Tasty treats

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Dear Colombia,

You are a country of amazing diversity, incredible scenery, welcoming people and your food – oh the food…  Since we arrived we have been treated to various Colombian specialties and our waistlines are now suffering the consequences of all your ridiculously delicious food.  But, as we leave the country, we are not sure how we are going to live without your:

Jugos
With your stunning array of tropical fruits, we are now unsure how we will survive without the sweet sour tang of maracuya (passionfruit), the berry deliciousness of mora (blackberry), the creamy lulo, the refreshing melon and the indescribable tomate de arbol (tree tomato). From Colombia onward I will hold maracuya dear to my heart.

Fresh juice

Fresh juices!

Almojabana
This savoury cheesy bread, best eaten straight out of the oven, has cast a spell on our hungry bellies.  We found ourselves craving this small button of tastiness nearly every morning.  And, we both agree, that Pan Pa Ya in Bogota makes the most magnificent almojabana.

A delicous and delectable cheesy treat

A delicious and delectable cheesy treat

Aijiaco
A soup created with chicken, 3 types of potatoes, corn, heavy cream and capers sounds like an odd mix but this traditional soup became a solid favourite after the first spoonful.  Comforting, filling and with a bit of a zip from the capers this Bogotan specialty will be sorely missed but hopefully recreated.

Capers, chicken and potatoes...

Capers, chicken and potatoes...

Arepa de Huevo
Originally from the coast, we first tried arepa de huevo in Bogota where Odette (yet another gracious Colombian host) gave us a crash course in how to make them.  Turns out our skills are not very good but with Odette’s help the end product tasted just fine.  Amazing that cornflour, egg and salt can taste so scrumptious.  Salsa Brava and a dollop of sour cream completed this tasty breakfast.

Deep-fried with an egg in the middle!

Deep-fried with an egg in the middle!

Pan de bono
Almojabana’s cheeky cousin, pan de bono filled our stomachs with sheer bliss when we visited Cali.  With a harder skin, reminiscent of a bagel, on the outside and soft chewy bread on the inside it was too hard to say no to just one… so we didn’t (which is why there are no photos!).

Sigh Colombia, it is with sorrow and jeans that don’t quite zip up that we bid you adieu.

We caught the ferry from Bocas to meet up with our travel buddies Chris and Kristin in a little town called Santa Catalina on the Pacific coast—which is also home to a really good surfing break (named after the town) and it’s touted as having the most consistent surf in Central America. A long walk out over volcanic rock and then it’s a fair paddle to a beautiful but shallow reef break offering fast lefts and rights, when we arrived the waves were about shoulder high. We camped in a nice spot called Oasis right on the beach with plenty of shade and fresh coconuts falling scarily close to our tents, like manna from the sky. Try boiling a cup and a half of rice in the juice drained from two freshly fallen coconuts in a thin camp pot … best eaten under undiluted galaxies.

shady-camping

A few tranquilo days later we headed inland to camp with a rasta yogi, known locally as ‘Swami‘ and his rainbow gathering crew, the cheapest accommodation we could find in a town that’s centered in the crater of an extinct volcano, called El Valle, about two hours outside of Panama city. When the Panama Canal was owned and operated by the States a few Panamanian officials were getting fairly good kickbacks and we were told that this is where their kids bought up large chunks of fertile land, building grandiose houses with rambling manicured lawns set amongst awesome tropical landscaping. We had read that the town hosts an interesting arts and crafts market and were a little disappointed to find it much of the same and our only real discovery worth reporting was the Maracuya (passionfruit) juice served in a small out-of-the-way cafe.

Mexico and Central America have an abundance of delicious and unique fruits.  As a person who could probably live off fruit, I have been happily stuffing my face with delectable tropical fruit like mangoes, tuna (not the fish–it is also known as prickly pear), pineapple, papaya and loads of other treats from good ol’ mother nature.

After a rather crazy fishing trip where I caught and ‘helped’ to reel in a 12 pound dorado, I was lucky enough to learn a very simple but tasty recipe for mango salsa — heavenly when served over freshly caught fish.  This simple salsa has worked its way into our meals whenever we find the ingredients and have a kitchen available.

Mango Salsa

  • 2 ripe mangoes cubed
  • 1 red pepper chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 whole serrano chile (add to taste and remember the seeds are the fire so remove them if you prefer just a little spice before chopping.  Make sure to wash your hands well after chopping up chilies, a little lime juice works wonders to remove remaining chili juice*)
    *if you make the mistake of touching your face with chili-laden hands a little plain yogurt can relieve the spicy sting.

Mix up ingredients in a glass bowl, chill and serve over fish, with chips, rice or whatever you please.

Try it on chicken and rice

Try it on chicken and rice

Stuck in cold Canada with no exotic fruit available?  Check out More than Mangos, a company dedicated to importing the best quality and freshest tropical fruit into Alberta and BC grown in locales like Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala. Here you can find and order some pretty amazing fruit and also check out their serious repetiore of recipes.  Say hi to Senor Fruit for me!