I can never put my finger on why I love street food so much. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? Braving the elements and waiting in line, only to quickly scoff down that kebab, or pad thai, or crêpe while seated at an uneven plastic table on a chair so low your knees are tucked under your chin.
But it could be that the smells that waft out from the fiery char grill that entice me in, or maybe it's the chance to sample local dishes when opportunities are thin in the age of generic tourist menus. Often I'll buy something without actually knowing what it is, only to find out once tasting that it's sweet and not the savoury flavour I was expecting.
Colombian food stood out in South America. Their Caribbean background infusing a tropical flavour into their dishes, creating some pretty unexpected delights.
Can I have some more hotdog with my sauce?
Burgers and Hotdogs
Colombians really love their hamburgers and hotdogs and they're not shy about dumping on the sauce. On top of the burger pattie, cheese and lettuce they plop an (un)healthy dollop of mustard, garlic sauce, pink sauce (mayonnaise and ketchup) more ketchup and pineapple sauce so sweet it's paramount to pouring sugar on top. Then in an attempt to bring some balance to this sauced up soup of a burger a dusting of chippies is sprinkled on top.
Yum. No really. I loved them, and only 5000 pesos too (US$2.50)
Where to find them: Getsemani, Cartagena
Arepa con Queso
Here we have the Colombia's beloved arepa. In the above picture is the arepa con queso (with cheese) our other favourite was the arepa con huevo (with egg) Arepas are a maize flatbread comparable to grilled cheesey mashed potato.
Jack loved these when we first found them in Cartagena over christmas. I took a bite and declared them too stodgy. Then the more I tried them the more they grew on me and I snacked on them often while Jack began to tire of them. Not bad at 1500 pesos ($0.75)
Where to find them: The best we had were in Taganga, on the main strip of town.
Las Palenqueras in Cartagena
Vibrant and vivacious ladies (known as Las Palenqueras from the city San Basilio De Palenque) cut us up a bowl of fruit for 10000 pesos ($5), and included a gimmicky tourist photo (we're sure we were well overcharged) although something everyone should do once.
Looking for the best street food in Cartegena? Try Trinity square in Getsemaní. There you'll find plenty of food stalls with a church in the background - just dodge the kids football when it comes flying at you.
Where to find them: The old town of Cartagena
Papas Rellenas or Colombian style stuffed potatoes
Bright yellow and greasy, these little balls of deepfried potatoes don't look appetising at first glance but I assure you they are delicious not to mention stuffed with spicy mince and vegetables.
Where to find them: anywhere you see empanadas for sale.
We tried this once in Popayan and then never ate it again. It's typically caramel sandwiched between two wafers. Sounds heavenly right? We mistakenly asked for the deluxe version and wound up with a handful of grated cheese in the middle. All for 2000 pesos ($1)
Where to find them: Parks or plazas all over Colombia. We found ours in Popayán.
Mango and other tropical juices
I found these off an on throughout South America but they are plentiful on the Caribbean coast for about 2500 pesos ($1.25)
Meat and Potato kebabs
Avoid the chicken ones, they're not always cooked right through, the beef is fine though. Don't be afraid to eat the street food, otherwise you'll be missing the some of the best food Colombia has to offer. Goes for around 1500 pesos ($0.75)
Not quite street food but amazing value nonetheless. This is a set lunch available at most restaurants (even if they don't advertise it) for around 8000 pesos ($4) and that buys a soup, a main dish of meat, rice, lentils, salad and a juice.
Don't forget to wash it all down with a swig of Colombian rum and a puff of a cigar.
If you really want to get the most out of your South American foodie experience - sign up for a food tour like this one in Medellin. They really are a great way tasting everything and learning about food origins as you go.
Welcome to Colombia amigos!
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