A Week of Good Eating

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October 24th 2011
Published: October 25th 2011
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Fresh Jugo de LimónFresh Jugo de LimónFresh Jugo de Limón

Jugo de limón and a side of ají
Can you name any Colombian food? I'm putting my money that you can't. Probably outside of Miami, Florida you would be hard pressed to even find a Colombian restaurant. And I would guess that the people only go for the atmosphere, and to reminisce about home because Colombian food is uneventful. In Colombia the almuerzo al dia (lunch of the day) is a good value and will fill you up. But I'm guessing like Indian food it isn't as cheap in the States to eat, the difference being that Indian food is worth paying for, the exception being the vegetarian food. If I have to pay American prices for a meal I wants me some meats.

One of the best parts of eating in a Colombian restaurant is the fresh homemade ají, a sauce made from oil, vinegar, garlic and chilies. It isn't usually really hot, Colombians don't eat spicy food, so I just pile it on my meal. I'm not saying Colombian food is bad, it just isn't memorable. So when I came across a blog of the 10 things to eat in Bogotá, I was happy. Especially since it comes from Colin who knows his stuff when it
Grilled Plate 1Grilled Plate 1Grilled Plate 1

Grilled beef, chicken breast, chigüiro, fried plantain, roasted potatoes and an arepa. The chigüiro is in the middle between the chicken and plantain.
comes to Bogotá and Colombia. It was stuff I wouldn't know what it is if I had seen it on a menu or even known to seek it out.

Now some things are obvious like coffee. I like the café con leche, it already comes with sugar and milk. Did you know that Colombians actually export their best coffee beans to Europe and America? Then there is arequipe, or dulce de leche, kinda like caramel. Even better than that is cafequipe which is coffee and arequipe mixed. However I can only seem to find it in Zona Cafetera or the coffee region. Then there are chocolate covered coffee beans. Now the funny thing about them is they are hard to find in Zona Cafetera, but you can find them in Bogotá, go figure.

Then there is ajiaco which is a soup of shredded chicken, 3 kinds of potatoes, corn, rice, cream, capers and avocado. Now where I volunteer they serve it but without the capers and avocado, and since we are serving kids it may not have all the spices so I will have to try a proper bowl of it sometime.

So on my way back
Grilled Plate 2Grilled Plate 2Grilled Plate 2

Grilled beef, chicken breast, chigüiro, fried plantain, roasted potatoes and an arepa. The chigüiro is in the middle between the chicken and plantain.
from Venezuela I stop off in Bogotá just for a day or so. But then I come across Colin's blog post and decide to stay a few days and seek out these foods since he does give directions to some of his favorite places in Bogotá. I have to say it was definitely worth the extra stay.

The first thing I wanted to try was chigüiro . Now it was Sunday so most places are closed on Sundays and I couldn't find an asadero (a rotisserie or grill), open in the La Candelaria area where I was staying so I headed to zona norte a more upscale area of Bogotá. I found some asaderos but looking at the menus I couldn't see chigüiro listed on them. Now my Spanish isn't that good and I wasn't really sure how to pronounce chigüiro at the time so I really didn't want to ask anybody. But when I came upon a place that had no menu outside for me to read I had to approach the waiter outside and attempt to ask him if they had chigüiro. He said yes and there was actually a large piece of chigüiro being grilled
Capybara 1Capybara 1Capybara 1

This is where chigüiro comes from. The largest living rodent in the world. Basically a big ass rat.
outside for show. So I went inside and sat at a table. The waiter then brought me a piece of chigüiro for me to sample and it was very good. I heard it tasted like pork, but better, a little sweeter. I would have ordered a plate of chigüiro but it didn't seem to be an option so I got the mixed grilled plate which consisted of grilled beef, chicken breast, chigüiro, fried plantain, and roasted potatoes and came with a side of guacamole and the ever present arepa. Add a fresh jugo de limón (lime juice, no lemons here in South America) and I had a great meal. I am definitely on the lookout for more chigüiro.

Oh yeah, I guess I should mention what chigüiro is or where it comes from. Chigüiro comes from a capybara. What is a capybara Just the largest living rodent in the world. So a giant rat basically. Its closest relatives are chinchillas and guinea pigs. Yea like have you ever seen a guinea pig that was 2 feet tall and weighed 200 lbs? It's a big ass rat. Then only thing is it doesn't have a long skinny tail. Trust me
Capybara 2Capybara 2Capybara 2

Related to chinchillas and guinea pigs. About 2 feet tall, 4 feet long and can weigh up to 200 pounds.
if it did people would probably be afraid of it and wouldn't eat it.

The next evening I went in search of a Caribbean neighborhood for some fish. I went about 6:30 PM cause its dinner right? Well I forgot that a lot of Colombian restaurants are closed for dinner and are only open for breakfast and lunch. I guess dinner is a big family affair so people eat at home. So I found the area but the restaurants I saw were already closed. All was not lost though because I was with a couple from Denmark and we came across a traditional Colombian restaurant that also served pizza and had a parrilla or grill. Looking at the menu though I spotted another one of the top things to eat in Bogotá, bandeja paisa.

Bandeja Paisa is considered Colombia's national dish. It is a very simple dish consisting of rice, beans, fried plantain, an arepa, ground beef (sometime flap meat), chorizo (a semi spicy kind of sausage), chicharrón (deep fried pork rind), avocado, and a fried egg(s).

Now almost every meal in Colombia includes the first 4 items, rice, beans, some sort of plantain (similar to a
Bandeja Paisa 1Bandeja Paisa 1Bandeja Paisa 1

Colombia's national dish. Rice, beans, fried plantain, an arepa, ground beef, chorizo, chicharrón, avocado, and a fried egg.
giant banana), and an arepa. What, you may ask is an arepa? Well you really don't want to know. It is something that only Colombians like. It is like an edible rock made from corn. Now don't go thinking that it is made from cornmeal and may remind you of cornbread, oh noo. An arepa is white, hard, dry, and flavorless. I have yet to meet a non-Colombian who says that they like arepas, at least plain. I have been at resturants and seen stray dogs refuse to eat them, I kid you not. Dogs, who will eat anything including grass and their own feces won't eat arepas. It's not that they taste bad, they are just flavorless. Now you can fry them, stuff them with meat and/or cheese and add butter and they are tolerable. But really if you fry and add butter and cheese to anything it only makes it better. A plain arepa is worthless.

Back to the bandeja paisa. It is served on a big platter because it is said that a mere plate cannot contain all of the ingredients. You cut up the avocado, chorizo, chicharrón, and egg. then mix everything together into one
Bandeja Paisa 2Bandeja Paisa 2Bandeja Paisa 2

Colombia's national dish
big heaping mess. I add a ton of ají, usually going through 2 sides of it.

The next day I head out for a late lunch at one of the fish houses. Colombian restaurants are very busy for lunch and since I am dining by myself it is hard to get a table for one when a restaurant is busy. About 3:30 I enter the restaurant. There is a table of about 5 or 6 employees talking and folding napkins, etc and a table of 4 people who are just finishing eating. With my limited Spanish I ask the waitress what is the best fried fish on the menu and order that. Now on Colin's blog he mentions that at first he ate the fish with a knife and fork before he learned that it is OK to pick it up and eat with your hands. At the back of the restaurant there are 3 sinks for washing up so I guess it really is alright to eat with your hands. And it makes sense. When I say I was in a Caribbean restaurant in a Caribbean neighborhood, I mean I'm among black folks. Yes Colombia has black people. Most are from and live on the Caribbean coast and I hear there are a lot in Cali Colombia.

Black folk eat with their hands and suck on bones. Most Americans eat fried chicken with their hands so it always amuses me when I see some Europeans eating fried chicken with a knife and fork. They even eat their pizza with a knife and fork. Of course that blowhard Donald Trump eats pizza with a knife and fork, so I will offer him to any country in Europe that wants him.
Now Colombians eat fried chicken with a plastic glove, I kid you not. So your average Colombian may not pick up fish bones with their hands, but the Caribbeans in Colombia do because they're black and black folk don't waste nothin.

So the first course was fish soup. I 'm not a big fan of fish or soup but this was very good. I got 2 fish heads in my soup and I sucked the hell out of them getting at all of the meat. Then the fish came. Now I wish there were more people in the restaurant so I could see for myself if it
Fish Soup, the MiddleFish Soup, the MiddleFish Soup, the Middle

The middle. Yes that's a fish head.
was OK to eat with your hands. I started out using my tenedor (fork), but when I got to the bones I picked them up to eat them. At one point the waitress walked by my table and started laughing to herself, but I didn't care I was too busy destroying that fish. Anyways it wasn't as good as the catfish I can get at the Hush Puppy or Mario's market back in Vegas, but it was good and I'll go back the next time I am in Bogotá.

The last thing on my list to eat was lechona. It was a little difficult to find. I asked at my hostel and was told an area to go to but couldn't find it. Then at the end of a walking tour in Bogotá I asked the guide where could I find it and she crinkled her nose and made a face and said she wasn't sure but would ask inside the office. The other girls seemed not to care for it as well but told me an area to try. I tried to find it at the Paloquemao market but I went late afternoon and most things were closed.
Fish Soup, the EndFish Soup, the EndFish Soup, the End

The end. Bones from 2 fish heads and a whole fish.
But I found out that it originated in the state of Tolima and that was where I was headed, back to Ibagué the capital of Tolima.

Lechona was good but not remarkable. It is pork, yellow rice, yellow peas, and green onions stuffed in a pig carcass and cooked for about 10-12 hours. The presentation is kind of impressive though, a whole stuffed pig.

So here it is, actual good food in Colombia. I would recommend all of the items mentioned if you are ever in Colombia.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Pescadería 1Pescadería 1
Pescadería 1

Sinks at the back of the pescadería.
Pescadería 2Pescadería 2
Pescadería 2

A mural in the pescadería
Pescadería 3Pescadería 3
Pescadería 3

Another mural inside the pescadería.
Pescado 1Pescado 1
Pescado 1

Fish plate.
Pescado 4Pescado 4
Pescado 4

I destroyed it.
Lechona PlateLechona Plate
Lechona Plate

Lechona plate with a Club Colombia.

25th October 2011

Bandeja Paisa
I had this at a small restaurant in the city center that the hostel owner always goes too, we had a bottle of aguardiente and the Bandeja Paisa was amazing! the chicharron is THE best! I loved it. also if you make it to Medellin have ur fill at calentado for breakfast! It's great!
25th October 2011
Lechona 1

Oh Yea!!
I'd be ALLLLL over that! great pics bro
25th March 2012

Great post!
Just seeing this now. I'm glad my article helped, and it looks you did better than I'd expect any newcomer to Bogota. Great pics! I think I know that exact fish spot. It's on Calle 57th and 8th? That's also a great-looking paisa. Good job!!!
10th January 2015
Fish Soup, the Beginning

Just discovered your blog
Enjoying reading your travels. keep the blogs coming.

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