The cuisine of Colombia is characterized by freshness. Cuisine varies regionally due to the combination of shoreline, Pacific coastal, mountainous, jungle, and ranchland geographical areas. Fresh fish and fresh fruit are plentiful, with a great variety rarely seen outside of Colombia that are enjoyed locally and exported worldwide, including dragon fruit, zapote, lulo, passion fruit, guava, cape gooseberry, and rare varieties of banana like the plantain. Fresh fruit stands are very common around the country, particularly in coastal cities. Mango, apple, pear, and other more common fruits also call Colombia home. Aside from fruits, the most common ingredients are cereal grains such as rice and maize, regional tubers such as cassava, various legumes, and staple meats including beef, chicken, pork, goat, and fresh fish. Chorizo, known worldwide as a spicy, crumbled sausage, is also widely eaten in Colombia, yet the definition includes all coarse meat sausages. With all that being said, the most prized Colombian commodity is the coffee, of which their export rate grew 30% and overall production 26% in 2014 to a total of 10.4 million bags. An appreciation for the subtle flavor differences in beans pervades the mindset of often delicately flavored cuisine.
TSeemingly unnoticed in the mainstream media and market, Colombian cuisine has been growing at a slow but steady rate through single unit restaurants, chain operations, food trucks, capitalizing on a nation-wide infatuation with South American cuisine as a whole. Globalization first brought us new cultures as a whole, but as consumers gain familiarity in global cuisine, regionally specific and authentic cuisines are gaining more attention. In response to this attention, many natively South American chains are using Florida as a gate for expansion, such as Hamberguesas El Corral, a prominent, 200+ unit chain based in Colombia and featuring a South American take on fresh food and burgers that is gaining traction through Florida and poised to expand through the rest of the country. In Oak Park, a suburb west of Chicago, a single unit operation called Aripo’s melds the classic Colombian “arepa,” a corn based flatbread often served in combination with breakfast and chorizo or sliced and stuffed to make a sandwich, with modern cultural influence and has had great success in a tough suburban landscape over the last decade, championing the cultural and culinary diversity of the country. A very popular food truck known as Palenque Home Made Colombian Food based in New York city combines a love for the corn based arepa together with modern fusion and fresh ingredients, even offering flax, sesame, and quinoa based ingredients, bolstered sundried tomato, arugula, and other non-Colombian yet on trend, culturally inspired, healthy ingredients.