, thick, stout like beer that’s extremely sweet in taste.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.