Stomach soup, fried pig ears and building roofs - and it's only lunchtime!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

'Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper'. Or, if in Colombia...just eat lunch. Because here, lunch is not to be taken lightly, both in the figurative and literal sense. The typical almuerzo corrientazo (lunch offer) consists of a side of soup, rice, either beans or lentils, possibly plantain or yucca, a salad and a piece of meat or fish.The price will range from COP 5,000-10,000 (£1.50-£3.00). This makes this midday meal a great way to sample the local cuisine without breaking the bank. Here's a look at some of my recents lunchtime eats here in Barranquilla.

I've found myself in a few comedores (cheap eat places) where a health and safety officer might have a heart attack, but as I'm still standing to tell the tale and continuing to seek out these places, I'd say the dubious state of hygiene only adds to their rustic charm.
Who needs a kitchen when you have some pots on the street?
Tatuzmo is probably 'rustic charm' personified. This cornerside comedor, with it's thatched roof and outdoor kitchen, is about as low-frills are you can get. The speciality here is soups, which all come accompanied with rice and agua panela (sugar cane water).
Sopa de Mondongo
Each soup comes served in a bowl of totuma - the dried and hollowed out shell of the fruit from the totuma tree. The photo above is an enormous bowl of mondongo - tripe soup. Now this may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I absolutely adore this dish. And given that it's a delicacy here I'd say that's not just my weird offal-loving self speaking either. This whole meal cost COP 6,000 and is the best mondongo I have ever had (but ssssshh....just don't tell Juan Miguel. If you don't know who he is, check out my previous post). To anyone over here in Barranquilla, this place is a must visit. Find it at Carrera 56 # 49.

'The city inhabited by wild street commerce - it's actually one market stretching to the river like a flatttened shanty town'. Welcome to my city! This extract comes from a Lonely Planet guide to Colombia, and it is indeed true - the city centre of Barranquilla is a lot like mayhem. But those people who endure its chaotic streets, merciless bus drivers and general disorder will be rewarded.

Food in the centre has character, personality, and quite frankly I'll take that over sterile, soulless chains serving me my food in air conditioned shopping centres any day. From every fresh fruit under the sun to fried pig ears (really), if you're looking for a bit of excitement this is the place to go. On my most recent trip into town, I was on a mission to find the best almuerzo around. Upon recommendation, I headed to Osteria Yeimar for a corrientazo.

Osteria translates as oyster bar, but given that this is downtown Barranquilla, it was less oyster bar and more fisherman's shack. But a very fine fisherman's shack, serving everything from cocteles de camaron (special seafood cups, not alcoholic cocktails) and cazuelas of seafood, which are gorgeous seafood stews. I opted for the set lunch, but when choosing my fish, my Spanish failed me - I was left clueless as to what anything on offer actually was. Not to worry, as the owner simply took me to the kitchen to select whatever fish I fancied.

I went for the mojarra, and while I'm still unsure of an English translation, all I can say is it was a good choice. A meaty fish with not too many bones, it came whole and deep fried, accompanied by coconut rice, patacones and salad. When having to choose between a typical costeño lunch in the heart of the 'wild street commerce' and a Subway sandwich in a shopping centre? You know where to find me.
Osteria Yeimar, Cra 43 Calle 34, centro.

The ever-smiling Ede
Ede works in our school, and her general job is to keep everything clean, everyone happy, and as a side - well fed. With Ede you can order your own almuerzo corrientazo straight to the staff room, for the wonderful price of COP 5,000. Below is pollo guisado (chicken in a tomato based sauce), coconut rice, yuca and avocado salad. The soup on the side is mote de queso - a typically costeño cheese and yam based soup.

Aswell as teaching at my school, I've also spent a fair bit of time at our nearby university taking dance classes. It's a huge university which offers up a wide array of places for students and staff to grab a bite to eat. You can dine at one of the fancier restaurants on campus, or, of course, grab a corrientazo. One particularly good place is called Rancho Norte, just outside the uni. 
This was carne gusiada (beef in a tomato sauce) with white rice, black eyed beans, salad and plantain, Oh, and should be leaving hungry, there's chips too. The soup is actually sopa de hueso, which is bone soup. If you think of it as just a tasty meat stock (which it is), the weird sounding name shouldn't phase you. That enormous jug of drink is all for me, and is iced tea, which is very popular here. A sad moment when I was first offered 'tea' and thought I had landed in a country that drunk tea like the brits. Perhaps, but theirs is ice cold with tons of sugar. PG tips : I miss you.

 Here in Colombia I've been working with a charity called Techo, which means roof in English. Techo is an organisation which helps build emergency housing for people living in substandard housing throughout Latin America. I work in the area of detection, and each Sunday we visit certain neighbourhoods to carry out interviews with families.Through these interviews we then assess the needs of each family, and from there assign housing to those in most need. It's an incredible charity, and if you want to find out more click here.  

The families who receive emergency housing are obliged to provide a percentage of the cost for the housing. As a means of raising this money, after one of our visits to a neighbourhood in nearby Galapa, we were all invited by a family to a delicious almuerzo.
This lunch consisted of a lentil, plantain, yucca and beef soup, which came alongside pollo guisado, rice and salad. It was a really tasty lunch and just what we wanted after a tiring yet rewarding mornings work. The price we paid for the lunch all went as a contribution to the families portion of the cost for their new housing. 
Happy volunteers on a Sunday visit to La immaculada, Galapa.
Aswell as leaving satisfied and well-fed, it was great to know we were also able to be a part of the families fund-raising efforts for their new home. 

From stomach soup to the wild city centre and it's fried pig ears (but far more enticing fried fish), to cheese soup and being part of a families fundraising efforts, you've caught a glimpse into lunch in Colombia. It is a time to take a break from the day, sit back and enjoy a proper meal. And I like this way of living a lot. How many people eat lunch at their desk? How many people have skipped lunch, due to a lack of time? Take a note out of Colombia's book, and eat lunch. And plenty of it too!

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