As I have mentioned many times, Colombia is a country full of wonderful and delicious foods. I have told you about a variety of traditional Colombian dishes, but have not yet told you about one of the most famous types of street food: empanadas and envueltos.
I am sure many of you have heard of empanadas before in some context. However, in Colombia, there are two types of empanadas: fried and baked with fried ones being the most common type. Fried empanadas are normally made with yellow corn meal, and baked empanadas are made with flour. In either case, you first make the “dough” for the empanadas. Then, you roll it out into flat circular shapes, add the fillings of your choice, and then either pop them in the frying oil or in the oven.
In Colombia, both types of empanadas are normally stuffed with cheese, beef, chicken or potatoes, although you will find them stuffed with a variety of other things as well, depending on what region of the country you are in—there are even places now that sell them stuffed with combinations with names like Hawaiian (pineapple, ham, and cheese) and Mexican (peppers, shredded beef, and onions). Both types of empanadas are normally served with different sauces including a spicy one with a spicy pepper base and another less spicy one with a lime-cilantro base.
While some people will tell you to avoid street food, I personally think the best empanadas are bought from street vendors. That being said, make sure you find empanadas that are recently made and fried—there’s nothing worse than biting into an empanada that has been sitting under a heating lamp all day! If you want to avoid street food, you can also find empanadas, though, on most restaurant menus as an appetizer, and there are even businesses devoted entirely to selling empandas such as the restaurant chain Tipicas.
Like empanadas, envueltos are made from corn meal (or yucca meal), but they are not fried or baked but rather boiled. Envuelto literally means, “wrapped,” and it refers to cornmeal or yucca meal that is cooked inside a plantain leaf or cornhusk and in Colombia is often known as “bollo or envuelto” Once cooked, the cornmeal or yucca meal is removed from the husk or leaf and is added to several different dishes, including salads and mixed plates, or eaten as a dish of its own with traditional sausages, lime juice, and a type of Colombian sour cream, suero. While you could definitely eat bollo by itself with no toppings or condiments, I would recommend that you at least douse it with some lime juice as it can be quite bland if eaten alone.
Whereas bollo can be very easily found on the Caribbean Coast at any supermarket or from many street vendors, in the interior of the country you may have to do some serious asking-around or even have to find a recipe yourself and try your hand at making your own bollo or envuelto!
Paige M. Poole
About the author:
“Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige’s traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com