10 Things To Eat in Bogota

Posted on 09. Nov, 2009 by in colombia

Bandeja Paisa

bandeja paisa-

You’ll eat Colombia’s national dish, bandeja paisa, throughout the country. Rice, beans, ground beef or steak, chorizo, chicharrón, arepa, avocado, platano, fried egg, and sometimes morcilla (see below). Any bandeja paisa costing 15,000 pesos will be good. My favorite is La Cucharita de Mi Abuela at Calle 63 & Carrera 13. Be like me and mix it all together with a cup of ají for spicy, sloppy goodness.

UPDATE – Bandeja paisa originates in Antioquia and Medellin. I’ve been to Medellin three times now and had many “authentic” bandeja paisas, so I can say with authority that THE BEST BANDEJA PAISAS ARE IN BOGOTA.

Ajiaco

ajiaco

Ajiaco santafereño

ajiaco-santafereño-bogota-colombia-2

Bogota’s signature dish

Ajiaco is Bogota’s regional plate. Chicken, potato, and corn soup served with a plate of rice and avocado. Add everything on the plate into the soup. Be like me and ask for extra capers (alcaparras). I didn’t see the big deal about ajiaco for a few months because I only had it at cheap and mid-priced restaurants. Make sure you have it at a decent place for at least 10,000 pesos. My favorites are the places a block from Plaza Bolivar downtown.

Black Folks’ Fish

fish head-

Colombia’s black population is on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, so fish is part of their culture. It’s pescado pacifico, technically, but I call it Black Folks’ Fish. They run the best fish fry houses in the city. Latin cities cluster their industries, so there will be a black folks’ fish street or district in any given neighborhood. I go to a place at Calle 51 and Carrera 17. Another Chapinero district is at Calle 57 and Carrera 8. If you’re staying in La Candelaria, there’s a district at Calle 20 on Carrera 4. Buy an avocado on the street before you go in.

When I first ate Colombian fish, I’d attack it with a knife and fork. This is wrong. Eat with your fingers and eat everything. Unless it’s a bone, put it in your mouth and disintegrate that shit. Fins and tails go down like potato chips. There’s only a tiny skull in its head so you can digest everything else: face skin, eyeballs, soft gunk, hard gunk, everything. Omega 3 goodness.

Examples:

black folks fishbones 1-

black-folks-fish-2bones-2-

Chiguiro

chiguiro mix plate

Chiguiro is served with pork ribs, steak, potatoes, platano, arepa boyacense, and avocado. I’d been eating chiguiro for six months before learning what it was. I was told it’s baby pig. I figured Colombians had a different word for baby pigs, like ‘veal’ for baby cow in English.

One day a Colombian explicitly told me chiguiro wasn’t pork, but a rodent. He didn’t know the word in English. He tried “hamster” and “guinea pig.” A hamster on steroids with gene therapy wouldn’t yield the big chiguiro filets. And I lived in Peru for a year, so I know guinea pig (cuy). That filthy stank is not chiguiro.

I did a Google Image search right then and there. This is what I saw! It’s a beaver! I couldn’t believe it. I’d been eating beaver for months and loving it! Some research later, I learned they’re actually called ‘capybara’ in English. Capybaras are native to South America so most wouldn’t know the word in English. My original theory was that beavers down here evolved past what they did in North America due to the combination of Andes Mountains and heavy rainfall, which must make for some killer dams. They stand up to a human’s knees. I’m not an evolutionary scientist, but look at that thing! It’s a beaver!

chiguiro-1chiguiro-2-

Chiguiro spots are difficult to find. I go to one on Calle 61 east of Carrera 13. Here are some closeups of the meat:

chiguiro on the grillchiguiro up close-

Arequipe

arequipe dulce de leche-

Known as manjar in Peru and dulce de leche in most of Latin America, arequipe is my favorite dessert. Get it served with chocolate, in a croissant, in a wafer with cheese and blackberry sauce, or in herpos. If it’s got arequipe, it’s good. It’s cheap and easy to make at home. Boil a pound of brown sugar into a liter of whole milk, stirring until thick.

Coffee

cafe colombiano colombian coffee-

Colombian coffee’s the best in the world. I’ve learned the best beans are exported to Italy, France, and Argentina where they fetch more money in absolute terms. Still, the everyday stuff is excellent. If you want a straight coffee, order a tinto. You can also get cafe con leche, cappucino, or chocolate-covered coffee beans.

Fruit

Colombia’s one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. There are loads of exotic fruits and you should eat them all. See my entire post on Fruit in Colombia.

Ensalada de Frutas

Colombians make the best fruit salads. Each bowl has a dozen different kinds of chopped fruit, cream, ice cream, and cheese. You can get these at various fruterías and cafes throughout the city, but the best (and cheapest) are at informal produce markets. These markets also have excellent morcilla and lechona (see below). I go to 7 de Agosto.

Morcilla and Lechona

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Morcilla is a sausage casing stuffed with cooked blood, rice, peas, and maybe celery. It took some getting used to, but now I love it.

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Lechona is pork, rice, and peas cooked together. They stuff the shelled pig carcass with the rice and pork mix. Both morcilla and lechona are inexpensive.

These are two food items, but I grouped them because you can get them together at open produce markets like Paloquemao downtown or 7 de agosto in Chapinero.

Andres Carne de Res

Andres Carne de Res is the most talked-about restaurant in the city. They serve great steaks with a packed, party atmosphere. It’s not cheap. I never went until September 2011, 2 1/2 years after moving to Bogota.

The original Andres Carne de Res is in Chia, a small pueblo just outside Bogota. There’s another in Zona Rosa (Andres DC) in the heart of the city.

I was surprised at how Americanized the service is. The staff aren’t as laidback. Hosts have walkie talkies for coordinating tables on all three floors. Our server was smiley and friendly. She was all over us any time we needed a drink. The burden to order wasn’t on the customer as in most Colombian restaurants.

So why does Andres Carne de Res make the list if it’s quasi-Americanized? Because the food’s excellent and the ambiance distinct. A friend and I shared two parrilladas (barbecue platter) and two desserts. The first parrillada (pictured) had steak, chicken, pork, morcilla, and two kinds of chorizo. The steak was a treat for me because they cooked it cuarto, medium rare. Most South Americans only eat beef cooked well done, or they eat steaks so thin you can’t do anything else. A fat, soft, bloody steak is hard to find. Get cuarto whenever you can.

My camera died before the second parrillada arrived. It featured steak and chicken plus a bacon-wrapped plum and tomato stuffed with mashed potatoes. For dessert I got arequipe with cheese and my friend got tres leches. Both were delicious and HUGE. The arequipe with cheese surprised me because the mozzarella was melted. I’d only had arequipe with cheese served cold.

Every detail of every morsel of food was perfect, including the aji. Aji’s never really bad, but their non-spicy one in particular had the freshest tomatoes I’ve eaten in a while.

Aside from the great food, Andres Carne de Res is known for its atmosphere. It’s a party place. After dinner it’s a party until 3 am. The restaurant puts effort into entertainment. When I was there a parade of guys and girls in wedding costumes made their rounds working the room. They seem like aspiring actors and improv students. They create dialogue and give customers shit.

Two ladies came by our table and one asked if I’d marry her. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but something along the lines of ‘but we haven’t even made love yet’. If I thought that’d get rid of them, I was wrong. They’ll mix it up with you. She told me to spank her. We made plans to get married in the bathroom after I finished eating.

Also worth mentioning is the artistic flavor. Management puts a unique, eclectic touch on every last detail. The water bottle came in a metal carrier. After the meal we were given two packets of assorted Colombian candies. The bathroom design, the lights, the candles, everything had a tasteful touch.

Andres Carne de Res is generally accepted as the best party in Bogota. As one upper class rola told me: “You haven’t been to Andres? You don’t know Bogota.” Now I do.

3 Things You Don’t Have To Eat in Bogota

Yuca

yuca 1Yuca is a major staple in countries throughout the Americas. It can be OK slow boiled in chicken broth, and anything’s OK deep-fried. But yuca is generally hard and flavorless. What’s the difference between yuca and wood? Yuca grows below ground.

Panela

panelapanela-2Colombia is a leading producer of panela, bricks of evaporated sugar cane juice. It’s sold in the shape of a brick, but it’s also as hard as and probably heavier than a brick. You can’t cut it with a knife; you have to break it in half by banging it with a metal rod. Pure sugar. You can melt it into desserts but many people eat it in small brick form, letting it dissolve in their mouths. Once a week without fail, The Mick insists I tell the world that Colombians aren’t as strong or athletic because their parents feed them panela, and that in over 20 years he “never lost a tackle!”

Arepas

ppc arepas 3arepa antioquena 2arepa-boyacense-2

You’ll have a hard time coming to Colombia and not eating arepas, a national staple. They’re cornmeal biscuits with less moisture and flavor. For more on arepas and lots of pictures, see my post on Arepas in Colombia.

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14 Responses to “10 Things To Eat in Bogota”

  1. Pamir

    09. Nov, 2009

    Hey boy!!! u makes me hungry with the pics of the food. I’m here still eating the same simpe things of every day. But I have something to day about the yuca, the panela and arepas…
    1. Yuca, u are right, it’s very hard and flavourless, but the trick is in the way like u cook it , I mean salsa or “guiso that” u add to give flavour. Also the time on stove. Anpther thing, it’s to know well how to select the yuca in the supermarket. Personally Im very stupid for that…

    2. Panela, I love it! coz i can use it for different purposes: drink, eat, make syrups, as ingredients for deserts, sweetener instead of sugar. Even when I was child, I used eat it as a candy…

    3. Arepa, the base of the Colombian food… I love it coz I can combine with every thing, even I can replace rice or potatoe in my lunch with an arepa. Fortunately, here in AU I can get the flour to make them, the only terrible is the local cheese. Anything can replace the “queso campesino” and the “cuajada”

  2. Jack

    20. Nov, 2009

    Ok .. its official (for me anyways).. your entries are getting BORING! What happened to the good old stuff? Sex, Booze, women…? For some reason when I read this entry..you reminded me of Martha Stewart. Not good!

    Not complaining about your writing, but your choice of material.

  3. Matthew Neuzil

    30. Nov, 2009

    the is no love more sincere than the love of food – George Bernard Shaw

  4. Angelica

    27. May, 2010

    TOTALLY agree with Pamir

  5. Aramis

    29. Jul, 2010

    It’s NOT a beaver! Not at all. More like a giant guinea pig. Even genetically they’re really close I think.

  6. Carlito

    10. Jan, 2012

    Guess what… Bandeja Paisa is neither from Medellín nor other city in Colombia. It was born on the road restaurants between Medellín and Cartagena and was created by truck and bus drivers. The history I know is that they stopped to eat on restaurants that had some sort of buffet (all you can eat kind) and they used to serve on a big plate the rice, the beans, chicharrón, etc and left the other options untouched, eventually the owners of those restaurants realised that it would be cheaper to offer the classical construction today know as bandeja paisa instead of several other options. Of course this is one of many legends around it but it makes perfect sense to me.

  7. Rwakare Justus Senior Agricultural Officer Kisoro Uganda

    20. May, 2012

    When I visit Bogotathis year I will taste panela and carry it home

    I am from the land of potato in Uganda and we prepare potatoes in many ways similar to Lechona and morcilla

    Thanks

    Justus

  8. Colin

    21. May, 2012

    Justus – NOT recommended. Only pro to panela is price!

  9. Ed

    03. Aug, 2012

    Arequipe is known as manjar blanco in Peru, not manjar.

  10. David

    13. Jul, 2013

    Hello I will be traveling to Bogota on the 21st I do speak the laugage fluently. Is true about the woman they come up to you just like that! WOW. I look forward to my trip. Please try and reply before my trip.
    Thanks.
    David

  11. Jesus

    03. Aug, 2013

    Hey man. Wow very good blog… very good. It makes me think to make my trip to Bogota right away!!! thank you so much!!!

  12. Camila

    21. Feb, 2014

    Hey Colin!

    Going to Colombia in two weeks. Thank you for all your information. I can’t find La Cucharita de Mi Abuela anywhere online, wondering what time you think they close?

    Thanks again for your awesome advice!

    Camila

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    [...] Just for fun, I also included 3 Things You Don’t Have To Eat in Bogota. [...]

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