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A guide to the best street food in Colombia

The best food of a country often comes from the streets. We’ve never quite worked out why, but perhaps it’s the vendors dedication to cooking just one or several things really, really well. While restaurants require a full menu, street vendors can put all their efforts in doing the best arepas or the best empanadas. It’s also cheap. With few overheads, and relatively humble dishes, the food is always inexpensive to produce. Are you planning a visit to Colombia? Hit the streets and find some of the Colombia’s best food.

Arepas

Flickr: lesleyk

Arepas are found on street corners across the land. To say they are popular is an understatement. Considered part of the cultural heritage of Colombia, these little street snacks are made up maize discs filled with indregdients like melting cheese, avocado and meat. There are even sweet arepas which work well for breakfast in hot chocolate.

Corn

Corn is a stable in South America and has been eaten there for thousands of years. It can be bought simply barbecued over hot coals. Alternatively, corn is cut off the cob and mixed with cheese, meat and salad, a less filling meal that most Colombian dishes. Be sure to look out for mazorca desgranada.

Almojabana

Almojábanas are round rolls made from cheese and corn.  They’re simple but filling and best eaten straight out of the oven in the early morning washed down with Colombian coffee.

Plantain chips

Flickr: Ben Ward

Plantain is seriously popular across the Americans. In Colombia, they’re cut thinly and deep fried until sweet and golden. Look out for little mobile vendors selling this across the Bogota and Cartegana. Though fried in oil, they are actually really nutrious. The perfect little snack to eat on the go.

Salchipapa

Flickr: Gary Stevens

The original ‘drunkies’, salchipapa is the simply amalgamation of sausages (usually of the frankfurter variety) and potatoes doses in sauce. What could be better to soak up the booze after a cold cerveza or two.

Churros

Flickr: Karl Baron

It may be the Spanish who are famous for the churros, but Colombia do it just as well. Dough is piped into hot oil and fried until golden. Unlike the Spanish who eat them with hot chocolate in the morning, Colombians prefer them dosed in arequipe and condensed milk. The perfect way to finish a street food meal.

Fruit

Colombia has a wealth of exotic fruits. Some make it into smoothies, but most just eat it as it is. Vendors piled high with sweet pineapples, papayas, starfruits, custard apples, guavas, passion fruit, melons and much more. Look out for vendors selling refreshing fresh coconut water.

Obleas

Those with a sweet tooth should look out for oblea. Jam, whipped cream, arequipa and fruit are sandwiched between two thin circular wafers and devoured right away. Best eaten on a sunny day.

Empanadas

Empanadas need no introduction. Eaten throughout Latin America, this iconic street food snack is particularly good in Colombia. The name comes from empanar, the Spanish verb for wrapping something in bread. Dough, sometimes made from corn, is filled with meat, cheese and sometimes vegetables before being fried or baked into a mouthwatering morsel.

Perros calientes

Hot dog lovers should rejoice. Perros calientes are popular throughout Colombia. Like a Chilean completo topped with cheese, fries, avocado and plenty of sauce. Not something to eat on a date, there’s no way of gorging on one of these politely.

Bollos

Like much of Latin America, Colombia has its own version of tamales known as bollos. Best eaten in Cartegena for breakfast, bollos are boiled hominy or yucca, sometimes including other treats like small pieces of chicken or boiled eggs. Be sure to get them hot when they taste best.

Chicharrón

Flickr: James

If you’re on a diet, this may not be for you. For everyone else, chicharron is one of the tastiest things you can eat on the streets of Colombia. Pork belly is deep fried until crisp and sometimes served with a spicy salsa dip. It makes up the national dish, bandeja paisa, an enormous plate of chicharron, chorizo, steak, eggs and beans – aka the gut buster.

Bocadillo

Bocadillo is a sweet paste made from guava. It’s best eaten with crumbly white Colombian cheese, one of the most perfect combinations.

Ceviche

Don’t be put off street seafood. Along the coast, the seafood is incredibly fresh. It’s quite different from its Peruvian counterpart. Colombian ceviche is similar to a shrimp cocktail – raw seafood marinated in lime juice, tomato sauce, onion and garlic.

Want to try the street food of Colombia? Take a look at our suggested Colombia tours, call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us a message here.

The best street food you can get for under $5 in Latin America

Latin America isn’t short on street snacks. Like much of the world, some of the tastiest cuisine gets cooked on the fryers and planchas that line the streets on vendors’ carts. South America is not the cheapest continent, but plenty of cheap eats can be found if one knows what to look for.

Tacos – Mexico

Arguably the most iconic snack from Latin America. Though the recipe has been changed and adapted outside of Mexico, the true taco found on almost every street corner in Mexico is a small wheat tortilla topped with meat, fresh cheese, avocados, fish and/or salsa. Wrap them up yourself and get messy. Cost depends on filling and location, but typically they cost a dollar and most will need 2-3 as a meal.

Tamales – Ecuador

Flickr: verovera78

Flickr: verovera78

The Ecuadorian tamale is one of the tastiest street snacks. Wrapped inside a banana leaf, one finds a stable of cornmeal mixed with all manner of extras including vegetables, fried meats, spices, eggs and occasionally shrimp. It costs a couple of dollars, but one should be sufficient as a meal.

Carne y patata kebab – Peru

Flickr: Paul Lowry

Flickr: Paul Lowry

The cold nights in Peru’s high Andes means hearty fare is the order of the day. On most street corners, Andean women dressed in traditional garb patiently sear meat on a plancha. Look out for antichucho signs. $2 will get you enough mixed meats and fried potatoes to fill you up.

Empanadas – Argentina

empanadas-1117284_640

A stable street snack across South America. Like the UK’s Cornish pasty, the empanada is a baked (or fried) pastry filled with meat, cheese, vegetables or occasionally seafood. You’ll probably need two or three to fill up, but at around $1 each, it’s still going to be a cheap meal. Look out for special street carts selling empanadas or go into any bakery.

Tlayudas con carne – Mexico

While most visitors chow down on tacos (and why not, they are seriously good), those in the know also seek out tlayudas con carne. Crispy tortilla discs are topped with cheese, meats, avocado, salsa and a spicy dressing. They are a little more expensive then tacos, but larger and well worth the extra cost. Originating in Oaxaca, tlayudas con carne can now be found all over.

Buñuelos – Guatemala

Flickr: Matthew

Flickr: Matthew

Latin America’s love sweet food, especially the Guatemalans. Buñuelos are small fried doughnut-like balls covered in sugar and syrup. They are particularly popular around Christmas time and cost a dollar or two for a plate of several. They might not be enough to fill you up, but make for the perfect finish to your street food dinner.

Pastel – Brazil

Flickr: Wally Gobetz

Flickr: Wally Gobetz

Brazil tends to be more expensive than its neighbours, so finding those cheap eats is going to save you a heap of cash. Fortunatly, Brazilians have one of the world’s great street snacks – the pastel. A pocket of thin pastry is filled with all sorts of fillings, typically cheese, eggs, meat or seafood and fried to perfection. Yum. Each costs around a dollar, so they’re cheap enough to indulge on a few should you be hungry.

Carimañolas – Panama

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Flickr: luiseblanco

Carimañolas are seriously popular all over Panama. Yucca is boiled, mashed, shaped into oval balls and stuffed with meat and eggs before being fried until crisp. Their popularity mean these little fried balls are easy to find and cost under a dollar.

Arepas – Venezuela

corn-457153_640

Arepas are a national institution in Venezuela. Street carts are packed with hungry workers throughout the day. Flat baked rolls made from ground maize are cut in half and filled with grilled meats, chicken, avocados, cheese, fish or vegetables. Sometimes they are toasted or fried to add texture. At around $3 for an arepa, they are one of the more expensive street snacks in Latin America, but they are also more substantial.

Chorizo – Argentina

Argentina is not known for its vegetarianism. You’ll be hard pushed to find vegetables or salad in such a meat-loving country. Perhaps the best-known street snack in Argentina is chorizo, a slightly spicy sausage, grilled over a parilla barbeque and often served in a bun along with chimichurri sauce. For under $3, they won’t break the budget either.

Chicharrón – Colombia

Though it may not sound that good, and it’s certainly not very good for your health, chicharróns are delicious. Much like pork scratchings in the UK, chicharróns are fried pork rinds. Salty, greasy and tasty, these scrumptious morsels cost just a dollar or two and make for a quick snack on the run.

To start planning your tour of Latin America, get in touch with one of our specialists on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us an email here.

Eight Peruvian Dishes you have to try

1. Ceviche

CevicheJorge Gobbi/Flickr

The coastline of Peru offers some superb seafood. Probably Peru’s most famous dish is ceviche, made from raw fish marinated in lime juice. Although the dish varies from region to region its typically served with peppers, red onion and white corn. We suggest only eating ceviche whilst travelling near to the coast as the fish will be considerably fresher. Those who are feeling brave can drink the citrus juice left over which is known locally as tiger’s milk. Take a look at our recipe here.

2. Lomo Saltado

Lomo SaltadoRon Dollete/Flickr

Another classic Peruvian dish invented using Asian methods of cooking brought by Chinese immigrants. Sliced beef, red onions, aji chillies, soy sauce and coriander are stir fried and then mixed with fried potatoes and served with white rice. Delicious. Take a look at our online recipe here.

3. Cuy

CuyJorge Gobbi/Flickr

Probably not for those who are squeamish about their food (or serious pet lovers). Cuy is grilled guinea pig usually served whole. This really is a staple of the Andean communities and is much tastier than it looks.

4. Salchipapas

SalchipapasGary Stevens/Flickr

A popular fast food throughout many counties in Latin America, Salchipapas is a simple dish of fried hot dog sausages and French fries served with a variety of sauces and condiments. This inexpensive filling dish is found at small restaurants and street stalls all over the country.

5. Aji de Gallina

Aji de GallinaKrista/Flickr

Although its appearance won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s worth a try. Succulent chicken, hard-boiled eggs and slices of boiled potato are covered in a rich sauce made from cheese, milk, chillies and nuts. Typically served with heaps of steamed white rice.  Take a look at our recipe here.

6. Anticuchos

AnticuchosPaul Lowry/Flickr

Anticuchos are basically kebabs of grilled meat, typically beef heart. The meat is first marinated in Peruvian spices before being grilled over charcoal and served with corn and boiled potato. Antichuchos can be found being grilled on street stalls all over the country.

7. Pollo a la Brasa

Pollo de la BrasaKrista/Flickr

A simple but mouth-watering dish. Take a whole chicken and marinate with a mixture of seasoning, chili, cumin, paprika, vinegar and soy sauce before being grilled over charcoal. Excellent served with a cold Peruvian beer. Pollo a la Brasa can be found in many small restaurants all over Peru.

8. Papa Rellena

Pollo RellenaJason Lam/Flickr

Papa Rellena is a popular street food. Mashed potato is formed into balls before being stuffed with a mixture of minced beef, onions, tomatoes, garlic and cumin as well as black olives and egg. The balls are sealed up and deep-fried to give a crispy outer coating.

To start your culinary adventure through Peru, contact us or take a look at our tours.

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