There is a decent probability that during your travels in Colombia, Bogota will be your first destination and first introduction to Colombian culture. One part of such experience is food. To experience the traditional food of Colombia we booked a guided food tour “Discovering Colombian Regional Cuisine” on AirBnB and this is my honest review of this tour.
One of the pluses of the “Discovering Colombian Regional Cuisine” tour is that it takes place in La Candelaria, the oldest and most colorful neighborhood in Bogota.
The tour lasted over 3 hours and during this time we visited 7 restaurants/cafes where we tried various Colombian food from different regions.
One of the good things of visiting so many places all around La Candelaria is the ability to also explore the neighborhood.
There are a few guides that can host this tour. We got Marcella, an energetic and friendly woman who explained to us all about different regions of Colombia and their specialties.
Our group was quite small – just 6 people, which made it possible to get to know everyone and have a good atmosphere during the whole tour.
The first dish that we tried was Mapara fish with two side dishes (rice and salad) plus Borojo juice. This is traditional Pacific food, which is known as the region with the best food in Colombia.
Borojo is a tropical fruit that is native to the Pacific regions of Colombia. This is one of those fruits that you should try in Colombia. The fruit looks brown (makes you think that it’s roten) when it’s ripe and green when it’s not.
Borojo is used for making jam, wine, desserts, juice, and many other things. It is even used in traditional Colombian medicine. I wonder what kind of medicine it is used for, since the fruit is considered to be a strong aphrodisiac.
Mapara fish is a type of catfish that you can find in Brazil, Peru and Colombia. It is a quite fatty fish with not many small bones. At the restaurant we visited the fish was covered in turmeric sauce (a very popular spice that gives a nice yellow color).
It is no wonder that the Pacific region of Colombia (Pacifico) mostly specializes in fish and in general all types of seafood. The secret to a great taste of their cuisine lies in spices and herbs. The dishes are always rich and full of flavor.
Yucca (yuca), also is known as cassava or manioc, is a starchy tuberous vegetable that is native to South America. Nowadays, besides South America, it is quite popular in Asia and Africa as well.
The second place we visited was a small cafe that served us fried yucca with cheese and after some homemade chocolate for dessert. The fried yucca balls were served with two types of sauce (spicy and non spicy).
As we were told by our tour guide, fried yucca balls is a dish that is very popular in the Caribbean region of Colombia. If you wonder how yucca tastes, you can imagine something between potatoes and sweet potatoes in terms of sweetness, but it is denser than potato (yucca has more fiber and protein). So you might be able to imagine how the fried yucca ball stuffed with cheese tastes.
For the dessert we were given some samples of chocolate that the restaurant makes themself. It was mostly a promotion of their product rather than a part of a food tour. Nevertheless the chocolate was quite good, so we got a bar for ourselves.
The third stop on our food tour was quite interesting. We went to what looked like a bakery upfront. After we exited through the back door of this bakery we ended up in a cute and very atmospheric restaurant/bar. Here we tried Colombian tamales.
You might have already tried tamales before. There are many types of tamales especially in Mexico. The most usual one is a corn dough wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. Such a tamale is usually a side dish and to be frank, not that great (my opinion), but Colombian tamale is quite different.
Colombian tamale is a dish that has two main ingredients: meat and corn mash. Traditionally Colombian tamales are served wrapped in banana leaves. It has a rich flavor and it is a kinda heavy dish. The meat that is used for such tamales can be chicken, pork, or beef. The one we tried had chicken and pork in it.
Patacon, also known as tostones, is a fried plantain that has a golden color and is super crispy. It is a traditional dish in all of South America and the Caribbean, not just in Colombia. Many who are coming from Northern and Central Europe have never tried patacon before, so it is a great way to get introduced to this dish.
On our food tour we’ve got to try patacon on the 4th stop. In a small hidden restaurant somewhere in the middle of la Candelaria we were served amazing patacones with delicious salsa and meat on top. At first I thought it was some kinda Colombian tacos, until I tasted it of course.
Together with patacones we were served Chicha Corn Drink. For those who have never heard of such a drink, chicha is a fermented alcoholic drink that is made of maize (corn). It is actually quite good until you learn how it used to be made 100 years ago. I am not going to tell you how, because after I was told I couldn’t think of anything else… Even now I feel unwell thinking about that. So first try it and then research the history of this drink.
Aborrajado is a deep fried sweet plantain ball with cheese. This is a dish that I really liked. The one we tried on the food tour had three layers: inside was sweet cheese (almost tasted like custard), second layer – sweet plantain, third layer – dough.
As you probably understood, sweet plantain balls are quite heavy and by the time we got to this location everyone already felt stuffed.
Second to last stop was a Colombian BBQ. Here we tried the traditional asado, which is meat grilled over an open flame. In Colombia this is cooked on a metallic cone grate and it is interesting watching them cook it.
At this restaurant we were also served plantain, avocado, and some other sides. While we were quite full at this stop, the meat was quite a small portion so we were able to not leave any waste.
Ajiaco is a soup that is very popular in the Colombian capital. In Colombia, Ajiaco is prepared with chicken, three types of potatoes, and guasca (a type of herb).
We were served Ajiaco garnished with corn and on the side with sour cream, slices of butter avocado and capers. You can say that Ajiaco is the traditional or national soup like every country has: in Hungary it is goulash, in Ukraine – borsch, and in Colombia – Ajiaco.
To join a food tour in Bogota is a great way not just to explore traditional Colombian cuisine and learn some history, but also to explore La Candelaria, the oldest neighborhood of Bogota.
“Discovering Colombian Regional Cuisine” tour wasn’t the best food tour I have visited in my life (click here to read about the amazing Istanbul food tour), but it’s worth paying for if you have a short time in Bogota and don’t want to explore on your own.
Duration: 3,5 hours;
Location: La Candelaria;