Colombia’s cultural and climatic diversity give rise to an enormous variety of local cuisine ranging from the Guajira to the Amazon and from the Pacific Coast to the Eastern Plains.
Colombian cuisine includes the cooking traditions and practices of Colombia’s Caribbean shoreline, Pacific coast, mountains, jungle, and ranchlands. Colombian cuisine varies regionally and is influenced by the indigenous Chibcha, Spanish, African, Arab and some Asian cuisines. Colombian coffee is renowned for its high quality.
Colombia’s varied cuisine is influenced by its diverse fauna and flora as well as the cultural traditions of the ethnic groups. Colombian dishes and ingredients vary widely by region. Some of the most common ingredients are: cereals such as rice and maize; tubers such as potato and cassava; assorted legumes; meats, including beef, chicken, pork and goat; fish; and seafood. Colombia cuisine also features a variety of tropical fruits such as cape gooseberry, feijoa, arazá, dragon fruit, mangostino, granadilla, papaya, guava, blackberry, lulo, soursop and passionfruit.
Among the most representative appetizers and soups are patacones (fried green plantains), sancocho de gallina (chicken soup with root vegetables) and ajiaco (potato and corn soup). Representative snacks and breads are pandebono, arepas (corn cakes), aborrajados (fried sweet plantains with cheese), torta de choclo, empanadas and almojábanas. Representative main courses are bandeja paisa, lechona tolimense, mamona, tamales and fish dishes (such as arroz de lisa), especially in coastal regions where suero, costeño cheese, kibbeh and carimañolas are also eaten. Representative side dishes are papas criollas al horno (roasted Andean potatoes), papas chorreadas (potatoes with cheese) and arroz con coco (coconut rice). Organic food is a current trend in big cities, although in general across the country the fruits and veggies are very natural and fresh.
Representative desserts are buñuelos, natillas, torta Maria Luisa, bocadillo made of guayaba (guava jelly), cocadas (coconut balls), casquitos de guayaba (candied guava peels), torta de natas, obleas, flan de arequipe, roscón, milhoja, and the tres leches cake (a sponge cake soaked in milk, covered in whipped cream, then served with condensed milk). Typical sauces (salsas) are hogao (tomato and onion sauce) and Colombian-style ají.
Some Representative Beverages in Colombia
Some representative beverages are coffee (Tinto), champús, cholado, lulada, avena colombiana, sugarcane juice, aguapanela, aguardiente, hot chocolate and fresh fruit juices (often made with sugar and water or milk).
There is a large variety of dishes that take into account the difference in regional climates. For example:
- In the city of Medellín, the typical dish is the bandeja paisa. It includes beans, rice, ground meat or carne asada, chorizo, fried egg, arepa, and chicharrón. It is usually accompanied by avocado, tomato, and special sauces.
- In the city of Cali, the most traditional dish is “sancocho de gallina” – a soup composed mostly of chicken, plantain, corn, coriander, yuca root, and other seasonings.
- In Bogotá and the Andean region, ajiaco is the traditional dish. It is also a type of soup made of chicken, potatoes, and flavoured with a locally grown herb called “guasca”. Traditionally, cream and capers are added just before eating. Both soups are served with white rice, salads with a hint of lemon, avocado, or plantain chips, sweet or salty. For breakfast people often eat changua, a milk, scallion, and egg soup.
- In the Caribbean coast, spicy cooking, with fish and lobster, is practiced. Coconut rice is a common dish along the coastal cities.
- In the Llanos, meat from the barbecue, such as the “ternera llanera” is common, and also typical river fishes like the “amarillo”.
- In the Amazonas, the cuisine is influenced by Brazilian and Peruvian traditions.
- Inland, the dishes reflect the mix of cultures, inherited mainly from Amerindian and European cuisine, and the produce of the land mainly agriculture, cattle, river fishing, and other animals’ raising. Such is the case of the sancocho soup in Valledupar, the arepas (a corn based bread-like patty). Local species of animals like the guaratinaja, part of the wayuu Amerindian culture.
- In the Tolima region, the Tamales Tolimenses are a delicacy. These tamales are made of a corn dough and feature peas, carrots, potatoes, rice, chicken, pork, and various spices. They are wrapped in plantain leaves and boiled for three to four hours. Pandebono for breakfast with hot chocolate.
- On the Islands of San Andres, Providencia, and Santa Catalina, the main dish is rondon, a seafood dish made of coconut milk, fish, conch, cassava root (yuca), sweet potato, white yams, and pumpkin seasoned with chili peppers and herbs. They also have a crab soup which is considered a delicacy. It is made with the same ingredients as rondon, without the fish.
- Ají picante, a spicy, cilantro-based sauce, is used as a condiment for many dishes and sides, including empanadas, platacones, and soups. This traditional sauce is from the department of Antioquia
- Piqueteaderos are rustic eateries that serve a variety of fried foods and specialties in platters for sharings. Offerings can even include huesos cerdos (pig bones), tarta de seso (brain pie) as well as fried dishes, morcilla, corn on the cob, and other Colombian delicacies.
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Travel Guide of Colombia: Colombia Travel Guide – Amazonas – Antioquia – Arauca – Atlántico – Bolivar – Boyacá – Caldas – Caquetá – Casanare – Cauca – Cesar – Chocó – Córdoba – Cundinamarca – Guanía – Guaviare – Huila – La Guajira – Magdalena – Meta – Nariño – Norte de Santander – Putumayo – Quindio – Risaralda – San Andrés y Providencia – Santander – Sucre – Tolima – Valle del Cauca – Vaupés – Vichada