Colombia (Part II)


 Cars run on gas and people run on carbohydrates. We know this much. In Latin America they shovel starch down the hatch like they're gorging for winter hibernation. Colombia is no exception. Time to dive knee deep in the grain game.

We can't talk Colombia without talking bread and we sure can't mention any other bread before we talk Arepa. The Arepa was born and raised in Venezuela, where the word erepa means 'cornbread' in indigenous jargon. The cornbread made it's way over to Colombia, and these days arepas are an everyday staple. Allow me to introduce you to Colombia's tortilla.

 arepa con carne desmechada

The most basic variety of arepas is the arepa paisa. Usually coming unseasoned and tasting like a disc of styrofoam, I like mine with generous stuffing of carne desmechada (shredded skirt steak). Before the pre-packaged era all arepas were painstakingly prepared by soaking dried corn --> peeling the corn --> smashing the corn in a mortal and pestle called a pilón. Nowadays a packaged, pre-cooked mix is the more convenient option. Either way, it's a corn flour and water combination they grill, fry, griddle or bake.

Aji Picante / Arepa Boyacense

Here's a different variety called the Arepa Boyacense from the Boyaca region. A little sweet, a little thick, and a good deal more flavor than your bare bones Arepa Paisa.

Arepa de choclo.

The king of arepas in my mind is the arepa de choclo. I first stumbled upon these in the Caribbean port town of Turbo. It was dusk and as per usual I had nothing to do other than cruise the strip. During my seaside stroll I spotted a lady pouring what looked like pancake batter into ring molds on a griddle. Business was booming, people were pulling up on their scooters nonstop to snag a cake or three. Attention grabbed. I wanted in. Una arepa por favor. They're Sweeter and softer than other arepas due to the 'choclo' varietal of yellow corn and the addition of milk. It's sometimes served with a slab of salty queso costeño, which is similar in texture to queso fresco but saltier and sporting a slightly funky aroma akin to Bulgarian goat's milk feta.


Though they share names, these are much different than the cinnamon-sugar dusted dough balls from Mexico. In Colombia buñuelos are a yuca starch, corn flour and farmers cheese merger that's rolled impossibly round and fried. Similar to a cake donut in density, yet a bit salty with subtle notes of maiz. These are everywhere. Every town. Every corner. Has buñuelos. A blessing and a curse. Best snacked on hot 'cause cold buñuelos are gastrointestinal-clogging bricks of corn. Chase with p90x.

There's always some pan de bono in sniffing range.

Yuca starch and corn flour baked up nice 'n fluffy this time around. Another pan where you gotta do yourself a favor and nosh 'em warm. Most bakeries will have a glass display case of pan de bono and buñuelos with a built-in oven underneath. As you wander through the streets keep a watchful eye on the panadero. When they pull out a tray of golden brown pan de bono skip on over and order up a couple caliente. You've got breakfast. A damn good one.

Stay Anti-Atkins.


Villagio said...


Mai said...

How can they make the bunuelo so perfectly round!!!!

Anonymous said...

DYING to try arepas and these ones look fantastic.


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