Jan 25

Top 5: Cheeses save us! Colombia’s obsession with fermented curd.

Cheese Chris Bell

Before I begin, I’d just like to make it clear that cheese is great (get it, haw haw haw?). Not only do I get baffled when I try to work out how somebody in the dim, distant, depressing days before the birth of Baby Cheeses finally worked out the complicated process necessary to produce this dairy-good; but I feel that a day without cheese is a day with a little less joy in it. Lucky I moved to Colombia. Remember how it’s the happiest country in the world? Hmmmm…..

It seems like the philosophy behind a staggering proportion of Colombian cuisine is as follows: if it seems like any dish at all is missing something, why not try adding a lump of cheese? Not only could this explain the incredibly generous lashings of cheese found on the local pizza or hot dogs; but also the following, more traditional phenomena…

I know the suspect is trying to hide, but look, there it is behind the mug!!
I know the suspect is trying to hide, but look, there it is behind the mug!!

1. Hot Chocolate.

This manifestation of the Colombian philosophy in question is probably the most obvious one. Delicious, sweet, hot chocolate, bread, and…of course!! … a bit of cheesy goodness! Drop it right in the mug (go on now, live dangerously), and you’ll actually find it’s not that bad at all. You may wonder why it’s done, but still…

Running with a sweet, sweet, cheesy theme.
Running with a sweet, sweet, cheesy theme.

2. Aguapanela.

OK, so once the results were in for Hot Chocolate with Cheese, the Colombia Unusual Cheese Placement Foundation decided it was time to branch out even further down the sweet-drink-with-cheese tangent. Aguapanela, a powerful, slightly earthy sugary treat needed the cheese treatment too.  Don’t pass judgement; I don’t even see you wearing the Judging Hat!


She saw me coming, but couldn't run away in time.
She saw me coming, but couldn’t run away in time.

3. Obleas.

Like the lady’s sign says, her messy little disks of tastiness come with all the flavours. Obiously, these wafers have all the sweet things you’d expect from a dessert; cream, caramel, fruit, coconut, nuts, confectionery, and so on. Yes, but where’s the cheese?? Oh, my bad: there it is – in grated form here. Of course. What was I thinking?

Before the anger started...
This guy is eerily familiar…

4. Ice-cream

Right, so with the hot chocolate and aguapanela, at least the cheese can hide from unfriendly eyes at the bottom of a mug; and with obleas, the cheese could be mistaken for dessicated coconut or something, but here, it’s on proud display for all the world to see. I’m not talking boysenberry cheesecake flavour or anything; I’m referring to pure, unadulterated grated cheese sprinkled on top of guiltless, inoffensive plain ice-cream, as if it were so much spaghetti bolognaise. Dairy and dairy = OK, no matter in what form?

Everyone say, cheese!!
Everyone say, cheese!!

5. Comedy.

What better accompaniment to a comedy film than a good big chunk of cheese? If you haven’t noticed already, I’m quite the cheesiness enthusiast, and so I feel I’ve found a comfortable home here in Colombia. To my untrained eyes and ears, some of the local comedy is reminiscent of the Bumble-bee Man from The Simpsons. Ai, ai, ai!!!

So, that’s my 5. There were a few unlucky runners-up in the category; such as Pasto’s own Pastel de Queso (a little sweet pastry featuring cheese; and no, it’s not the more familiar New York Cheesecake) and Cuajada con Miel (a cheesy dessert with honey); but we can’t all be winners. I should know.



14 thoughts on “Top 5: Cheeses save us! Colombia’s obsession with fermented curd.

  1. Pingback: Cooltoura Colombia

  2. Andrea on

    What about baked plantain with guava paste and cheese on top! loove it!


      Viviana on

      mmmm deli…. platanito con queso y bocadillo recién salido de un horno de carbon… TIENEN QUE PROBARLO!!!


      Paul Giles on

      Hmmm Andrea and Viviana; I have to admit that I´m not the greatest plantain fan, and this has made me a little scared to try that particular snack, but OK! I´ll give it a go today!! 🙂

  3. Paul Giles on

    I don’t know if I should admit it, but I’ve found myself really digging aguapanela with cheese. There’s probably some group I can join. I think it’s called Colombia.

  4. Eric on

    2 years in Bogota, never had the hot chocolate and cheese. The cheese with ice cream and fruit was really good! Agreed on the Colombian cheese being really mild/bland.


      Paul Fowler on

      Cheese with ice cream, good?! I can’t say I’ve ever experienced that, but hey, to each their own!

  5. Paul Giles on

    Yeah, Stuart – I wouldn’t claim to understand this particular mystery either; but that doesn’t mean I don’t *hate* it. One thing that has to be said about most Colombian cheese is that it’s pretty mild, so it’s difficult for it to get offensive. In this hot chocolate phenomenon in particular, it’s more of a textural thing than anything else. A little bemusing, all the same…

  6. Isabel on

    you definately forgot the fruits, get a lovely cup of water melon with cheeessee 😉


      Paul Giles on

      Yes, Isabel! Cheese! Everywhere!

  7. Stuart Oswald on

    The first time I ever heard of cheese and hotchocolate was via the London Colombian community. Still to this day and having made plenty of trips to and around Colombia, I find it hard to get.


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