04 January 2014

Street Food in Colombia: Part I

Posted in Blog

Before I lived in Colombia, I don't think I really even knew what real street food was.

In my hometown of Hueytown, Alabama there was not really a street food culture, and even in Birmingham, Alabama—the biggest city in Alabama, there wasn't a well-developed or diverse street food culture until the last 10 years or so. That being said, I feel a little spoiled by all the delicious and cheap foods you can find on street corners all over Colombia. Today, I want to tell you about some of the most popular street foods in Colombia, how much they cost, and where you will likely find them.

Uncover Colombia: Arepas in Salento, Quindío
Arepas in Salento, Quindío

One of the most popular street foods in Colombia is an empanada. Empanadas are little pockets of either white or yellow corn flour mixtures filled with any number of things from shredded beef or chicken to potatoes to cheese or even rice and ground beef. You will find empanadas in almost all major cities and towns in Colombia. They will normally cost anywhere from 500 pesos to 1.000 pesos, depending on the size of the empanada. Word of advice—try to buy freshly fried empanadas and avoid those that look like they've been sitting out for a while.

Another popular and common street food is what is called salpicón in Bogotá and tutti-frutti on the Caribbean Coast. It is a type of fruit salad that includes fine chopped pieces of watermelon, papaya, banana, pineapple, and possibly pieces of apple and mango. All of these little pieces are arranged in a cup with the fruits' juices. You can buy various sized portions of salpicón and, depending on the size, a portion of salpicón will range from 500 pesos to 1.000 pesos. You will especially find salpicón being sold around parks and along the ciclovía route on Sundays in Bogotá.

Uncover Colombia: Arepas with cheese in Envigado, Antioquia

Arepas with cheese in Envigado, Antioquia

Perhaps the most traditional Colombia street food is an arepa. There are at least 10 different types of arepas in Colombia, if not many more! It is impossible for you to come to Colombia and not see arepas being sold in the street. And, while there are many different varieties of arepas, they are all made from some type of cornmeal—white or yellow. Some are fatter than others, some are flatter, some are sweeter, some are saltier, some are made with cheese, others without, and some are even made with small pieces of pork cooked into them. On the Caribbean Coast, the most common arepas you will find being sold in the street, though, are a fatter version of arepas made with white corn meal. They will most often have cheese melted inside them or on top of them and will be smeared with a good portion of butter and a dash of salt. They will also most likely be cooked in plantain leaves to keep them from burning and to conserve moisture. These tasty savory delicacies will cost you around 1.000 pesos and must be purchased fresh off the grill. In Bogotá, you will most likely come across arepas made with yellow cornmeal more often than those made with white cornmeal. Again, though, these are served with melted cheese, butter, and salt and will cost about the same as those on the Caribbean Coast--1.000 pesos.

I hope I've gotten you excited about Colombian street food. Be on the lookout soon for Street Food in Colombia: Part II!

Happy food adventures,

Paige M. Poole

About author:

"Paige M. Poole is an Alabamian and traveler at heart who has settled, for now, in Barranquilla, Colombia, and earns her living as an English professor at the Instituto de Idiomas (Language Institute) at la Universidad del Norte (University of the North). When not teaching English, she enjoys blogging, traveling, relaxing on the beach, and spending time with her partner and two cats, Milo and Sophie. You can see more of Paige's traveling experiences in her personal blog www.trotamunda.wordpress.com