Colombia is considered a cultural hub of South America, which is saying a lot considering all the amazing cultures found throughout this continent.
A big part of this is thanks to its food. The traditional Colombian menu benefits from influences as far away as Europe and those from its neighboring countries. While you should definitely make an effort to try as many different dishes there as possible, the following five could change your life.
No matter where you travel in Colombia, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding this traditional Colombian menu item. You can eat arepas as a side item or all alone, too.
It’s basically bread made from cornmeal that is then served with corn or just melted butter. Like a lot of Colombian food, the ingredients are simple, but the result is amazing.
Another Colombian dish you’ll have no trouble finding is ajaico. This form of chicken soup is made with at least two different types of potato, as well as capers, avocado, corn and sour cream. It’s also made with a South American herb called guasca.
Again, you can eat a bowl of ajaico all by itself or as an accompaniment for another dish.
The national dish of Colombia is largely considered to be bandeja paisa, so don’t leave the country without trying it. At the same time, don’t make plans after this meal. It’s a true feast that will probably slow you down considerably for the next hour or two.
This platter is filled with chorizo sausages, steak, and pork crackling. These three smoldering ingredients are served over a bed of red beans and rice. Usually, there is also a fried egg placed over the top with slices of avocado. Many recipes will also give you sweet banana chips as a side.
Everywhere you go, you’ll find a slightly different version of this popular dish and there are even disputes throughout the country about the proper way to make it. Bandeja paisa is a lot like BBQ in the US in that regard.
If you travel to the west of Bogota, you’ll end up in the Tolima region. Here, the specialty is lechona. You can order this dish throughout Colombia, but this is the region from which it originated. It’s extremely popular at special occasions in this country, as well.
Lechona is a roasted pig that is stuffed with peas, rice, onions and a number of different spices. This combination is then cooked in a clay oven, sometimes for as long as 10 hours.
Finally, empanadas make for a delicious dessert or just a mid-day treat. These pastries actually originated in Spain and Portugal. They are a staple of South American menus, but, again, each region makes theirs a bit differently.
In Colombia, they are deep-fried pastries with all different types of fillings. In poorer parts, cheese and spinach are often used. In Medellin, you’ll find empanadas that are filled with chorizo.
There is so much to do and see in Colombia, but don’t forget about all there is to eat, too. Make sure you check out each of these menu items while you’re there for a taste of some of the best of what Colombia has to offer.