10 Things To Eat in Bogota

6 Sep

Just for fun, I also included 3 Things You Don’t Have To Eat in Bogota.

Bandeja Paisa

bandeja paisa

You’ll eat Colombia’s national dish and my favorite, bandeja paisa, throughout the country. Rice, beans, ground beef or steak, chorizochicharrónarepa, avocado, platano, fried egg, and sometimes morcilla. Any paisa in Bogota costing 15,000 pesos or more should be solid. An economic but good choice is La Cucharita de Mi Abuela (pictured) at Calle 63 & Carrera 13. Grande for 13,300. Be like me and mix it all together with a cup or two of ají for spicy, sloppy goodness. See my earlier post on bandeja paisa.

UPDATE, January 2011 – Bandeja paisa originates in Antioquia and Medellin. However, every bandeja paisa I ordered during my month there SUCKED. They’re better in Bogota.

Ajiaco

Bogota’s regional plate. Chicken, potato, and corn soup served with a plate of rice, avocado, and pollo sudado (stewed chicken). Add everything on the plate into the soup. Be like me and ask for extra capers (alcaparras) for the contrast. I didn’t see what the big deal about ajiaco was for a few months because I only had it at cheap and mid-priced restaurants. Make sure you have it at a decent place – it should cost at least 10,000 pesos ($5). My favorites are at the places a block from Plaza Bolivar downtown. Great meal for rainy weather.

Black Folks’ Fish

fish head

People don’t know there are black folks in Colombia. There are. Most live on the coasts (Caribbean and Pacific) so fish is a big part of their culture. They run the best fish fry houses in the city (not trying to perpetuate stereotypes, I couldn’t make this up). Latino cities tend to cluster their industries, so there will be a black folks’ fish street or district in any given neighborhood. I go to a place at Calle 57 and Carrera 8. Another good one in Chapinero’s at Calle 51 and Carrera 17. If you’re staying in La Candelaria, there’s a district at Calle 20 on Carrera 4. Any place where you see black folks and fish should suffice. Buy an avocado on the street before you go in.

Note: it’s important to know how to eat fish. When I first moved down here, I’d attack it with a knife and fork. This is wrong. Eat with your fingers and eat everything. Unless it’s a bone, put it in your mouth and disintegrate that shit. Fins and the tail go down like potato chips. There’s only a tiny little skull bone in its head so you can digest everything else: its weak-ass face skin, eyeballs, the soft gunk, the hard gunk, everything. Omega-3 goodness.

Examples:

black folks fishbones 1black-folks-fish-2bones-2

Chiguiro

chiguiro mix plate

In this shot, chiguiro is served on a mixed plate with pork ribs, steak, potatoes, platano, arepa boyacense, and avocado.

I’d been eating chiguiro for about six months before learning what it was. I was told it’s baby pig. I figured Colombians had a different word for baby pigs, kinda like ‘veal’ for baby cows in English. It tastes like lean pork, but better.

One day I was talking about chiguiro with a Colombian and he explicitly told me it wasn’t pork, but a rodent. He didn’t know the word in English. He tried “hamster” and “guinea pig.” A hamster on steroids with gene therapy wouldn’t yield the big chiguiro filets. And I lived in Peru for a year, so I know guinea pig (cuy). That filthy stank is not chiguiro.

So I did a Google Image search right then and there. This is what I saw! It’s a beaver! I couldn’t believe it. I’d been eating beaver for months and loving it! Some research later, I learned they’re actually called ‘capybara’ in English. Capybaras are native to South America so most wouldn’t know the word in English. My original theory was that beavers down here evolved past what they did in North America due to the combination of Andes Mountains and heavy rainfall, which must make for some killer dams. Some of them stand as tall as a human’s knees. I’m not an evolutionary scientist, but look at that thing! It’s a beaver!

chiguiro-1chiguiro-2

You’ll have to ask around for an asadero that serves chiguiro. I go to one on Calle 61 east of Carrera 13. Here are some closeups of the meat:

chiguiro on the grillchiguiro up close

Arequipe

arequipe dulce de leche

Known as dulce de leche outside Colombia, arequipe is my favorite dessert. Get it served with chocolate, in a croissant, in a wafer with cheese and blackberry sauce, or in herpos. If it’s got arequipe, it’s good. It’s cheap and easy to make a basic version at home, but it takes time and attention. Boil a pound of brown sugar into a liter of whole milk, stirring  until thick.

Coffee

cafe colombiano colombian coffee

No shit, sherlock, Colombian coffee’s the best in the world. I’ve learned the best beans are exported to Italy, France, and Argentina where they fetch more money in absolute terms. Still, the everyday stuff is excellent. If you want a straight coffee, order a tinto. It comes standard with sugar, so you have to mention “sin azucar” if you want it black. You can get cafe con leche, cappucino, titero (coffee, milk, and panela), or chocolate-covered coffee beans. All excellent.

Changua

changua

This isn’t that great, but I needed some filler crap because Colombian food ain’t as good as Kool-Aid drinking expats would have you think. Changua is good for a cheap, fast, high-protein breakfast. Hot milk soup with eggs, onion, cilantro, and bread crumbs. Also good for cold, rainy weather (Bogota). I’ve found this to be seen as a lower-class breakfast. See my earlier changua post.

Ensalada de Frutas

Colombians make the best fruit salads ever. Each bowl will have about a dozen different kinds of chopped fruit, cream, ice cream, and cheese. You can get these at various fruteríasand cafes throughout the city, but the best (and cheapest) are at informal produce markets. These markets also have excellent morcilla and lechona (see below). I go to 7 de Agosto (be careful!).

Colombia’s one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. There are loads of exotic fruits and you should eat them all – not just ensaladas. See my entire post on Fruit in Colombia.

Morcilla and Lechona

Morcilla is a sausage casing stuffed with cooked blood, rice, peas, and maybe celery. It took some getting used to, but now I love it.

Lechona is pork, rice, and peas cooked together. They stuff the shelled pig carcass with the rice and pork mix. Both morcilla and lechona are inexpensive.

These are two food items, but I grouped them because you can get them both and eat them together at open produce markets like Paloquemao downtown or 7 de agosto in Chapinero.

Andres Carne de Res

Andres Carne de Res is the most talked-about restaurant in the city. They serve great steaks with a packed, party atmosphere. I won’t have any first-hand feedback or pictures until I can afford it.

3 Things You Don’t Have To Eat in Bogota

Yuca

yuca 1

Yuca is a major staple in countries throughout the Americas. It can be OK slow boiled in chicken broth, and anything’s OK deep-fried. But yuca is generally hard and flavorless. What’s the difference between yuca and wood? Yuca grows below ground.

Panela

panelapanela-2

Colombia is a leading producer of panela, bricks of evaporated sugar cane juice. It’s sold in the shape of a brick, but it’s also as hard as and probably heavier than a brick. You can’t cut it with a knife; you have to break it in half by banging it with a metal rod. Pure sugar. You can melt it into desserts but many people eat it in small brick form, letting it dissolve in their mouths. Once a week without fail, The Mick insists I tell the world that Colombians aren’t as strong or athletic because their parents feed them so much panela, and that in over 20 years he “never lost a tackle!” OK, Mick. Done.

Arepas

ppc arepas 3arepa antioquena 2arepa-boyacense-2

You’ll have a hard time coming to Colombia and not eating arepas, a national staple. They’re cornmeal biscuits. They taste like biscuits but with less moisture. I attribute much of my early depression in Colombia to arepas. You see, I suffered serious cognitive dissonance during my first month or two here, mostly due to the crime and bad food (bad compared to Peruvian). The arepa was central to my disliking the food. Although after a few months eating them, you start to like them a little. There are several different kinds. For more on arepas and lots of pictures, see my post on Arepas in Colombia.

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(¸.•´ (¸.•` ¤ This is a reblog. Visit the original post here
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3 Responses to “10 Things To Eat in Bogota”

  1. patarroyoblanco 02/08/2015 at 3:38 #

    If you wanna get traditional, bandeja apisa and pescado del pacífico are not typical from this region, they are not bogotan. Try Tamal santafereño con chocolate and arroz con leche instead, those are really bogotan. African culture is not present in traditional Bogotá which is historically mestizo (native american + european) because of the muiscas indiands (as the genetics of sportist Nairo Quintana, I also have muiscan blood) were so though that they could make an african-like work in hight altitudes (they were called “indios cargueros”) of the Andes, so the main work force was not based on slavey (as in other regions of the country) but in “encomiendas” a kind of feudalism. Lechona is not from Bogotá but from the region of Tolima. You can try brevas con arequipe or torta de las tres leches instead.

  2. musicfan31 17/10/2016 at 2:14 #

    No, the best bandeja paisas are NOT in Bogota. That is laughable. That is like saying the best pizza is in China, not Italy. For any foreigner who sees this, do not be thrown off by that. The best are indeed in Antioquia but NOT Medellin, you are NOT speaking with any authority, Colin, try going outside Medellin as Antioquia is more than just Medellin.

    • Concatervate 06/11/2016 at 23:09 #

      There’s some faulty logic in you initial statement but I see what you’re getting at.

      Now, I’m glad you posted your comment in the original blog too. Let’s see what his answer is. Thanks for stopping by :).

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