Colombian cuisine is rich and diverse thanks to geographical variety, a tropical climate and the influence of many immigrant populations. There are exotic dishes such as roasted ants (homiga culona), guinea pig, and fried intestines (chunchillos), as well as comfort foods like arepas (corn cakes) and chicken soup (sancocho de gallina). Traditional dishes like bandeja paisa (assorted meat plate with fried egg and fried plantain), fritanga (heaping plate of fried meats and sausages) and lechona (whole roasted suckling pig) may not be for vegetarians or for the faint of heart, but they are excellent for sharing with friends.
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Colombian appetizers are a flavorful and interesting way to begin a meal. Empanadas are a popular appetizer in Colombia and a perfect way to please all of your guests since you can fill them with chicken, beef or vegetables. Patacones, fried green plantains, have a starchy texture and sweet taste that are delicious dipped in a spicy aji sauce. Or try a crispy potato and cheese croquette called papas rellenas.
Chicken corn potato soup is a twist on Bogota's signature soup -- ajiaco -- which combines chicken with three kinds of potatoes. This version features chicken, sweet corn, and potatoes, an ideal soup toward the end of summer when corn is at its peak.
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Colombian snacks and bread are tasty treats for breakfast or to enjoy in the afternoon with a cup of coffee. Pandebono is a cheese bread made with tapioca flour and cornmeal; the dough is formed into balls and baked until they puff up. South American cuisine is famous for its arepas--these corn cakes can be eaten simply with butter or topped with cheese. If you can't decide between savory and sweet, aborrajadas (fried sweet plantains with cheese) are sure to satisfy. Slices of plantain are stuffed with cheese, coated in batter and deep fried.
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How about something a little different to serve with that steak or chicken? Colombian side dishes take basics like potatoes, beans, and rice to a whole new level. Papas chorreadas is a Colombian specialty of boiled red potatoes with cheese sauce, while frijoles Colombianos (Colombian red beans) combines red beans with tomatoes, green onion, and crispy bacon. If serving seafood, you may want to try coconut rice (Arroz con coco), which features a uniquely Colombian way of cooking the coconut milk until the liquid separates and the solids begin to caramelize.
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Salsas are served alongside several Colombian dishes, and may also be used as a base for some recipes, like this tomato and onion sauce called hogao. The ingredients are cooked together until blended and soft. If you like spicy, then Colombian-style aji sauce is for you. There are enough versions of this condiment to fill its own cookbook, but this recipe includes roasted chilis, scallions, lime juice, vinegar, and cilantro. A raw version of hogao is salsa de aji picante, which you can make as mild or as hot as you like.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Colombian cuisine is very diverse, having influence from Spain, Africa, and Arab countries. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation and each region of the country has its own take on certain dishes. Carne asada is a beloved staple in Colombia -- flank steak is marinated in a mixture of citrus, garlic, and beer, and then grilled and served with a flavorful salsa. On a cold evening, carne guisada will be a warm comfort. This beef stew filled with vegetables is a hearty one-dish meal. Arroz con pollo -- chicken with rice -- is a great main dish for a crowd and allows for flexibility in which ingredients you include. To add a little fun at the dinner table, serve tamales filled with either chicken, pork, beef or vegetables. To make them traditionally Colombian, use banana leaves instead of corn husks.
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From donuts to layer cake to flan, Colombian desserts run the gamut of deliciousness. For something decadent without too much sweetness, try buñuelos, a cheese-filled doughnut--the Colombian version is a bit more savory than the Mexican recipe. Natilla is often paired with bunuelos and is a custard-like dessert traditionally served at Christmas. If you are looking to impress, try torta Maria Luisa, an elegant layered cake tinged with citrus and filled with fruit jam. A fan favorite is always flan, and this dulce de leche flan (flan de arequipe) will not disappoint.