I’ve been living in Colombia for almost seven months and sadly only have three more left! I am starting to think about all the things that will be different once I head back to the good ole U.S.A. While Colombia may be known for Shakira and salsa dancing, it’s not particularly known for its cuisine. Foreigners, in particular, complain about the lack of variety and lack of spice. My taste buds don’t tolerate spicy food very well so, lucky for me, that hasn’t been a problem.
It’s true that variety of food is lacking here, but there are still plenty of dishes that I know I will miss terribly when I leave. Here’s a list of yummy, traditional Colombian foods that have my mouth watering, and will hopefully leave you ready to buy your ticket over to this South American country.
1. Arepas de chócolo
The first time I had one of these babies was on the side of the road. A friend had gotten hungry for a snack and she made us stop the car to get them. I took one skeptical bite and have taken advantage of every subsequent opportunity to eat one. These magical corn cakes are best fresh with some butter slathered on top.
2. ALL THE FRUIT
Colombia has SO MUCH fruit. They’ve got mangoes, apples and bananas, along with lots of other yummy fruits you’ve probably never heard of: take granadilla, pitaya and maracuyá for example. From personal experience, I would advise going easy on how many different kinds you try at once because you never know how it will affect your stomach, but honestly, any gastrointestinal distress I’ve gone through on behalf of the fruit has been worth it.
3. Avocados (that won’t break the bank)
Because avocados are local, they are very inexpensive. When I first got here I was rationing myself about two avocados a week because that’s what I do at home and then I realized that I should literally be eating avocados every single day while I still can.
Ajiaco is a soup traditionally found in the region where the capital city of Bogotá is. It’s hearty and usually served with a side of avocado and rice: as Bogotá weather can get pretty chilly, it’s perfect for warming right up.
5. Arroz de coco
Arroz de coco, or coconut rice, is a traditional coastal dish. Usually served alongside fish and patacones, or fried plantains, Colombian coconut rice is one of my all-time favorite foods. I tried making it once and failed miserably, and I now have a new respect for all the chefs who can cook it just right along with a deep fear that I won’t be able to find this once I leave Colombia.
6. Juice, juice, juice
Juice is without a doubt a Colombian culinary staple. It’s usually made fresh, either with water, making it light and refreshing, or with milk, making it more like a smoothie. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to the processed, super sugary juices that the U.S. is known for.
7. Pan de bono
Pan de bono is a pastry made from yuca, and there’s nothing better than eating one fresh out of the oven. My heart and taste buds already ache for them.
If you haven’t eaten a buñuelo you haven’t lived. This is another popular Colombian pastry that is golden brown, perfectly circular, and probably loaded with butter but let’s not think about that. These are practically spheres of joy that have brightened many mornings and I don’t know what I’ll replace them with when I head back home.
These deep-fried nuggets of joy are probably terrible for your intestines, but they’re so delicious that I don’t really care. They come either stuffed with meat, chicken, cheese or potato and are exactly what you need after a long night out.
10. Bandeja paisa
This is every vegetarian’s worst nightmare but a beloved Colombian meal, particularly in the region of Antioquia. The bandeja paisa comes with at least three different types of meat, beans, a fried egg, white rice, plantain, avocado, and a salad. This is the pinnacle of Colombian cuisine and while I’ve never been able to eat an entire one I’ll miss the fact that this massive plate exists.
So get your booty to Colombia and don’t hesitate to try all of the traditional foods it has to offer. Colombia, I love you and all of your abundance of non-spicy foods.