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Street food is Cartagena’s best kept secret

I can’t wait to tell you about the day I ate my way through the streets of Cartagena! But first, please give me a minute to stroke my tummy while I reminisce about the explosion of flavors I experienced during that palate-friendly walking tour.

Yum, yum. BURP.

Busy stuffing my hands and face with street goodies. See all those dressings on the side?

Busy stuffing my hands and face with street goodies. See all those dressings on the side?

Even after I booked the excursion, I couldn’t explain what had come over me. I have a very delicate stomach that doesn’t hesitate to let me know when I’ve ingested something that doesn’t go down well. So naturually, I tend to be careful about my food choices when I’m away from home. But all that caution – born of sometimes painful and/or embarrassing repercussions – flew out the window when I visited the vibrant seaport town that dots Colombia’s northern coast.  Cartagena’s fusion of Latin, Caribbean and African cuisines were inspiration enough to defy my fears and make me dive tongue first into the unknown.

The first order of business was taking my probiotic tablet. I gotta keep it teal. My digestive system needs those good bacteria to keep it working like it should!

The first order of business was taking my probiotic tablet. I gotta keep it real. My digestive system needs those small bursts of good bacteria to keep it working like it should!

There was a variety of food carts, trucks and stands scattered throughout the colorful streets of the Walled City and neighboring towns like Getsemani. At almost every corner, vendors sold a wide range of foods that ranged from deep-fried starches to fresh fruit while the locals ignored us tourists and carried on with everyday life.

A domino game in play in Getsemani.

A domino game in play in Getsemani.

And one of the best parts of the experience was the fact that I could relish the delicacies while learning about local culture and folklore.  As far as ambiance goes, eating mango biche while walking past refurbished, colonial-style mansions and admiring multi-hued looms springing from second-floor balcony gardens, wasn’t too bad either.

I started the tour at the Statue of Jose Fernandez by the Plaza Fernandez de Madrid. It was across from The Cocoa and Chocolate Museum.  I just had to pop inside for a little visit before the other members of the group arrived. Cocoa plant

Arepas – These are flatbreads made of white or yellow corn and stuffed with cheese and butter.

Two types of arepas brought to you courtesy pf the local street vendors

Two types of arepas brought to you courtesy of the local street vendors

arepas in the street

Patacones  – As an island girl, I grew up eating friend green plantains accompanied by different proteins for breakfast or supper, but the Colombian version had a different twist to it. They were soaked in a salty, garlic-flavored marinade first, fried to a crispy texture and devoured as the main meal.

See that liquid in the pan to the front? It has the garlic and salt seasoned marinade in it.

Mango Biche – These are thin slices of unripe mango soaked in lime juice and seasonings, prettily displayed like extra-large fries in a cup. It had an unusual flavor; equal parts tarty and savory.

There were so many different fruits for sale all around Cartagena. And they were the fresh, not supermarket-weary variety.

There were so many different fruits for sale all around Cartagena. And they were the fresh, not supermarket-weary variety.

Empanada de huevo – Empanadas are made of corn and stuffed with beef and egg, with a sudeo ( white cream sauce) on top. We learnt these snacks are the scrumptious result of Latin, African, Syrian and Lebanese culinary influences. food container

Matrimonio – once upon a time, a sweet boy named ‘Guava’ met a full-bodied girl named ‘Cheese’ and it was love at first sight.  They hung out, got married, and lived happily ever after. guava and cheese

Chicharron – O.M.G. This pork dish is pure bliss. Crispy on the outside, and flavorful and tender on the inside, it hits the G-spot with every single bite. [Don’t gape at me. I meant G as in gastric!What were YOU thinking?]. I had it with boiled yuca, also known as cassava. Three servings still left me ravenous and yearning for more. Pork belly

pork

Café Mural – I ended the day at a small shop run by David, an engineer who decided to leave his lucrative job in Bogota to pursue his true passion – coffee. The table behind his bar counter looked like a mini science lab. It was stacked with test tubes, multiple-sized measuring cups and other equipment I couldn’t identify. inside cafe

But there was method to what appeared to be his crazy but lovable professor madness. David, whose grandfather owned a coffee farm, lives to experiment with new blends. I don’t drink coffee but the others in my tour group raved about the blends they tasted.  I had a long glass of a mellow chocolate drink that was a fitting end to my day. outside cafe

ARE YOU HUNGRY YET?

Editors notes:

In case you want to do something similar, I booked this tour with Cartagena Connections. Tours last between three to four hours and require a two person minimum. They depart at 2:30 p.m. daily. The cost was $30 when I did it.  With that price, you get to sample about eight items but you’re encouraged to take extra pesos and try anything else that catches your eye.

5 thoughts on “Street food is Cartagena’s best kept secret

    1. globetrotter Post author

      It was sooo GOOD! And there were so many similarities to the food I grew up on in the Caribbean.

  1. Alissa

    Just recently found your blog – great post!! The food looks great! I’m really interested in visiting Colombia at some point, and Cartagena is high on my list. Thanks for sharing your experience on the food tour 🙂

  2. Iamme

    This sounds like it’s a peach of a city. Were there any other tours that you wished you were able to do?

    Would you ever return?

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