10 Things To Eat in Bogota

Posted on 09. Nov, 2009 by in colombia

While having to eat Colombian food is awful when you live there, there are enough good dishes to enjoy eating during a brief stay. These are my favorite things to eat in Colombia after living there for just under three years.

1. Bandeja Paisa

bandeja paisa consulado

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.

bandeja paisa

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.

2. Ajiaco

ajiaco bogota food

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.

ajiacoajiaco-santafereño-bogota-colombia-2

3. Black Folks’ Fish

black folks fish

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

4. 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 fishy rodent full bones is not chiguiro.

I did a Google Image search right then and there. This is what I saw! I thought 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 ‘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.

chiguiro platters

Best served on a hangover with beer and friends.

Here are some closeups of the meat:

chiguiro on the grillchiguiro up close

5. Fruit

paloquemao bogota colombia 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.

6. Ensalada de Frutas

fruit salad bogota colombia ensalada fruta

While Americans may take issue with the word, “salad,” 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). Pic above taken at 7 de Agosto.

Ensaladas from a fruit-and-ice-cream parlor.

7. Arequipe

Photo credit: Diego Jacobo

Known as “manjar” or “dulce de leche” elsewhere Latin America, arequipe is my favorite dessert. Above it’s pictured with melted cheese. Also get it served with chocolate, cuajada (milk curd), figs (sinful!), in a croissant, in a wafer with cheese and blackberry sauce (obleas), 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.

Pictured with cheese and brevas (figs), courtesy of Hatoviejo.

8. Arroz con Pollo

colombian arroz con pollo
Every Latin American country has its own version of Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken). And while Colombian does not best any of its counterparts (Peruvian is the best), it is good enough to make this list. Bell peppers, chicken stock and saffron give the rice its flavor and yellow color. Mixed with shredded chicken breast, peas and green beans and served with fries.

9. Lechona

Lechona is pork, rice, and peas cooked together. Then they stuff the shelled pig carcass with the rice and pork mix. It’s cheap and tasty. I always eat it at the market with morcilla, which is sold in the next stand. 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.

10. Picada

A picada is a platter of fried or barbecued, bite-sized meats and starches. What any given restaurant puts in its picada varies, but the most common mix will be pork loin, chicharron (crackling), chorizo, morcilla, potato, plantain and the boyacense arepa. The platter is usually shared among friends, and tastes better with beer. This is the thing to eat if you visit La Calera.

The photo comes courtesy of my friends at Tours of Colombia, a recommended tourist agency in Bogota.

3 Things You Don’t Have To Eat in Bogota

As I said in the first paragraph, eating Colombian food everyday as a resident is not fun. For more info, see Colombian Food: Worst of the Worst.

If only in town for a short stay, you can steer clear of these items.

Yuca

yuca 1

Yuca 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-2

Colombia 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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22 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

  13. Rodney Henson

    16. Oct, 2015

    My sentiments exactly, stopped eating Panela and Arepas long ago. I also limit the rice and beans. Colombian food is normally horrible but if you work at it you can eat pretty good.

  14. Larry Love

    23. Dec, 2015

    Chiguiro is amazing. I always tell people imagine the best pork you ever had but about 5 times better.

  15. Hello

    13. Jan, 2016

    HAHAHA u are so funny lol

  16. juliet

    14. Mar, 2016

    You know colombian food is delightful you guys need to try it and try being nice

  17. H

    14. May, 2016

    Yuca has to be boiled first, then fried. THEN it becomes delicious. I still dream about it decades after I had my last morcel of it.

  18. D

    23. Aug, 2016

    What are the other chiguiro restaurants in the area? I don’t see a name for the one you mentioned.

  19. Musiclover31

    17. Oct, 2016

    No, the best bandeja paisas are NOT in Bogota. That is laughable. That is like saying the best pizza is in China, not Italy. For any foreigner who sees this, do not be thrown off by that. The best are indeed in Antioquia but NOT Medellin, you are NOT speaking with any authority, Colin, try going outside Medellin as Antioquia is more than just Medellin.

  20. Michael

    15. Mar, 2017

    You forgot to mention the MONDONGO SOUP here in Colombia. Most pleaces are “Meh”, but there are some nooks that serve outstandinggggg Mondongo. it came be an acquired taste for some but it is worth aspiring to. I can’t believe you didn’t mention the empanadas here. Yes, it’s true – just like most foods here – every day empanadas are passable at best. But there are really amazing ones if you spend enough time looking…and with some savory toppings that aren’t cheap ass watered down. I have been very happy with a couple of places. that said, why do soooo many businesses sell the EXACT same ‘ol bland empanadas?!?! Seriously Colombia, rechannel your artist side into some new versions of these repetitive bland foods. As for all the meat and carb combo plates……hmmm, exactly how good could it actually be? It’s usually same ‘ol. same ‘ol.And don’t get me started on the lack of yummy in the deserts here. I can vouch for the wild flavors in their potato chips….mayonaise, tomato, aji, etc….nice job. Now let’s step our spicy and herby game up. hey anyone in here that can tell me where to go in Bogota or Boyaca to find a large Asian supermarket that sells all the unusual stuff/ingredients to make real Chinese or Vietnamese food? I heard there is one somewhere in ogota but I haven’t found it yet. HELP!

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  1. 10 Things To Eat in Bogota « My Web Dumpster - February 26, 2012

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

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