If you are interested in coming to visit Colombia, beware you will need to pack clothes for all seasons even if seasons do not exist near the equator. Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, hosting 7 different climates, from tropical jungles, glaciers, and even deserts. Bogotá, the capital and largest city in Colombia, is the third-highest capital in South America, with 2,640 meters (8,660ft) above sea level. So do not be surprised if Bogotá forces you to layer up, Medellin feels like the eternal spring, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts are humid and hot.
So yeah, the only thing you might risk when visiting Colombia, is wishing to stay.
As a girl born and raised in the capital, I grew up surrounded by people from all over the country and the world. As a national and international melting pot, it has always been quite the exceptional gastro-hub. Some of the best gastronomes are seeking opportunities in this city due to its centralization between North and South America. As a city that has kept growing so much gastronomically, I have been able to discover and experience incredible kitchens and concepts whenever I go back, nevertheless, it also has it traditional goodies that are a must for me every time I go back. These are all my must's whenever I go back to Bogotá:
Breakfasts in Colombia are my favorite meal, I go to sleep thinking about breakfast. In contrast to Italian breakfast, we love savory items, like eggs, arepas, cheesy pastries, soups, and even rice.
✨ One of the most delicious things to have in the morning, is Calentado, which translates to "heated-up" and consists on re-heating leftovers from the day before. I love mixing mine with white rice, ground beef and red kidney beans, hogao (a tomato, onion, and garlic sofrito) finished with a fried egg on top and a crunchy arepa.
✨ Pandeyuca, pandebono, and almojabana, our traditional cheese breads, made from yuca (cassava), or cornmeal flours). They could be enjoy for breakfast, or as a snack with tinto (how we call black coffee) or avena (an oat and cinnamon drink).
✨ Caldo de Costilla, our ultimate hangover (or guayabo) cure, consists of a light but flavorful soup cooked with beef ribs, potatoes, green onion and cilantro. We usually have big breakfast, so do not be surprised to also have fruit, bread, arepas, juice and coffee available too.
✨ Tamales, dough made from precooked corn flour mixed with potatoes, pork meat, corn, peas, and sometimes chopped boiled eggs, wrapped in plantain leaves and steamed for a unique flavor. In my house, we enjoy them with hot chocolate, cheese, and our cheesy breads. My favorite variety is called Pipían, because they have a sweet and spicy peanut filling and sauce to go along with.
For lunch, or dinner, you need to try the following traditional dishes or restaurants:
✨ My all time favorite, Ajiaco Santafereño. The emblematic dish from Bogotá that cures any cold and cozy weather. Its is a chicken soup cooked with 3 different potatoes, one of them being the small yellow Andean potatoes called papas criollas that dissolve and naturally thicken the soup. It needs guasca, the herb that gives it its unique taste, chicken, corn on the cob, and cilantro. You garnish your soup with with cream, avocado, capers and enjoy it with a side of rice.
✨The iconic Bandeja Paisa, the dish Colombia is most recognized for. A massive platter with rice, red kidney beans, ground beef, chicharron, sweet plantains, avocado, fried egg, and a thin and crispy arepa.
✨ Colombian Picada in Andres Carne de Res or El Tambor. When you head to the outskirts of Bogotá in La Calera or Chía you will see many joints selling Colombian picada. Picada translates to finger food, but it refers to our version of BBQ. It is common to get a big platter to share meats, chicharron, empanadas, potatoes, arepas, yucas, and guacamole.
✨ If you are craving Asian food for very good price, a massive variety of options from different Asian regions, and great environment, you need to head to WOK. It needs to be the place my mom and I go to whenever we reunite. You must order their Grilled Thai Calamari as a starter with a side of sushi rice. For a main, get their Chicken Tan Tan Ramen, creamy and spicy.
✨ For finer dining experience infused with seasonal and Colombian Colombian ingredients, textures, and flavors, head to El Chato. Bogotá’s older generation would use the word “chato” or “chata” to refer to close friends, hence the inspiration of Chef Alvaro Clavijo features seasonal and creative dishes using locally sourced Colombian ingredients, textures, and flavors. As an appetizer they bring house made bread with coca infused butter. Stellar.
✨ Crepes & Waffles, one of Colombia's restaurant success story. They serve sweet and savory crepes, waffles, and other desserts. What's so great about it? The variety, the price, and the amazing service. It is the place I will forever crave, and will always recommend. I love building my own salad in their diverse salad bar, the dish that reminds me of my childhood, their Shrimp Crepe “en salsa de la casa”, and my current obsession, their Mexican Chicken Truffle Crepe, drenched in huitlacoche, the Mexican black truffle, tomato and avocado.
✨ El Corral, a classic for great burgers and fries. My favorite is La Corralera with curly fries, a grilled angus beef patty topped with cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, and BBQ sauce in between sesame buns
✨ For Middle Eastern Shawarma's from El Arabe. Their pita bread pockets filled with ground beef meatballs, tahini sauce, lettuce, cucumber and sprinkled parsley.
I love my country, and although I haven't lived in it for a while, I will forever be proud of being from it. Nevertheless, you must be wondering: Why did she move out so young and never came back? I must admit, I grew curious of my own country once I left. When I was there, it always felt too big, and impossible to connect with. My connection grew the moment I decided to share my culture, through food, to others. Now, in contrast to before, I crave and appreciate every meal and gathering, because I know I wont be able to find something similar when abroad.
Would you ever visit Bogotá? Let me know in the comments below!