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Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Friday, November 20, 2009

What Colombians are Eating, Part Uno

Colombia has a lot of food. Most of that food seems to have a common theme--you take meat or cheese (and sometimes egg or potato) and fry it. I happen to love fried food, so am quite content with that, but hate cheese, so that makes eating in Colombia a bit like playing Russian roulette. For those who are all healthy and like silly things like vegetables, Colombia might not be your country. Now for pictures of us stuffing our faces:

Empanadas occur in many places, but they are very popular in Colombia. And they are always fried, not baked like some of those countries that shall remain nameless in southern South America. Here I am shoving almost the whole thing into my mouth.
Here is a picture of an empanada for me and the first nasty smelling cheese bread of Colombia for Tara. This particular cheese thing looks to me like cheese curds mixed with flour and fried. Tara loves them. From a distance they look like donuts, making me somewhat leery to try real donuts in Colombia...
Here is Tara with two more types of cheese bread. Tara tried to learn the names of all the breads, but it proved confusing, so she gave up. In this one there is one that looks like a meringue. It is baked and smells the nastiest of all the cheese bread family. The second is more like a bun or roll. When warm, it also smells bad. It is less offensive when cool, but could then be more easily confused with a normal roll.
Hooray for good ole meat-on-a-stick! This meat-on-a-stick has some kind of green sauce, which wasn't bad. It should be noted that food is sort of expensive in Colombia. Not US expensive, but more than most countries in South America. This is probably the most expensive meat-on-a-stick we've had at over $1 per stick.
One of the great street foods of Colombia is the giant fried stuffed potato. They take some meat (normally chicken) and spices and cover it in mashed potato in a giant ball and then fry the whole thing in batter. Almost as big as my head for $1. Kept me full for a day, and stopped me from eating anything else for at least 5 minutes.

Colombia was lacking in the corner bakery department, but we finally found a good one in Cali that was close to our hostel and cheap. Here is a guava filled sweet roll. It was way better than anything with cheese that Tara got from the same bakery.
For breakfast in Cali, we bought a whole pineapple for 60 cents and cut it up to go with our bread. Not the best pineapple ever, but it was 60 cents.

Tara eating cheese bread number four from the Cali bakery. This one seems like a straight-forward bread with lots of cheese on top. Tara seemed happy with it and it didn't smell too bad, so I didn't really have anything against it. Also, this bakery was nice enough to bag the cheese breads separately from my tasty sweet treats.
In Cali, a small population (mostly descended from slaves) keeps alive African traditions and cuisines. This drink is an example. The sign said what it was, but we had no idea. We asked the woman, but had no idea what she said. It was a mix of two drinks, we believe derived from fruits of some type, with one being creamsicle color and the other light brown. The orange was fairly good while the other was terrible. On top, they put some kind of honey that we had never had.
On to cheese bread number five. This one is the famed pan de yuca, which turns out to be completely different in Colombia than at the Colombian bakery that Tara loves in New York. It looks like a bagle, but is crunchy and has the texture of crunchy styrofoam from what I could tell. Tara didn't love this one. You hear that, Cheesebread? Tara hates you, so go away and leave us in peace!

We have had a ton of snow cones all over South America, and don't normally photograph them, but this one was made with more love than I had ever seen. It took the guy what seemed like an hour to make and has more layers than phyllo dough. Sadly, it wasn't really as good as it looked.
Just when I thought we had exhausted the cheesebreads, Tara found another. These were tiny and filled with guava jelly. Looked decent except for the cheese part. She enjoyed them and they doubled as an acceptable dessert.
Strangely, we never saw fresh potato chips on the street in Bolivia or Peru where they grow so many potatoes. We finally found and bought some in Bogota. Not bad, though they don't salt them unless requested, which seemed strange given the rest of the cuisine.
As I mentioned, the food in Colombia is generally expensive. However, we found a lunch place where the locals eat where lunch was $2 and included a plate of food like this, a big bowl of soup, and a glass of juice. A great deal.
Oh, look, here is a picture of the soup. I gnawed on the meat for a few minutes before concluding that it was just meant to flavor the soup and not meant to be eaten. I believe Lassie would have been proud of my attempt, though.
They have a lot of manjar blanco in Colombia, which is like thick dulce de leche and sort of like a fudge. We thought this was such a thing, but it sadly tasted like plasticy pudding with the raisins being just about the only tasty part. We win some and lose some with the street food.
We found these desserts in Bogota that are essentially a guava fruit roll-up filled with the dulce de leche fudge stuff described above. They weren't cheap, but were really good. Maybe we will try making our own.
If you can identify this fruit, let us know. We see lots of fruit that we don't know, but this one seemed especially colorful. The sign calls it a Pithaya, but the fruit doesn't look like the Pitaya on the front of other Pithaya flavored things...
We decided to cook in Bogota because we stayed at a hotel that gave us our own apartment, complete with kitchen. We used some more of the lentils that we have been carrying since southern Chile. Turns out that a kilo of lentils is enough lentils to last a long, long time.

Tara didn't trust me to do all the food myself, so she will be posting the second half. To summarize the first half of Colombian food: fried, often cheesy, somewhat expensive.


  1. Andy, Andy...I've enjoyed your posts, but this one is just anti-cheese propaganda! I won't stand for it! I will, however, stand for one of those fried stuffed potatoes. My God.

  2. The yellow fruit is a yellow dragon fruit. I think I've only had them in their red/pink variety...

    I second what Katie said above. Cheese is just too good to be slandered so egregiously.

    And, those stuffed potatoes look AMAZING. Seriously, if there were any without meat (ie, just a humongous mushy/crunchy french fry), I'd be all about it.

  3. Andy, the things you are willing to eat are frightening to me. Seriously. Frightening!! I don't think ANY of that "meat" was meant to be eaten, especially that stuff on a stick.

    At least I know not to worry too much about what to serve you if we ever have you over for long as it's not cheese bread!