As a cyclist, I’m always looking to pack on calories. One way to do that is to continuously search out new foods to try. Colombia sticks out for its fruit. There are endless types here that I have never heard of. Guanábana, Tomate de Arbol, Lulo, Pitaya, Granadilla, and Maracuyá to name a few.
Much more obscure are pinuele and guaba. You won’t find these at the fruit stand or on Google. I’ve tried. They are an indigenous snack foraged from the wild. Estan muy rico.
Not only are there new types of fruit but there are odd varieties of tropical classics. Fruit vendors may have three different varieties of pineapple that range in flavor from watery and mild to sweet and tart. The same can be said about the papaya.
Many of these fruits are taken as jugo naturale con agua or leche. Restaurants come equipped with blenders ready to make your order. A granizado incorporates ice into the blended juice for a refreshingly cold treat. This is particularly wonderful in the hot climates of low elevation Colombia where one’s daily liquid intake es muy importante.
I meant to make this post just about fruit but the food of Colombia goes beyond that. Want a tinto, chocolate, or agua de panela? All are served hot and take the chill off a rainy day in the high Andes. Add some aguardiente to your aguapanela for a true South American hot toddy.
All good Colombian cafes serve buñuelos, empanadas, and a new favorite, papas rellenas. Not all papas rellenas are created equal. The basic version is a hard boiled egg covered with mashed potatoes and fried. My favorite papa rellena is a variation on a shepard’s pie. Spiced ground beef, hard boiled egg, all enveloped in moist mashed potatoes and fried. They go down super easy, even when cold, and are a big calorie bonus for a hungry cyclist. I can often be found stuffing my frame bag with these on big cycling days.
Arepas? Those happened too. Do you smell butter? Butter? Butter was all but non existent in Mexico and Guatemala. Not the case in Colombia. Arepas can be sweet or savory but all come dripping in butter. The best arepas aren’t found by looking. They are found with the nose. Smell browning butter? Go check it out! My favorite arepas are filled with queso and golden brown. The best street vendors add a dollop of butter to the arepa and then wrap it in a silver space blanket to keep warm.
Lastly, I’ll touch on almuerzo. Or lunch. It’s big and cheap. Almuerzo comes standard with soup, rice, beans, salad, meat, and an unlimited supply of juice. Other ingredients often making an appearance are potatoes, yuca, and plantains. I’ve also eaten chicken feet, stomach, and tongue. I hate to draw this comparison but it’s very close to cafeteria food in the states. It’s the closest thing we have found to a well balanced meal and it’s offered at a great price. It’s not fancy. It’s plain, simple home cooking. It’s the food of Colombia and I’m a fan.