So what can you do here? Oh a lot of things as this place doesn’t lack in culture. It’s a place one should immerse himself through learning the Spanish language, eating Colombian food, dancing Salsa, drinking Aguardiente, seeing the Botero sculptures–the list goes on and on.
One of the favorite things in Colombia I stumbled upon is trying every local food as much as I can during the months I was living there. I’ll give you a taste of Colombia with their local cuisines unique in Medellin and local staples found everywhere in the Latin American country.
As a Filipino, you may find some similarities with some of their food. Okay, let’s start with the drink this country is most commonly known for. Coffee, yes this country is known for cafe, and Cafe de Colombia is really good as the freshly brewed Tinto (brewed coffee) as they locally call it, is perfect for the rainy days, breakfast, to cap a tiring day–you name it.
The best Tinto for me wasn’t those from the well-known brands but those bought from carafes on the streets which I always get during coffee breaks during work. Their cheap yet so good to refresh you from feeling tired throughout the day. But of course I can’t dismiss the fact that the well-known brands are also those you have to try such as the famous cafe in the area which is Juan Valdez and Crepes y Waffles.
Photos courtesy of Juan Valdez Cafe
Have a sip of their Tinto or other coffee they offer, bring home bags of coffee beans if you can and I recommend trying a favorite of mine called Achocolatado. It’s roasted coffee beans coated with cacao or chocolate which was until now I wish we have here as good as these. It’s long way back to get another batch from Latin America and this cafe hasn’t reached the Philippine shores yet.
Photo courtesy of Crepes y Waffles
On the other hand, Crepes y Waffles is more than just coffee as this cozy neighborhood cafe serves main dishes too apart from their sandwiches. Oh and their ice cream are really good for dessert. I usually go here with friends if we feel like unwinding from a long day since it’s near where we lived. The cozy ambiance of wooden tables and chairs with al fresco dining area is one of the things I love the most at Crepes y Waffles and since you can dine here, it’s a great hangout cafe and restaurant you should try during your trip to Medellin. The photo above is from their branch in Nutibara street in La Floresta, the area where I lived.
One of the local staples in Medellin which this province is known for is the muy rico (very delicious) Bandeja Paisa. The term Paisa refers to a person from the Paisa Region which is Antioquia. Bandeja is Spanish for the word platter. Prepare yourself for a plateful of Chicharron, red beans with pork, arroz (rice), fried egg, Patacones (fried plantain), Arepa (flatbread made of ground maize dough or cooked flour), avocado and lemon. For someone like me who doesn’t eat a lot of food in one sitting, it’s usually difficult to finish this huge dish but yes, I tried because of my friends coaxing me to finish everything hahaha!
Some have different variations depending on the town you go to. Some may add Morcilla (sausage with blood, rice and onions), carne molida (ground meat) or Chorizo (sausage). You see the similarity with the Chicharron? We call it Liempo in Philippines which is usually grilled but sometimes also fried and dipped in vinegar with garlic and pepper or other sauces we have back home. Our version though of Chicharron varies as the pork rinds are those we also eat with vinegar, usually for snacks or to accompany drinking cerveza (beer).
Where to try the Bandeja Paisa? The best one I tried was my friend’s uncle’s restaurant Las Panas Parrilla/Bar in Guayabal. It was an open air restaurant that’s simple and her family helps out in their restaurant. The food is very delicious and it’s definitely worth a visit.
There are actually a lot of restaurants serving this dish so it’s not hard finding one. Also I was able to try Bandeja Paisa in Guatape, Antioquia which was also muy rico. So if you happen to go out of Medellin and find yourself in Guatape, order this food and you won’t regret it.
Now a favorite food of mine during my stay there is the Patacon in Colombia though some countries it’s known as Patacones, Tostones, Platanos Verdes Fritos, Chatinos or Bananes Pesee. It depends which country you go to like in Philippines it’s Patacones but for me I will also always refer to it as mi favorito Patacon as it was in this country I first tried it.
Basically it is fried plantain or banana slices with different toppings of salsa, avocado, corn, cheese, mushroom, etc. The toppings vary depending on who makes it but the one I ate had these toppings usually and it’s muy rico! I tried making it when I came home in Philippines but the bananas had to be the same variety of those in Colombia so mine became more of our local food called Maruya which is sweeter. I also tried those from Las Brasas restaurant but still it was different.
The best Patacon I ate was from Santa Fe mall and Pa’ Tacon restaurant situated at a mall behind the Anastacio Girardote Olympic Stadium. So go around and not only try one restaurant but a couple of them to see the difference.
Photos courtesy of (1) Freddy’s Cuisine, (2) historiayplatos.blogspot.com (2 &4) My Colombian Recipes
Now Arepa is also a local staple but sadly it never became a favorite despite initially having it on my first day, prepared by my Colombian friend’s mother, when I arrived in Colombia. Others find it pretty good though but I prefer the Patacon. It’s a flat bread made of ground maize dough or cooked flour that’s grilled with toppings varying from Chorizo, cheese, avocado and others depending once again who makes it.
Of course, don’t miss their Sancocho, a traditional food in Colombia, made with different meat but usually they use beef though others use chicken, pork or cow ribs, fish or ox tail, with slice plantain, potato, cassava and other vegetables depending on the region it’s cooked. Doesn’t it remind you of the Filipino food Nilagang Baka?
How about liquor? Oh Colombia won’t be complete without them. Like their cerveza, a really good beer is Club Colombia and the Club Colombia Roja is a favorite of mine as it reminds me of the beer Red Horse from Philippines. They have a beer factory where you can go for a tour and even bring home a six pack after knowing how it’s made. How’s that for a good part of your trip? There are other brands which I’ll discuss on the second part of the food feature of Colombia.
Aguardiente! Come on Colombia won’t be complete with Guaro, the shorter term for the local drink in this country. Arguardiente Antioqueno is from Antioquia itself. It’s an anise-flavored liquor from sugarcane which has 24% to 29% alcohol content. Drinking it pure is the best way to do so as I learned from my friends there but it’s very strong so try to drink it moderately.
I was able to bring home a bottle for my dad and yes he loved it as well as my brother who shared the drink with him.
There’s so much food and drinks in Colombia and writing all of them here is impossible so watch out for another feature on the local food on my next article Cerveza, Empanada, Chocolate con Quezo: Satisfy your palate with Colombian Dishes (Part III) at The HodgePodge Lifestyle. Now aren’t you hungry after reading this article? Go eat and find a Colombian or Latin American restaurant near you or maybe try making your own Colombian dishes at home. Buen Provecho (happy eating)!
For more info on Colombian food, you may visit: