Monday, January 14, 2013

What's Colombian Food Like?

In April 2012, Facebook bought a company called Instagram for about a BILLION dollars. If you're not familiar with Instagram (I'm guessing you'll at least know Facebook), it's basically a software company that gives away a program that people use on their smartphones to take photos (lots of times of food). It's most popular feature is the ability to modify the photos by making them look old.

Berat, our roommate in Germany, doesn't use Instagram but he does take lots of food photos. His goal is to one day write a recipe book and include the photos that he's taken. Oh, and the food that he cooks is, ummm, pretty awesome. He makes the best authentic Thai food, for example, that I've ever tasted in my life.

When I got to Colombia last month, I started taking photos (not with Instagram) of the traditional Colombian food I was eating so I could share them with Berat. At first, I was sending them via Whatsapp, but I ended up with so many that I thought I'd share them here. This post has eleven food photos (well, maybe ten-and-a-half) in no real particular order and I already have more so I'm guessing that this will be part one. Bon provecho! Guten appetit! Bon profit! いただきます!

I, of course, had to start this with my absolute favorite, the Bandeja Paisa, which I've written about before. It comes from the coffee region of Colombia and it's an evil combination of meats, beans, egg, rice, avocado, and arepas:

This was lunch one day. Chicharrone (fried pork ribs including all that fatty goodness and pig skin), fried plantains (a not-so-sweet banana), fried potatoes, white rice, and some beans. Don't worry, I made it healthier by not eating the rice...    :-)

Tamales are often eaten for breakfast in Latin America. This Colombian version is made from corn or rice meal, chicken and/or pork, onions, peas, chick peas, spices, and it's wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf: Oh, and don't do what I tried to do the first time I ate a tamale in Mexico - don't (try to) eat the wrapper!

One morning, to my surprise, my breakfast had a sliced-off cow's foot! Mute (moo-tay) comes originally from the Santander state but this version is from Cundinamarca (home to Bogota) and is made from cow's foot, hominy corn, and spices. I was confused but learned that you cut the gelatinous meat from between the bones and eat the "meat" with the soup. At first, I wasn't crazy about the meat until I cut it from the bone and had it with some soup and corn at the same time on the spoon. Then, love!

In the photo below, the soup is called Mondongo and that's Diana's mom. Mondongo is popular all over Latin America with the Colombian version made from chicken, potatoes, chopped tripe (a part of a cow's stomach), and spices. I'm not crazy about organ meat so this one's not one of my favorites. Oh, she's eating fried fish and we were at a local restaurant called Cocina Colombiana.

Diana's parents come from Chiquinquira, which is a ranching/farming area north of Bogota. I think that a lot of the food that her mom makes comes from the farm. It may or may not be typical of the whole of Colombia (I'm assuming it's not) but it is damn good! Many of these photos are of food that she made. Jealous?

This one's called Entero and it's another soup/stew this time with a roast-beef-type of meat, corn, platano, and potato.

Every Saturday morning, Diana and her mom go to a church service on the other side of town. Afterwards, they stop at one of the nearby cafes and get some snacks before heading back. One of their favorites are fresh Arepas, which are kinda' like super-dense-pancake-like breakfast food that are made from either corn or white flour and grilled. The day I went with them, we chose cheese-filled arepas, which were like buttah! On a side note, arepas are also eaten in the Canary Islands.

Diana's mom sometimes makes this rice with raisins and cola. It's has an unusual, but delicious, flavor that I've never had before. On New Year's Eve, we had pernil de cerdo (pig leg), potato salad with peas, a fruit salad, and her cola rice:

During our visit to the Lago de Tota, most of the family had some sort of fish for lunch. This fish is called Trucha (Trout in English) and it was served with salsa and cheese. The long yellow flat item at the top of the plate is a fried plantain.

This last one, called Lechona, is one of Diana's dad's favorites and comes from the Tolima state in central Colombia. Think of a lechona as a (American) football filled with pork, rice, peas, and spices. The outside is entirely pig skin, which is stuffed, sewn shut, and baked in a large brick oven. It's an evil, and of course, delicious meal. Oh, and yes, that thing sticking out of the top isn't telling you the turkey's done. Nope, it's the pig's tail!

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is visiting local markets. I find that I learn so much about a place from the visits. Everything from how people behave in the aisles to what foods are available are all of interest to me. The big local supermarket that we've been going to in Bogota to buy food and wine is called Exito. I think it was a couple of days after Christmas that I spotted this guy for sale in the frozen-food section. Yep, that's an entire frozen piglet for sale! I wonder what Berat and/or Diana's mom could create from this!

I hope you enjoyed my non-Instagram photo tour of some of Colombia's trad foods. Stay tuned, it shouldn't be long before I have part two up!

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