Soups are somewhat of a specialty in Colombia. The Ajiaco, by description, may just sound like a normal chicken and potato soup, but somehow it rises above the sum of its parts. The Sancocho may just sound like a mixed grill in a soup and… well, it is, and that’s pretty great, right? And the caldo de costilla is ribs in a soup. If it’s not sophisticated it doesn’t matter, it’s damn tasty.
Many people talk about Argentina as the capital of steak but Colombian meats aren’t too far away and, in some cases, they’re even better. Even cheap meat (we’re talking a lunch that costs less than US$2) is pretty good, and if you’re willing to pay, places like Andres Carne de Res will cook you up a plate of meat you’ll never forget. Be warned, though, if you like you meat rare you will have to emphasise this strongly.
3. Bandeja Paisa
The bandeja paisa kind of typifies what you find in Colombian cuisine: more is more. Chicharron, sausage, egg, beans, guacamole, shredded meat, rice, plantain and sometimes even more will adorn your plate before, and probably after you’re full.
Tamal is basically masa, chicken and sometimes vegetables. Colombia’s tamales are wrapped in a plantain leaf and generally softer and brighter than their other Latin American counterparts. Tamales are great for a hangover, or for a quick, cheap, filling snack around lunch time.
5. Papas criollas
My favourite type of papa criolla is the one planted at the top of a shish kebab, which you can find all over the streets of Colombia. Again, not a refined option but some of the best street food available. Papa criollas are little potatoes, often saltier than we might have them in Europe, and somehow they just manage to be better. I can’t tell you how, I can just tell you to try them.
There are some decent arepas, it’s true, like arepa with egg. Overall, however, arepas are so bland, even smothered in salt and butter, that they’re a snack to be tried and avoided. They’ve earned their position as number one simply because they’re cherished so much; they don’t actually taste of enough to be disgusting… Which in some ways is worse.
2. Ice cream with cheese
I’m sure you can imagine why this is on the list thanks to the title. It’s ice cream – which is great – fruit, chocolate sauce and cheese. Why?
A controversial one, but frankly you have to get bored of eating plantain meal after meal after meal. It falls in an awkward category between sweet and savoury and, thanks to its ubiquity, just gets boring and a bit yucky. Patacon, on the other hand, yum.
Ok bread is hardly a Colombian food, but I’m struggling since the food is generally pretty good. Bread, though, is sweaty, too sugary and often ruins a sandwich. If you want good bread there are places to go, however. Most good restaurants won’t let you down, and there’s a decent selection of French bread in Carulla.
5. Pizza with jam
To be honest, the pizzas here are generally of a high quality. Sometimes, however, they come with jam in the crust, and that’s just not good. That’s just not good.