Take a Bite of Colombia | Bogota Street Food Tour in La Candelaria
The breezy Bogota air runs through my hair as I make my way to the Parque de los Periodistas in the city center of Bogota. I’m on my way to discover Colombia’s staple foods with Nicole, an American entrepreneur who recently moved to Bogota from Medellín to expand her successful food tour venture.
I come prepared. Camera, check. Jacket and umbrella for unpredictable Bogota weather, check. Empty stomach, check.
The centers buzzes with the morning hustle and bustle of commuters making their way to work. From a distance, I easily spot Nicole and Margarita, our lovely tour guide for the day wearing a branded red La Mesa Food Tours t-shirt and umbrella. Margarita is bogotana and speaks fluent English. Excitedly, she begins the tour and shares with us a brief history of the plaza we are standing in.
Five minutes into the tour, she surprises us with our first bite of the day: mango biche.
As a small group, we immediately start chattering and getting to know each other as we make our way to a street cart just a few steps away from the plaza.
To an outsider, all items in the cart look the same, serving a variety of stuffed and fried corn flour snacks. We learn that each item comes from a different region of the country and has a designated time of the day at which it is typically devoured.
We are free to choose what we want. I pick a typical breakfast item from the coast of Colombia: Arepa de huevo.
After gobbling up my heavy Colombian breakfast, I find myself already full 10 minutes into the tour. Wondering how I’ll be able to eat for another 3 hours, I ask how many things we’ll try so I can pace myself.
Nicole reassures me, telling me that we can always share or just have a bite. Unfortunately, I grew up obliged to finish my plate, so ‘just taking a bite’ is not an option. I share or I eat it all, but I certainly don’t throw away.
Back to the tour, we continued to peruse through the streets of La Candelaria, checking out the cool political and cultural graffiti and colonial architecture. We go on to taste more traditional street food found in Bogota as well as drinks including hot chocolate, aromatica and an indigenous drink called chicha.
We arrive at a local market and I immediately feel like a kid in a candy store as I awe over the exotic and tropical fruit that can only be found in this part of the world. Fruits such as guanabana, lulu, granadilla, tomato de arból are all native to the region and new to anyone visiting Colombia for the first time.
We take a seat by a stall outside the market on some cheap, white plastic chairs. Feels legit!
But the best part is yet to come. We are presented with a sweet-smelling and colorful array of the market’s exotic fruit. A-MAZ-ING! One by one, we try and compare, trying to associate the taste to more familiar fruits we can find back home.
By now, the mid-afternoon rain showers have gotten stronger, but luckily, we all came prepared with umbrellas, so we continue our journey through the rainy streets of the city center into two quaint local restaurants where we are given several local dish options based on our preferences.
I have to say some were a total success, others not so much. But I guess that’s also the fun of trying new foods. Like most expats and tourists that come to Colombia, although local flavors are a must-try, they are not necessarily my personal favorite. Nonetheless, they make up a vital part of a complete the Colombian immersion.
A complete breakfast, snacks, fruit, drinks and two lunches later, we start making our way to the Plaza de Bolivar, when I suddenly spotted a street vendor selling hormigas culonas, or fat-ass ants. I knew it was the season, and after all, I had to try it to close this tasty Colombian experience.
Not bad. Tastes like popcorn really.
Margarita insists we have an oblea, my favorite Colombian dessert, but I’m already entering a food coma and I have to pass. Para la proxima.
We say goodbye in Plaza de Bolivar right around mid-day with a barriga llena, corazon contento or full stomach and a happy heart.
If you’re in Bogota and are visiting for a short time, La Mesa’s Food Tour is an authentic way to discover the Colombian food scene and take you through the city center at the same time.
The tour is flexible, easy to personalize and you get to try all the typical Colombian snacks, desserts, dishes and drinks you want and then some.