Colombian cuisine is a compound of the culinary traditions of the six main regions within the country (Pacific, Amazonian, Andean, Orinoco, Caribbean, and Insular). Colombian cuisine varies regionally and is particularly influenced by Indigenous Colombian, Spanish, and African cuisines, with slight Arab influence in some regions. Furthermore, being one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, Colombia has one of the widest variety of available ingredients depending on the region.
History Of Colombian Food
Colombian food is a unique blend of indigenous and European traditions with a strong Afro-Caribbean influence. The two largest indigenous groups prior to European conquest were the Tairona, who lived along the Caribbean coast, and the Muisca, who lived in the highlands to the South. Arepas, made from ground corn, are one of the oldest cooked dishes in Colombian cuisine. It is believed that the name derives from the word for corn in the Chibcha languages. Arepas are a popular modern Colombian dish.
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. Sancocho is usually served with a portion of rice, tostadas (fried plantains), and a chicken leg covered in hogao (a tomato and onion sauce). The city is also known for its empanadas (a fried corn dough filled with potatoes and meat), marranitas / puerquitas (a fried ball of plantain filled with chicharron, also known as pork rinds), pandebono (a delicious cheese bread made with yucca dough), and aborrajados (sweet ripe fried plantains filled with cheese and served with guava paste).
- 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”.
- In the Caribbean coast, spicy cooking, with fish and lobster, is practiced. Coconut rice is a common dish along the coastal cities. The cuisine of the Caribbean is also influenced by Arab traditions, with dishes such as Kibbeh.
- 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 Andean region of Nariño, traditional dish is broiled guinea pig (cuy asado), due to influence of inca cuisine.
- 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 raw cilantro-based sauce, is used as a condiment for many dishes and sides, including empanadas, platacones, and soups.
Piqueteaderos are rustic eateries that serve a variety of fried foods and specialties in platters to share. 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.
Deserts & Sweets
- Arequipe (Colombia’s version of the Dulce de Leche, a milk caramel.)
- Arroz con leche (Sweetened rice with milk).
- Brevas en dulce – candied figs in syrup or arequipe.
- Cocadas – baked coconut confection, similar to macaroons.
- Enyucado cake that has grounded cassava
- Flan type of custard dessert
- Bocadillo guava paste
- Leche asada, similar to flan but less sweet, made with condensed milk.
- Manjar blanco a boiled, creamy, milk-based spread, thicker than arequipe and sometimes used as a pastry filling.
- Mazamorra white maize drink
- Melado, a thick syrup derived from panela.
- Merenguitos, little hardened meringue “cookies”
- Milhoja similar to Mille-feuille or Napoleon (literally means thousand layers)
- Natilla, a Colombian derivation of the Spanish custard natillas, made with milk and cornstarch and spices but without eggs.
- Pastel de Gloria is a puff pastry containing guava jelly or guava paste and sometimes cheese inside, sprinkled with granulated sugar
- Postre De Natas, Milk based Colombian pudding literary means milk skin dessert
- Torta Maria Luisa Orange cake and between layers any berries jam Decorated with icing sugar, there are various variations around South America
- Tres leches cake, 3 milk cake there are various variations around South America
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