If you want to get to know a country, try its street food. Not to be confused with fast food, street food is the food of the people — it’s what locals seek out for lunch or grab for a quick dinner on the way home from a long day.
Street food is often synonymous with southeast Asia, particularly places like Bangkok and Singapore. But Latin America has some incredible dishes to offer up, and many of them can be found alongside the cars and packed sidewalks. Let’s take a look at some of the must-try street food in Colombia.
Arepas are a staple in Colombia and can be found nearly everywhere. Essentially, an arepa is a round, flat, maize-based cake that is cut open and stuffed with anything from meat or seafood to eggs to cheese, depending on the region. The arepa de huevo is a particularly popular variation on the Caribbean coast, where the dough is deep-fried and sliced open to allow an egg to be cracked inside, then sealed up and fried again.
For those who are hungry, a picada Colombiana might be the way to go. It’s a traditional Colombian platter filled with chopped meat, chicken, chorizo, plantain, yuca, and papas criollas (seasoned potatoes). Sometimes the items are grilled, though they’re more often found fried — and the platters are huge!
Strictly speaking, empanadas aren’t only a Colombian street food — but Colombians put their own spin on the classic Latin American hand pie. Like with arepas, every region does the empanada a bit differently. Meat and potato fillings are popular in the country’s capital, while Medellín favors empanadas filled with chorizo.
Though these large wafers might seem a little plain at first, they’re anything but once smeared with various delicious spreads. Popular fillings at oblea stands include jam, cheese, fruit, dulce de leche (like caramel), and whipped cream, among others.
Hot dogs definitely aren’t your typical Colombian food, but the country has taken perros calientes to an entirely new level — and they’re incredibly popular on the street. In Colombia, hot dogs aren’t simple beef weiners topped with ketchup, mustard, and relish. While they vary depending on the vendor, hot dogs here are garnished with things like potato chips, garlic mayo, pink sauce, pineapple sauce, coleslaw, bacon, cheese, and sometimes even quail eggs. With so many toppings, they can get pretty messy.
Colombians love their pork, and you’d be hard-pressed not to find a vendor selling this slow-cooked suckling pig dish in most Colombian cities. As a street food, it’s generally served as chunks or strips similar to pulled pork — and it’s excellent accompanied by arepas and aji picante (hot sauce).
Fresh juice is particularly popular in Cartagena, which sits along the coast. Some vendors sell sweet, fruity concoctions while others have a variety of fruits and vegetables ready to be blended for a custom drink. They’re a quick and refreshing pick-me-up after a day at the beach.