May 28

A Colombia Food Top 5: A Savoury-sweet Symphony.

Fried plantain


Alright, so I’ll admit it. Sometimes a bit of sweetness does sneak into an “Australian” main dish. What pork chop is complete without apple sauce (HINT: the answer starts with “not” and ends in “any…”)? You put a lamb roast on the table (next to the book) without mint sauce, and I guarantee Tom Cruise will not make it there. Roast pork often comes with a sweet glaze, but along with that, and pineapple on a good old fish ‘n chip shop burger, that’s about it. I know my northern American friends go in for syrup on their bacon, but it’s best not to talk about such sad travesties.

Colombia, though, as you know, is all about massive contrasts. And, main dishes are no different. For example…

You know what’s happening now. That’s right: another one of those Top 5 Things you all know and love.




This is still what I think of this fruit. Most of the time. OK, so, some of the time...
This is still what I think of this fruit. Most of the time. OK, so, some of the time…


Well, I don’t know if you know, but plantain and I have a rather chequered history. I have come across some forms of the Big Banana that I actually quite like, but here are a few more gripes. After I’ve finished a totally delicious sancocho, you’ll find a veritable mountain of plantain at the bottom of my bowl. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. And, sometimes, they happen to me. Sometimes, soup decides to drop any pretence of being a savoury dish, and becomes simply plantain soup. Could I have another look at the menu, please? And, bandeja paisa is a truly great dish that I probably enjoy more often than is strictly good for me. Enjoy, that is, except for that slimy bit of plantain sneaking in somehow. Why me, Blog, oh, why me?




Tamal and much more
Complement each other beautifully, no? No.


“But,” I hear you wail, “Tamales aren’t even sweet!” Wait up a bit, there, please; I’ll get to that in a moment. What I’m talking about is the following.

What are some famous food/drink combinations? A nice, big shiraz and a grilled steak. A tasty pinot noir and succulent venison. Chardonnay and a chicken risotto. Beer with pizza. Hot chocolate with cheese and a chicken tamal.

It happens. I don’t know how I exactly I feel about that. I love both separately, but don’t really understand how they work together. I guess I’ve got a lot to learn.

Before I leave the Tamal Question, I have to mention a couple of other interesting aspects of this generally delicious, banana-skin-wrapped delicacy. Not only will you find  (undeniably sweet) raisins making an appearance in the traditional tamal from the Santander region, but undeniably, irrefutably sweet chicken tamales in Pasto. I guess I just don’t understand some things about the world.


Salad Days.


Sorry to pry, but what exactly are you doing next to my pork, Strawberry?
Sorry to pry, but what exactly are you doing next to my pork, Strawberry?


We all love the enormous, cheap glory that is the Corrientazo. One aspect of this treasure that gives me (at least) pause for thought, is the appearance of undeniably sweet fruits in the accompanying salad. I’m not talking about fruits whose status is questionable, such as tomatoes. I’m talking about mango, pineapple, or strawberries. I generally enjoy this, but the fact that I enjoy it puts me in a funny spot philosophically.


Do You Know Your Chicken?


I know my chicken...
I know my chicken…


Finally, something that baulked me considerably when I learnt of its existence, but which I now have no problem in saying I love. I’ve always been an enthusiastic advocate for fried chicken. The world would be a significantly worse place without its existence. However, it never crossed my mind to add a good dollop of honey to the mix. It’s actually fairly amazing. I think you should do it, too.


Hot Dog!


Just get me the pineapple jam, and noone gets hurt.
Just get me the pineapple jam, and noone gets hurt.


As ubiquitous as arepas and hamburgers, Colombian hot dogs are a delicious, if slightly guilty, late-night treat. I never thought I’d say it, but I’m beginning to feel a little let down when I order one, and there’s not a generous drizzle of pineapple jam oozing off the top of it. One day, I may even completely agree with that ancient Colombian saying: “A hot dog without pineapple is not a hot dog.” Maybe I am getting used to this whole sweet-savoury thing, after all. I’m sorry, Mum!

Well, there you go: that’s my five. Am I being unnecessarily prejudiced or unkind, or am I not alone with my sweet struggles? Any more you’ve come across?

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