A tour of Colombia through the world of Traditional Food in Bogotá
I’m going to preface this chat by admitting I’m typically NOT one for tours of any kind. Hot, stinky buses full of tourists? Nope. 9-12 hours of my day taken up going ‘extra places’ I didn’t need or want to go? Nope. Waits and lineups to do all that? Nope. I’m more of a rent a car, grab a map (or not) and go kind of gal.
But recently I went to Bogotá, Colombia to visit family, and mostly my son & my day time hours were our own to adventure. Not fully knowing where was safe to travel as a (old) lady with a teenage son, a guide of sorts seemed the best bet for exploring until we got comfortable with the lay of the land. While Google brought up some options, it was Airbnb Experiences that enticed us the most.
I found one ‘foodie tour’ that looked good and had amazing reviews, but I still went into it with VERY low expectations. Or, high expectation of failure – expectations of cheesey guides, bad foods, and an overall lacklustre experience. It’s almost hard NOT to impress after going in like that, amiright?! LOL! Not to mention I had dragged along a 15yo boy who is a PICKY eater and certain not to try anything at all.
But I wanted to try COLOMBIAN food. Not Mexican-Colombian, not Japanese in Colombia, not Italian Fusion somewhere in Bogotá (all of which was amazing, btw) – I wanted old school food from the grass roots of Colombia. I try to seek out the most authentic local food possible when I travel for at least one or two meals. So, a tour of the foods of Colombia seemed up my alley, even if it was hosted in an area I was told *might* not be best to venture to ‘on my own’…
From the first moment the Guide with her warm smile and beautifully accented English (there is not a lot of English to be found in Bogotá – even from young people and their American music / tv?) set me at ease. The walk to the location from our Uber drop (to the nearby Museum of Gold) was easy. We were, all in all, in good hands. <queue sigh of relief!>
Maybe I hadn’t quite read the whole brief, but I was pleasantly surprised that we would be visiting 6-7 Restaurants (depending on rain – it tends to suddenly MONSOON for hours in the rainy season) that represented authentic Colombian cuisine from each of the regions of Colombia – the Pacifico, the Caribe, the Andes, the Amazonia & the Orinoquia. (For reference, Bogotá is situated central/north in the Andes region).
I didn’t catch the specific areas for every dish, but most of them are now widely cooked and eaten throughout Colombia.
The tour group works hard and I don’t want to steal their thunder, but I did want to acknowledge the diversity of foods that originate in Colombia! If you’re going that way, I highly recommend doing the tour for yourself <HERE>. My favorite stop? Well, all of them!
PARGO ROJO FRITO O EN SALSA with BOROJO
From the Pacifico Region
Fish! Shocking, right?! But it was DELISH with the salsa and the tomato-infused rice. It came with a local sweet fruit juice known as Borojo that Mr Fussy Pants had 3 glasses of, despite its rather brown color.
From the Caribbean Region
Served with sour cream & spicy dips, these meat pockets were light and delicious – not as heavy as Empanadas tend to be.
Added bonus? We ended this snack with a small chocolate tasting!
Tamales are well known throughout the world, and fresh in-house they were full of flavor. Typically wrapped with Plantain leaves and steamed, they can be filled with anything. These were chicken and rice, and really moist.
Fillings and wrappers will vary greatly throughout Colombia, but they originated (I’m told) from the workers in the mountainous regions where a pre-wrapped snack like a Tamale would be easy to consume mid-day.
PATACONES & CHICHA
Patacones are sliced, flattened and twice fried green Plantains that are topped with a wide variety of meats, cheeses or veg/salsas. In Colombia they’re basically a toast point.
Chicha is a fermented (very low alchohol) rice drink that can come in a huge variety of flavors – the one on the right is Mango. It didn’t have a harsh corn flavor – quite smooth.
Aborrajados are another Plantain treat, typically filled with Cheese, but this time it was a Plantain flour cake type pocket filled with a thick cream.
It was as delicious as it sounds!
CHIGUIRO, or VEAL
Local to the Andean Plains
Chiguiro is actually a large rodent, not unlike a weird, tail-less Beaver, and currently illegal to eat. Instead, we had ‘young beef’, or Veal, that was roasted on an open BBQ pit for a crispy skin that was out of this world.
SOPA DE TORTILLA
This gorgeous bowl of yum featured the typical hard-kernel Corn of Colombia, as well as incredibly fresh Avocado, Yucca and Chicken in a thick, peppery broth. It was the perfect ending to our tour of traditional foods from Colombia!
It turned out that quick 2-4hr tours are great for learning something you wouldn’t have otherwise, or for visiting an area you’re not yet sure about, expanding your knowledge of place & culture at the same time. It also gives you someone to ask 1,000 questions of! And you never know who you might meet at the same time.
And – big shocker reveal – the fussy-pants Kid ate everything!
Have you tried an Airbnb Experience yet??! Where? How did it work out?
I would definitely do it again, especially in a country as foreign to me as Colombia was. Next time I’ll try a coffee plantation tour (preferrably private) and perhaps a cooking class on the Caribbean.