One of the biggest surprises I have found in my time in Colombia has been the food. I don’t mean I was surprised by the quality – I was excited by the variety of fish and fruit I knew would be on offer, and I was told by a reliable source that the meat here surpassed Argentina’s in quality. Every meal I’ve had here has been great quality, so I haven’t been disappointed.
What surprised me, in fact, is the sheer quantity of food that you get here in Colombia. Most meals, especially in traditional restaurants, seem to come with a generous portion of soup followed by a more than substantial main dish. Frankly, most meals I’ve had have been too much for my flimsy European stomach and I end up leaving half my plate, staring longingly at it and wishing I had more room to keep eating. My Colombian friends, however, often complain that they could eat more…
So imagine my surprise when, in Paisa country (which includes the Coffee Triangle, Medellín, and the whole Antioquia area), I was told of a dish that even some Colombians considered extravagant in size. It was a meal so big that I was told I’d probably need a few hours to rest afterwards; so huge that I’d need a siesta afterwards. Some people might be excited to learn this – I was scared. The meal in question is the Bandeja Paisa, a meal generally served on several dishes or a platter sized plate in order to accommodate all the food that you’ll be eating.
So on a Colombian tour, I sat down in a roadside restaurant with 3 friends, we took a token glance at the menu and ordered ourselves 3 1/2 Bandeja Paisas (I was the one with the half portion). When the food came I saw what all the fuss was about. This to me was a meal of gargantuan proportions and, frankly, I felt full just looking at it.
Each mouthful, though, was a treat. Pulling off the meat from the chichorron while spooning a mouthful of rice and beans into my mouth was an absolute pleasure, I only wish that I had the stomach of one of my Colombian friends and could manage to eat my entire half-portion. It was no use, however, and my determination was in vein. That familiar feeling returned: I was absolutely full with a decent amount of my meal left over. I sat, staring longingly once again at my meal, unable to eat more. Of course my Colombian friends lapped it up, finally satisfied that they’d eaten a decent-sized meal. I’ve been here a while now and I still can’t understand where all that food goes.
So if you’re very hungry or very brave, in the Paisa region of Colombia you’ll find plenty of traditional restaurants serving this very Colombian dish. It’s usually modestly priced considering the sheer quantity of the thing and even if you don’t finish it, you’re sure to enjoy trying.