We enjoyed some of the best that Colombia and Puerto Rican cuisines have to offer and have decided which we think is better. We know that many of our readers have attachments to either culture, so we proceed knowing that someone will be disappointed.
Pollo sudado (translation: “sweaty chicken,” recipe follows) is weekly fare for many families in Barranquilla, where the dish probably originated. Its popularity spread throughout the neighboring area for good reason. Chicken and potatoes, stewed in onions, broth, and spices, has all the makings of comfort food: easy to make, rich, starchy, and flavorful.
Colombia doesn’t exactly have a national dish; its cuisine is highly regionalized with dozens of contenders for the honor. The country does, though, have a food that is eaten most often: arepas (recipe follows), pan-fried flatbreads made from ground corn flour. Arepas are served in a variety of ways, sometimes with jam, butter, or sliced avocado, or even split open and stuffed with cheese.
Decision time has come once again, this time between the cuisines of Trinidad and Tobago and Colombia. We got to experience Trinidadian cooking and its Caribbean ingredients prepared according to west African and Indian methods. We made our own version of Trinidadian callaloo, a creamy dish of greens simmered with okra and coconut milk with obvious African roots that was somehow rich, decadent, and healthy at the same time. It’s best not to question good fortune sometimes.
As you might expect from a country that has two seacoasts, several mountain ranges and valleys, and the Amazon River system within it borders, Colombian food is highly regionalized, making selection of a national dish difficult if not impossible. The signature of the Paisa region, the bandeja paisa (“Ron Swanson special” in English), to use one example, features almost entree-sized portions of red beans with pork, white rice, ground meat, fried pork skins, fried egg, fried plantains, chorizo, black pudding, arepa (a cheese-stuffed flatbread), and avocado, and is shockingly intended to serve just one single adult human. Since this isn’t Man Vs. Food, we passed on bandeja paisa for the time being (Chris is becoming more and more convinced this is a good idea with each passing second, though). Another dish, popular in the capital Bogota and its surrounds, is ajiaco (recipe follows). It’s relatively simple — a stew of three kinds of potatoes, chicken, corn, and a local herb called guascas, and garnished with sour cream, avocado, capers, and/or any of a variety of local hot sauces. We couldn’t get guascas locally so we used a bit of oregano (endorsed in various sources as a substitute), accepting that our result would be lacking some of the original Colombian flavor but confident that the stew would be nonetheless delicious.