Leaving the country soon what do you expect to miss the most? It should be something really common and important for its citizens. For Colombians it is street food. There is a cult of street food, everyone believes it is food of Gods (maybe not really, but seeing their enjoyment while eating… omnomnom).
You overslept and now in a hurry going to work? You don’t have time between classes to eat? You’re too busy at work for lunch? It’s too late when you’re heading back home? The answer is street food! It is everywhere, the menu is already known and it is cheap.
So let’s start our Colombian Street Food Tour.
Well, first of all, you’ll find all kinds of burgers and hotdogs. Honestly, I can barely say that its taste and quality depends on the place you buy them. They are pretty much the same everywhere. So don’t doubt, just buy.
Another story is about traditional Colombian food – “arepas”. Here you have a good choice about its filling. The most simple, but still very good is arepa with cheese (“arepa con queso”). Melted warm cheese inside of arepa makes this meal pretty nice and nutritious. Usually it costs 1.500 pesos, but some street sellers make it 2.000 if they see you’re a foreigner.
And now you can choose anything you want to be inside of your arepa: chicken, beef, salchicha (Colombian sausage), ham and cheese, mixed, plus different sauces. It can cost you from 1.500 to 3.500 pesos depends on your filling.
One more popular quick meal is empanada. It is kind of a fried patty with, again, a lot of variety of fillings. Eggs, cheese, beef, chicken or mushrooms mixed with rice, some vegetables and a lot of sauce variety – seems like a pretty good lunch in one unit. The most delicious ones are with only one (max two) fillings and without rice. The best place to buy them is near the Transmilenio station “Calle 95” in the Empanada Factory (not a big surprise actually). Oh my God, I can die for its “pollo con queso” (chicken with cheese) empanadas. I was lucky to work several months near this place, so I never had doubts about my lunch. The second most delicious filling is shrimps. Empanadas with shrimps (and any other sea food) you can find in the Passific region of Colombia. Here you can read a bit more about it.
I personally think empanada is a queen of Colombian street food:
1. It already has everything you need for lunch in one empanada. Still hungry? Just have another one.
2. It is so easy to eat. You will never have problems of kid’s dirty in sauce and food hands, but of course, you’ll need a napkin.
3. You can easily take it to go not being afraid to pick up its fillings in a plastic bag.
Colombians looove meat. And of course it is one of the most popular kinds of street food. Pieces of chicken or beef, salchicha with a small potato at the top of a small wooden stick can pass for a nice meal during your long day only for 2.000 pesos.
Very common for Colombians but rather unusual for foreigners as fast food is corn. You can find them as often as hotdogs. Grilled corn-cobs greased with butter are not less than delicious! And healthy, that is quite unusual for street food.
As a fast food snack you the streets of Bogota can offer you “street made” potato and plantain chips. Don’t know what plantain is?
Then don’t hesitate to buy (around 1.500 pesos) and try it! Very unusual and delicious! Actually, plantain, or how they call it here “platano” is a “brother” of banana. It is twice bigger and of two types: yellow and green. The yellow one is sweet and weird (as for me, haha), the green one in pretty much like… Can’t even find something similar to it. The last one is good for plantain chips.
The main thing about Colombian street food: where do you think they cook it? In a pretty-American-style van? It also has wheels, but this is how it looks like:
Don’t think about sanitary regulations, please.
Speaking about some drinks you can have to accompany your street lunch, you have two options: coffee or herbal-fruit tea called “aromatica”. Traditional for Colombians coffee is “tinto” — black coffee with sugar. On the street it will cost you only 500 pesos. You also can choose “perico” — coffee with milk. Street seller usually carry thermoses with coffee in a small cart while walking and selling along the streets.
After several weeks of trying every king of street food in Bogota and two extra kilos I decided to stop. But not to stop eating street food, of course not. Because here on the streets you can find delicious fruits and fruit salads almost at each corner of the centre of the city. What is amazing that almost all of the fruits are (as we, foreigners, call them) exotic and for an extremely cheap price – 1.000 or 2.000 pesos!
Choose any of your favourite fruits (papaya, pineapple, mango) alone or mixed in a salad with yogurt, jam and… CHEESE.
Yes, cheese. Colombians LOVE cheese and add it to every single dish. For example, you can find hot chocolate or coffee with cheese. Don’t ask and try to enjoy. After several months spent in Colombia it doesn’t seem to me weird any more. (But sure it is).
Another crazy combination is mango with salt, pepper and lime juice. Shocked? The same I was. You can choose only one addition, two or all of them. I personally prefer mango with pepper.
And please, never ever order mango with just salt. After several minutes it becomes horrible. But salt with another additions can be very nice to try.
As you could understand, my strong recommendation for you, when coming to Colombia, is: TRY EVERYTHING YOU SEE ON THE STREET. You’ll never regret.