Eating: Argentina

Before Jason and I arrived in Argentina, I emailed my colleague (who is Argentinian) to pick his brain on what to eat. He sent back an amazing list of what to eat and we pretty much followed it word for word. Actually it was so descriptive, I’m going to let him help me write about the awesome food in Buenos Aires (his words in italicized blue font).

Eat meat. It really is so different. Everything cooked on a parrilla. Here are some things to try:

Bife de lomo or bife de chorizo (cuts of steak, they don’t have t-bone etc)

Even though I’m not the biggest fan of meat, I really enjoyed the parilla restaurants in Buenos Aires. Parillas (Spanish for ‘grill’) basically serve grilled meat and animal parts. Our first visit to a parilla was to Las Cholas in the Las Canitas neighbourhood. It was probably our favourite parilla. They didn’t give us a choice as to how we wanted the steaks prepared (they prepared the steaks well-done), but it was still so delicious! It’s served with a side of Chimichurri sauce (a sauce of herbs, garlic, and vinegar) – which is perfect for the steaks. Never turn down Chimichurri sauce if you’re offered some.

Las Cholas, a delicious parilla in Buenos Aires

Las Cholas, a delicious parilla in Buenos Aires

Bife de Lomo

Jason got the Bife de Lomo – delicious cut of steak

Bife do Chorizo

I ordered the Bife de Chorizo. I won – it was so tasty, fatty, and delicious

We had parilla again a few weeks later at a restaurant called La Cabrera. They had an awesome happy hour deal where between 7-8pm, everything in the restaurant is 40% off. No one in Buenos Aires has dinner earlier than 8pm (with the exception of tourists), so it was a clever way for the restaurant to generate some additional business and a great deal for tourists. We had met a fun couple from California in Patagonia and we decided to meet up again in Buenos Aires for dinner and drinks. Christina and Scott had both just finished writing the Bar and were travelling for 7 weeks before starting their careers in law.

Dinner with Scott and Christina at La Cabrera

Dinner with Scott and Christina at La Cabrera

Ribeye steak (cooked medium) at La Cabrera

Jason and I ordered the ribeye steak. They even let us choose how wanted it prepared (medium).

Morcilla (blood sausage), mollejas (glands) and chinchullines (intestines) are all delicious

We had parilla again at our hotel in Puerto Iguaza, La Cantera. It’s a quiet hotel in the middle of the jungle in the city by Iguazu Falls. We met this interesting Dutch couple (Yoost and Guusha) who was travelling for four weeks before they moved from Holland to Ontario for work. We had a great time with them over dinner. The restaurant actually had to kick us out because we wouldn’t leave.

Dinner at our hotel restaurant (La Cantera)

Dinner with our new Dutch friends, Yoost and Guusha

We tried the blood sausage, glands, and intestines. Very interesting flavours – I liked the blood sausage and glands. The intestines were a little too weird for me. Guusha wouldn’t even touch the animal parts. Yoost was brave enough to try them out. He, too, thought the intestines were a bit weird.

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Our giant meat platter

I liked the blood sausage so much that I tried it again when we were back in Buenos Aires.

Blood Sausage (Morcilla) at La Cabrera

Blood Sausage (Morcilla) at La Cabrera

The trick to eating the animal part is to not think about it too much. The more you think about the fact that the sausage is made out of blood or that you’re eating the throat glands of the cow, the more you psych yourself out. I have to admit though, my first thought after I ate the intestines was ‘I wonder if the cow ate something sandy before it became our dinner?

Choripan – sausage on a bun, street food…so good

This was divine. They weren’t as easy to find as street meat is in Toronto, but when we had our first one, we both let out a sigh of delight. Choripans are grilled sausages, covered in the magical Chimichurri sauce, and served on toasted buns. I think I’ll have to write to the city councillors in Toronto to petition for the replacement of all Toronto street meat with Choripan.

Choripan - street meat in Buenos Aires

Choripan – street meat in Buenos Aires

Choripan - street meat in Buenos Aires

You can see the delicious Chimichurri sauce in this picture.

Milanesas – my favourite of all, it’s like a schnitzel but tastes way better. I eat these for breakfast, lunch, and dinner

These are so good. I can see why it’s my colleague’s favourite. I, too, ate these for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No joke…I’ll show you:

Milanesas - like a schnitzel but better

Milanesas – like a schnitzel but better. I had these ones for breakfast – twice.

Milanesas - like schnitzel but better

I had this one for lunch one day.

Milanesas - like schnitzel but better

And this one I had for dinner.

Eat sweets. Again, so different and so good

You have to go eat ice cream from Freddo’s, you will be amazed that you have never eaten ice cream that good before.

Freddo's ice cream in Buenos Aires

Freddo’s ice cream

I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve had Freddo’s ice cream by now. It probably is the best ice cream we’ve ever had. Each time we had it, we ordered the 1/4 kilo serving. And each time, we wished we’d ordered the 1/2 kilo after we inhaled the 1/4 kilo in about 5 seconds flat.

Freddo's ice cream in Buenos Aires

This is a 1/4 kilo of heaven Dulce de Leche and Chocolate with Almonds ice cream.

Alfajores – the best ones hands down are Havanna. They have little stores you can find that sell these.

Yup, the best ones ARE Havanna. We stopped at a Havanna cafe in La Boca and ordered four alfajores. Don’t let the size of these little sweets fool you – they are very filling. We only finished two.

Havanna cafe in the El Caminito area

Havanna cafe

Dulce de leche – it’s everywhere and perfect

Along with the Havanna alfajores, we ordered coffee with dulce de leche. It really is perfect. Coming to Argentina, I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth but I am leaving this country with one (or five).

Havanna cafe in the El Caminito area

Alfajores and Dulce de Leche coffee. I think I got a cavity just from looking back at this picture.

Facturas – pastries but better. The ones filled with dulce de leche are my faves. Anything filled with dulce de leche is my fave.

My newly developed sweet tooth craved facturas all the time. They come in all different sizes and shapes and they’re all good.

Facturas in Buenos Aires

Facturas – delicious delicious Argentine pastries

In addition to the list my colleague provided, we also got a lot of recommendations from locals to eat lots of Argentine pizza and empanadas.

Argentines are very proud of their pizza. The immigration from Naples and Genoa at the end of the 19th century brought this food over, but since then Argentines have made it their own. There are two main types: Pizza a la piedre (on a stone oven) is similar to Neopolitan pizza. It has a crispy thin crust. Or the traditional pizza molde which has a spongey, chewy thick crust.

Senior Telmo pizza place in San Telmo (Buenos Aires)

Senior Telmo in Buenos Aires

For really good pizza a la piedre, we went to a popular little joint in San Telmo, called (what a surprise!) Senor Telmo.

Senor Telmo in Buenos Aires

Packed with locals – exactly how I like my restaurants

We arrived literally 2 minutes before the dinner rush (9:30pm). All the groups behind us had to wait over an hour for a table. We were seated within 10 minutes.

Senor Telmo in Buenos Aires

Arugula & Jamon Crudo and Pancetta & Mushrooms

We asked the server for two recommendations and we went with both: arugula & jamon crudo, and pancetta & mushrooms. They were delicious but I’ve been spoiled by the really good Neopolitan pizza joints in Toronto so I wasn’t that blown away.

For the traditional Argentine pizza molde, we were advised to go to El Palacio de la Pizza (The Palace of Pizza…I know, it’s cheesy! Get it? Cheesy, Pizza? haha). I typically like to enjoy my pizza with a cold beer, but Argentines love to enjoy it with wine. So we split a bottle of red.

El Palacio de la Pizza in Buenos Aires

El Palacio de la Pizza

We were also advised to order the provolone pizza. Thick, chewy, and smothered in infinite layers of provolone and mozzerrella. It was deliciously artery-clogging. We ordered a medium pizza and both of us couldn’t finish our second pieces.

Provolone pizza from El Palacio de le Pizza (Buenos Aires)

Provolone pizza. The medium size comes with 4 slices. Two people will likely only be able to finish 3.

It kind of reminded me of Chicago’s deep-dish pizza.

Provolone pizza from El Palacio de la Pizza

Side view of our pizza.

We stayed in the Montserrat neighbouhood for a couple of days, and our host (Ruy) recommended we go to a local pizza joint (closest intersection is Salta & Venezuela) for their empanadas. He described them as little cheesy pockets of pastry perfection. I ordered the Roquefort (which I highly recommend) and Jason ordered the ham & cheese.

Empanadas in Buenos Aires

Empanadas: little cheesy pockets of pastry perfection

Ruy wasn’t kidding – they were perfect. We’ve had dozens upon dozens of empanadas since that first one and none have measured up.

So there we have it: a rundown of all the delicious foods one must try in Argentina. Special shout-out to my Argentine colleague for his advice and letting me use his wise words in this blog post.

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Eating: Bolivia

Jason and I enjoyed 3 wonderful weeks of gastronomical joy in Peru. We knew it had to end sooner or later. But we didn’t expect it to end so suddenly.

While still in Peru, we talked to a few travellers who had just come from Bolivia and we didn’t entirely believe them – but this IS the only good thing to eat in Bolivia:

Salteñas in La Paz, Bolivia

Salteñas: the only good thing to eat in Bolivia!

Salteñas!

They’re a type of Bolivian baked empanada. They’re savoury and filled with ground beef, chicken, or pork and swimming in sweet, slightly spicy sauce. They sometimes contain peas, potatoes, and other ingredients and there are vegetarian versions available too. The delicious filling is like a stew and there’s a trick in eating them: hold the pastry upright, start at the top corner, and work your way towards the bottom – trying to avoid spilling the hot, juicy filling all over your hand.

Eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Repeat until you leave Bolivia.

Eating: (and Savouring) Arequipa

Our next stop was Arequipa, Peru – a beautiful city surrounded by impressive volcanoes on the country’s southern coast.

El Misti, Arequipa Peru

The majestic El Misti volcano that’s visible from almost anywhere in the city of Arequipa, Peru

After finishing the rather tough trek to Machu Picchu, Jason and I just wanted to sprawl out in relative comfort for a few days. So we rented a beautiful little apartment in a Spanish-style house for a week – complete with a full patio set and a fancy, modern BBQ!

Spanish-colonial house in Arequipa, Peru

Our home in Arequipa for the week!

We made immediate use of the BBQ upon arrival. We picked up some summer eats (i.e. chicken, vegetables for grilling) even though we’re in the middle of winter here in Peru.

Arequipa, Peru

Jason in his natural element – barbequing meat

Eating on the patio in Arequipa, Peru

Me, in my natural element – eating!

It was great to be able to cook up something that reminded us of Toronto in the summer – chicken on the barbeque, grilled veggies and cold beer!

Arequipa, Peru

Another fantastic home-cooked meal by Jason

Arequipa is a very liveable city: beautiful little neighbourhoods, an impressive main square, and clean, pedestrian-friendly streets.

Arequipa's main square

The palm-tree lined main square of Arequipa

It felt very different from drab Lima and tourist-choked Cusco. We actually didn’t check out many of the tourist attractions while we stayed in Arequipa.. Instead, we just “lived” in Arequipa for the week: walking into the city every day, window-shopping, checking out cafes, people-watching, grocery-shopping, and of course eating food.

Eating ice cream on Calle Mercaderes in Arequipa, Peru

Eating ice cream on the pedestrian-only Calle Mercaderes in Arequipa, Peru

We spent an afternoon walking around and eating whatever looked good to us.

Ceviche in Arequipa, Peru

Ceviche: a must-have in Peru. This dish pictures here cost us 11 Soles (CDN $5)! It might be a little sketchy to have cheap ceviche, but we lucked out with this dish – so delicious and fresh!

Portuguese-style tart in Arequipa, Peru

Portuguese-style tart – as delicious as it looks!

A strange thing I kept seeing on the streets of Arequipa were these little stands that were labelled with the words “Queso Helado”. I looked up the definition – it literally translates to “Iced Cheese”. Sounds gross, yes? I tried it anyway.

It tasted delicious – sweet, light, icy, creamy with a touch of cinnamon. Upon further research, I found out that this delicious dessert had nothing to do with cheese. It uses the unfortunate description of cheese because of the way it looks when you prepare it. It actually consists of sweet milk and sometimes a touch of coconut or cinnamon for flavour.

Queso Helado in Arequipa, Peru

Queso Helado stand: she scoops out the sweet, icy treat into little plastic cups and sprinkles a bit of cinnamon on top. So good!

And then for dinner, nothing says Peruvian cuisine like cuy (guinea pig). The thing to do in Peru is to try this delicacy. In Cusco, they bake it which dries it out a bit. We were advised to try cuy in Arequipa where they fry it, which helps retain some of its juices. But we were going to do something completely different: we were going to prepare our own cuy! Warning: kind of gory picture coming up!

Pre-cleaned cuy (guinea pig) from the butcher

Cuy (guinea pig) cleaned and gutted by our local butcher.

I debated awhile as to whether I wanted to try cuy in Peru. I knew it was a delicacy and people had told me about what it’s like (note: it’s a little gamey, not very meaty, and tastes like chicken). You see, I had a guinea pig as a pet when I younger. I have a personal thing about never eating any animal that I would own as a pet (i.e. dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, goldfish, cat, bunnies). However, Jason mentioned that I owed it to my blog to try cuy – since the blog is partially about our travel adventures in food. So I put my big-girl pants on and bit the bullet (or guinea pig?), and made the conscious decision to try the Peruvian delicacy.

We bought some Peruvian spices, picked up a pre-cleaned cuy from the local butcher, and some more grilling vegetables. Warning: another kind of disturbing picture coming up!

Marinating cuy (guinea pig) at home in Arequipa

Marinating the cuy. Jason kept putting the guinea pig in these little poses. Sigh.

Barbequed cuy (guinea pig) at home in Arequipa

Cuy on the barbie

Barbequed cuy (guinea pig) at home in Arequipa

The finished product: barbequed cuy with grilled vegetables.

The guinea pig was actually as described: tasted like chicken and not very meaty. Not my favourite thing to eat, but it was better than expected.

The next night, to make up for the traumatic experience of eating an animal that can be a pet, we went out for a nice, fancy dinner. Date night! Our first one since we started our travels over a month ago.

Zingaro in Arequipa, Peru

Date night at Zingaro

Travelling for 6 months means we have to stick to a pretty strict budget. Jason and I typically stick to street stalls, little hole-in-walls, or places that seem to serve mostly locals – which is totally fine by us since we prefer to eat that way. But once in a while, it’s nice to scrub the backpacker dirt off our faces and get all dolled up for a nice night out.

Bread basket at Zingaro (Arequipa, Peru)

Complimentary bread basket! We haven’t seen that at any of our meals since we left Canada. Why yes, I’ll have 5 refills please.

Our rare splurges requires quite a bit of research though, since we don’t want to walk into just any ol’ tourist-trap restaurant. We checked online for restaurant reviews, read through all the comments, cross-referenced it with travel blogger recommendations, and then cross-referenced it some more with other travel literature. Sounds a little obsessive-compuslive, eh? Well, when we only get to splurge once a month, it better be on a really well-prepared meal.

Zingaro kitchen (Arequipa, Peru)

We got a prime spot where we watched the chefs at work in Zingaro. They weren’t messing around – it looks like an episode of Iron Chef in there all night.

We ended up choosing Zingaro for a few reasons: 1) we wanted to have traditional Peruvian cuisine 2) it looked like the restaurant catered to locals and tourists.

Jason and I had slightly different impressions of our the meal. He wasn’t that fond of it, I thought it was fan-frickin-tastic! I’m perhaps a little biased because seafood is probably my favourite food group.

For an appetizer, we ordered the rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers), which is made using the very spicy rocoto pepper (which looks deceptively like a normal red bell pepper). Good thing both Jason and I love spicy food, otherwise we would’ve both been pretty surprised by how spicy the pepper was. It’s stuffed with ground meat, egg, olives, and then covered with melted cheese. It was amazing. I, unfortunately, don’t have a good picture for you, since we gobbled it down before I even remembered to take a picture of it. This is what it looked like, if you’re curious.

I ordered the chupa de camerones (shrimp chowder) – but it actually translates literally to ‘suckage of shrimp’. Which doesn’t sound as appealing….but might be more accurate. Why, you ask? Because this hearty bowl urn of soup is filled to the brim with succulent, suck-able shrimp and crayfish. The aromatic broth seeps into the shells, heads, and tails of the shrimp – just begging you to slurp the deliciousness up with happy abandon. Then, there’s still the flavourful potatoes, corn, egg, and melted cubes of cheese to savour after all the ‘suckage’. Seriously, a bowl of heaven. (Gimme a second while I close my eyes and reminisce).

Chupa de camarones at Zingaro (Arequipa, Peru)

Chupa de camarones (shrimp chowder) – a bowl of deliciousness

Jason ordered the ceviche – which he thought was too chewy, but I adored. It was the way ceviche is supposed to be prepared – with pieces of raw fish that’s marinated in citrus and hot peppers. I’ve noticed that a lot of ceviche we’ve had uses cooked fish (which might be safer), but a really good restaurant will use sushi-quality fish to prepare it. The few pieces of sweet potato to balance the tartness of the citrus juices was perfection.

Ceviche at Zingaro (Arequipa, Peru)

Delicious and fresh ceviche

Arequipa definitely served up some delicious delights. Some of the ones mentioned above originated specifically from Arequipa (i.e. chupa de camerones, rocoto rolleno, queso helodo), so make sure to definitely seek those out if you’re ever in this wonderfully gastronomic city.

Eating: Nazca Street Food

I would never have guessed that Nazca would be such a good street food destination. Jason and I were reminiscing about our honeymoon in Vietnam and how the street food there was so delicious.  We missed being able to walk down a street, stop at a stall to gawk at what the locals were eating, and then order whatever they were having. Colombia and northern Peru didn’t have much of a street food scene – which happens to be our favourite way to sample local food.

However, when the sun dipped below the horizon in Nazca, street food vendors started coming out of nowhere and setting up shop along the main streets (much to our surprise and delight!).

The first vendor we saw setting up at twilight was a woman who was grilling mystery meat.  We ordered a skewer and was surprised by how delicious it was.  Super tender and tasty! Yum!

Nazca Street Food

Grilled mystery meat in Nazca

We followed our noses down the street (FYI, all the street vendors were within a 2-block radius of each other), and discovered a guy grilling more mystery meat.  This time, the street vendor was serving miscellaneous grilled chicken parts (i.e. liver, feet, hearts, etc).  It was really tasty, but Jason wasn’t too fond of the crunchiness of the cartilage. I thought it was delicious though.

Grilled chicken everything (Nazca, Peru)

Grilled chicken everything (feet, cartilege, heart, kidneys)

My favourite street food find was a Chicken Noodle Soup (Caldo de Gallina).  Her stall was packed with people. so we knew that was a good sign.  She served the huge bowls of noodle, chicken, and hard-boiled egg in a delicious herbed broth, along with a bowl of maize kernels, and homemade hot sauce.  At this point in our travels, I was really craving noodle soup like crazy (noodle soup being one of my favourite meals).  And this really hit the spot.  Really reminded me of Vietnamese street food actually.  Steamy, delicious goodness.

Caldo de Gallina - Nazca, Peru

Caldo de Gallina – Chicken noodle soup

Our last street food stop was a woman who had set up a deep-fryer on the street.  She was deep-frying rings of dough into the lightest, fluffy, homemade doughnuts.  She included a packet of honey, which you drizzled over top of the crispy delights.  She was even cool enough to pose for my picture 🙂

Homemade donut (Nazca, Peru)

The woman made the most addictive donuts right on the street. Fluffy, light, and crispy on the outside.


The amazing street food experience in Nazca definitely upped the overall appeal of this sunbaked little town.

Eating (and Experiencing): Lima

We were advised by my friend’s co-worker (who happens to be Peruvian) to not spend any time or money on Lima, the capital of Peru.

Peruvian Andes

Our first glimpse of Peru, flying over the dry Andean mountain ranges

In the winter months, Lima is a pretty depressing city to be in. It’s a city of grey – crumbling concrete buildings in the poorer areas, a sky that is terminally grey and overcast, even the ocean looks grey. It’s damp and cold from May until the end of November. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a big problem here during the constant cloud and fog of winter.

We were also warned that Lima can be dangerous – with pockets of poverty so extreme that those areas have been designated as no-go zones for tourists and travellers. But after looking over our shoulders and mentally preparing for armed muggings for almost a month in Colombia, we felt like Lima was a breath of fresh air. We spent a lot more time out and about after dark, which we wouldn’t really dare to do in the bigger cities of Colombia. It helped that we stayed in the more modern and cleaner neighbourhood of Miraflores, which is known for its great restaurants and beautiful seaside bluffs.

The bluffs at Miraflores

The impressive bluffs in Miraflores

Winding paths and beautiful parks along the bluffs in Miraflores

Winding paths and beautiful parks lined the bluffs in Miraflores. The government is investing a lot into beautifying this part of the city.

One of the biggest reasons for spending a few days in Lima is the food. We’ve read the Peruvian cuisine is amazingly diverse, using its indigenous cooking as a base and drawing from Spanish, Chinese, Italian, African, and Japanese influences. On top of that, Lima is said to have world-class food. So after the disappointment of Colombian food, we were ready for what we hoped would be an ecstatic food experience.

And we were not disappointed. Food in Lima was everything we had hoped for.

Our first stop was ‘El Enano’, a very poplar, open-air sandwich restaurant that served delicious, greasy sandwiches. They also had a huge selection of fresh fruit juice concoctions served in huge glass pitchers to wash down the greasy sandwiches. We both ordered the “El Enano” sandwich – a meatlover’s delight. Ham, bacon, pork sausage, and melted cheese sandwiched between toasted hotdog buns.

The "El Enano" sandwich

Heart attack on a bun

The next day, we took the modern Metropolitano bus service (a quick, easy, and safer way to get around Lima) up to the sketchier area of Central Lima.

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Most buildings in Central Lima were grey – to match the whole grey vibe of Lima in the winter.

There’s a huge complex of individual clothing and shoe stalls called Polvos Azules (just southeast of Estacion Central). You can find cheap, branded clothing here but the area is full of pickpocketers so it’s best to go there earlier in the morning with only the money you plan to spend.

We bumped into an American i-banker, straight out of business school, who was here in Peru for work for a month. He told us about the phenomenon of chifas (Chinese restaurants) that served huge inexpensive portions of Chinese dishes that were similar to those that you’d find in food courts back at home (i.e. Manchu Wok). He joked about how Peruvians rave about chifas and insisted that he had to go and try the food there – but since he’s from San Franciso, he can have Americanized Chinese food at almost every street corner back at home.

I was craving some familiar flavours, so we decided to try out a chifa. I have to admit, it was pretty good, but it’s hard to go wrong with tamarindo (Peruvian version of sweet-and-sour) pork and chicken fried rice 🙂

Chifa (Lima, Peru)

Chifa (or Peruvian version of Chinese food) in Lima. Sweet & sour pork and fried rice.

The next day, we decided to make our way over to Barranco, an artsy and Bohemian neighbourhood in Lima. It took us awhile to get there because we kept stopping at cafes along the way. We tried some delicious churros with a side of hot chocolate for dipping.

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Crispy churros and hot chocolate. Delicious, crispy, and sweet bites of heaven.

One of our favourite meals so far in Peru has been in a small open-aired ceviche stall, hidden near the back of a little market on Union street in Barranco. This mom and pop eatery was a hidden gem – very well hidden actually.

Husband & wife ceviche chef team (Lima, Peru)

The wonderful husband & wife chef team that made the best ceviche meal I had in Peru

The friendly owners greeted us warmly and right away offered us pisco sours (Peru is very proud of their national beverage, pisco – a potent grape brandy)

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Pisco Sour – made with pisco, lime juice, egg whites, ice, and sugar. Very delicious and surprisingly strong cocktail.

Lima, being right on the edge of the Pacific, is a great place for fresh ceviche. And unlike La Cevecheria in Cartagena, Colombia, this place definitely did not disappoint. It was probably the best ceviche I’ve ever had in my life. It was so fresh and tasty, with just enough tartness from the lime juice, and heat from the chilies.

Ceviche stall food (Lima, Peru)

The best ceviche I had in Peru. The flavours were sooo intense!

We also ordered the mixed seafood soup. Wow, flavour explosion!

Seafood stew (Lima, Peru)

Savoury and tasty seafood stew. SO good.

If our first stop in Peru has been this delicious, I am anxiously awaiting the gastronomical delights the rest of the country has to offer. Stay tuned!

Eating: Colombia

Introducing the ‘Eating’ series! All ‘Eating’ posts will be wholly devoted to foods and drinks from our travels. Yum!

Jason and I love trying out local dishes and eating new foods when we travel (one of the reasons our travel blog is named Travels of Yum), but Colombian food isn’t really anything to write home about. (Which is a little ironic since, technically, I am kind of writing home about it in this blog post)

Colombian food is very meat and starch-heavy. Jason LOVES meat but I prefer lighter fare. Also Colombians love to fry everything, which is delicious occasionally but when you have your fifth deep-fried ‘some sort of meat encased in a ball of corn flour’, you start craving a stalk of celery.

Typical Colombian dish

Typical Colombian dish: a platter consisting of rice, slaw, fried plantain, beans, and then either chicken, pork chop, or grilled steak. It was tasty but lacked a little variety. (Taken in Cartagena)

Typical Colombian dish

Same traditional Colombian dish – different meat. (Taken in Medellin)

Something we both agreed on is the flavour of Colombian food – or maybe lack thereof. We’re used to the flavour explosion of Korean kalbi, or the subtle hints of fresh herbs in Vietnamese pho, or oregano-infused aroma of fresh Italian tomato sauce. In comparison, Colombian food is a little one-dimensional. Locals are always sprinkling salt, shaking pepper, squeezing lime or squirting hot sauce on everything to give it some sort of kick.

After two weeks in Colombia and in search of something different, I tried a seafood paella in Cartagena. Cartagena is on the coast and I thought the Spanish seafood dish would be a good choice. Unfortunately, it wasn’t prepared very well (rice was overcooked and it was too salty.

Seafood paella (Cartagena, Colombia)

Looked good…but was a little salty and overcooked.

While on the coast in Cartagena, we also tried ceviche (fresh raw seafood marinated or cured in lime juice and seasoned with chili peppers). We visited a place called La Cevicheria.

La Cevicheria in Cartagena, Colombia

A bowl of octupus ceviche in Cartagena

Apparently Anthony Bourdain had visited this place on his show No Reservations. I’m not sure why, as we found the ceviche very sub par – it was overpoweringly tart and overpriced. I had the octopus ceviche and Jason had the mixed seafood ceviche. Jason’s was mildly better because of the variety in texture.

Luckily, breakfasts were pretty consistently delicious. Fresh baguette served with huevos pericos (scrambled eggs with onion and tomatoes) or arepa (fried maize pancake) served with fried eggs, drizzled with butter and sometime served with a local cheese that’s really similar to feta.

Huevos pericos (Bogota, Colombia)

Huevos pericos and fresh baguette

Delicious breakfast (Jerico, Colombia)

Arepa with cheese and fried eggs (one of my favourite breakfast dishes!)

One thing Colombia does really well is their soups and stews. I’ve posted this photo before but I’ll post it again since it was so good. Their fish soups, pureed vegetable soups, chicken soups are so good! Add a splash of lime and it’s perfect.

Authentic fish stew (Medellin, Colombia)

Don’t miss the soups and stews in Colombia!

Supposedly, one of Colombia’s tastiest dishes is the ajiaco – a very thick chicken stew that’s chock full of vegetables, maize, potatoes, cream, and capers. I only say ‘supposedly’ because I don’t think the version we tried was that great. It was a little too thick in consistency, almost like I was eating a bowl of really thick chicken-flavoured mashed potatoes. We would’ve given it another chance but we ran out of time in Colombia.

Ajiaco (Jardin, Colombia)

Ajiaco – A popular Columbian stew

Colombia also has some amazing exotic fruits (guanabana, mora, etc), so they have delicious fresh jugos (or juices) everywhere. Definitely not something to miss! No pictures to post though, since I always forgot to snap a picture before gulping down the deliciousness. Here’s a picture of Colombian beer though (which was also pretty good) 🙂

Colombian beers

Cool graphic beer logos.

The highlight of the food we had in Colombia was definitely the fish in Cartagena. They brought fresh fish to us while we lounged on the beach, so that we can select one we liked (we chose the Red Snapper) and they fried it up for us and served it with coconut rice. Absolutely amazing.

Deep fried red snapper (Cartagena, Colombia)

Fresh, deep-fried red snapper served right on the beach

I couldn’t get enough of it. I ordered it again for dinner (where I tried the Mojarra). And again for lunch the next day.

Deep-fried Mojarra (Cartagena, Colombia)

Deep-fried Mojarra in Cartagena

Closing in on 3 weeks in Colombia, we decided to get a taste of something familiar – Chinese food. We found one of the few Chinese restaurant in Medellin. Thanks to my dad insistence that I learn the language of my ancestors (i.e. 3 hours of Chinese school every Saturday all through my grade school years), I was able to converse well enough with the owner of the restaurant to order off the menu. That meant we were able to order some authentic Chinese food, as opposed to the Americanized (Colombianized?) Chinese food that she normally serves.

Chinese food (Medellin, Colombia)

Pretty authentic Chinese food (Ma-Po Tofu and Sweet & Sour Pork)

Chinese veggies in soy sauce and garlic (Medellin, Colombia)

After weeks of eating meat and starches, it was nice to have some leafy greens. The owner has to special order in ‘Guy Lian‘. What a treat!

Adios Colombia! The country was beautiful, the people were really friendly, but the food could be better.

El Corral (Worm)Burgers

El Corral (Bogota, Colombia)

Mission accepted!

We were instructed to check out El Corral and to report back findings while in Colombia.  El Corral is a restaurant chain in Colombia that’s known for its burgers…..more specifically, its worm burgers!

Rumour has it that its burger patties contain ground up worms. Apparently worms are high in protein and are cheap and effective substitutes for meat.

100% beef (Bogota, Colombia)

They DO claim that it’s 100% beef. But then again, so does McDonalds.

Jason and I decided to accept our mission and check out whether the rumour is true.

El Corral (Bogota, Colombia)

About to embark on our El Corral mission

Jason ordered the classic and I ordered the Criolla – which is the classic with sautéed onions, bacon, cheese and a fried egg.

Criolla burger at El Corral

Beef (& worm?) patty, sauteed onions, tomato, bacon, fried egg = perfect burger!

Yummers!!

After Lick’s burgers, this was the most delicious, messiest, artery-hardening burger I’ve ever had!

Criolla burger at El Corral

The view of the Criolla burger from another angle

I scrutinized the patty after I’ve taken a few bites. Little globules of fat?…worms?…I wasn’t sure. So the verdict is…….inconclusive.

I cannot confirm or deny the use of ground up worms in their burgers. I can, however, confirm that they are delicious.

El Corral (Bogota, Colombia)

Stuffing my face Testing for scientific purposes at El Corral