Colombia is a very “regional” country. And, apart from its great variety of fruits, each region offers distinct and delicious culinary traditions that you can try if you spend a few weeks in Colombia. So, just to give you an idea of want you can find, we are going to highlight 5 of the most popular Colombian dishes you should try.
Originating from Bogotá, ajiaco is also a popular and traditional soup served in the Colombian departments of Boyacá and Cundinamarca. To make ajiaco, you need chicken, corn, potatoes (yellow papas criollas and white papas sabaneras), and guasca leaves. As you let the ingredients simmer, the small yellow potatoes fall apart and melt and give the soup a thick consistency that sometimes makes you think this is a cream and not a water-based soup. A bowl of ajiaco is normally eaten with a portion of white rice, avocado, capers, and a spoonful of crema de leche (table cream).
If you are hunting some good seafood, you’ll need to head towards the coast. On the Caribbean Coast, you’ll find amazing pargo frito (fried snapper, both red and golden), róbalo (sea bass) and mojarra (sea bream) that is served with coconut rice, and fried plantains. You can also find a variety of cazuela de mariscos (seafood soups), prawns (both regular and jumbo), and occasionally lobster.
Bandeja paisa is not only the most traditional dish in the Coffee Region and Antioquia, but also one of the most famous Colombian dishes around the world. Bandeja paisa may not be the most healthy dish but it is really good! It includes: a portion of beans, a fried egg, rice, ground beef, chorizo (type of sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), avocado, chicharrón (fried pork rinds), and a sweet plantain. A bandeja paisa is best eaten on an extremely empty stomach and is best prepared in the Coffee Zone, even though you can surely find it other parts of the country.
Lechona is a traditional dish found more in the interior of Colombia than anywhere else, especially in the departments of Tolima (where lechona supposedly originated), Cundinamarca, Boyacá and Bogotá. It consists of a pig that has been stuffed with rice, onions, potatoes, peas, and spices and has been roasted for several hours until it is tender and ready to eat. Once it is ready, the pork meat is cut into portions and served with the stuffing. You can find Lechona in many restaurants and markets in Bogotá as well in other cities of the country. Typically a smaller portion will cost around $5.000 COP.
Very different from lechona is fritanga. Unlike lechona, fritanga is more a class of food and not necessarily a specific dish. Fritanga refers to a group of mostly fried animal parts including: chunchullo (fried pig or cow intestine), chorizo (sausage), morcilla (blood sausage or black pudding), and chicharrón (pork rinds). These meats normally come accompanied with white arepas (Colombian corn cakes), fried or baked plantain and small fried yellow papas criollas (creole potatoes). While you can find fritanga being sold by street vendors in Bogotá, you can find incredible fritanga at a restaurant called El Tambor, which sits above Bogotá close to la Calera district—you’ll have to take a taxi or go by car. You can also find good “gourmet” fritanga at a restaurant called, fittingly, Fritanga Gourmet in the Usaquén area of the city or in the neighborhood la Macarena at a place called Criolla Fritanga Gourmet. If you are traveling to Raquira and Villa de Leyva, we suggest to stop at Sutamarchan, a small town located just 20 minutes north Raquira, where you will find various options to try a delicious fritanga.
Enjoy the Colombian cuisine and let us know your favourite dish!
The Uncover Colombia Team