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Though I thoroughly enjoyed Santa Marta’s beaches and historical sights, let’s not pretend that one of my favorite things about my trip to Santa Marta wasn’t the eating part. Food is way up there on my list of reasons to travel, and Santa Marta has lots of great things both to eat and drink.
Fresh juice stands are all over the place, offering mango, guanabana (a.k.a. soursop, order it “en leche,” with milk), and lulo juices, among others, as well as crazy aphrodisiac concoctions containing Milo (chocolate-malt powder) and borojó (a sour fruit similar to tamarind, supposedly good for certain - ahem - activities). Some places have guava agria (sour guava), known as guava coronilla in other parts of the country, which I particularly like even though I don’t love normal guava juice. You can ask for the juice “para llevar” (to go) and they will give it to you in a plastic bag (as in, no cup, just a tied off plastic bag). You can either bite off a corner of the bag and drink the juice that way, punch a straw into it like the old Tropicana commercials, or bring the bag somewhere with cups…
Street stands sell fritos (a.k.a. fritanga in Cali), empanadas and papas rellenas, even freshly made pizzas, which are all delicious but, barring minor regional variations, not specifically costeño (from the Atlantic coast). Very typical local foods include butifarra (squat, peppery sausage) with lime juice, which is great to snack on when you’re wandering about, queso costeño (a very salty cheese), and suero (homemade sour cream), which you’ll find as ingredients in many meals. Being on the coast, fish is abundant, as are coconut, yucca and taro root. A traditional breakfast can mean fried fish and boiled yucca with suero, or fried fish with cayeye, a costeño specialty made by mashing boiled small green plantains, called guineos.
The Colombian version of fish with coconut rice is one of my absolute favorite things to eat in the world; they caramelize the coconut before adding the rice and a little bit of panela (unrefined cane sugar) and it’s crazy delicious (ok, to be honest I don’t even need the fish, just an enormous vat of coconut rice).
Queso costeño is the cheese normally used to make buñuelos in the rest of Colombia, and in Santa Marta you’ll find it both in mote de queso, a thick taro and cheese soup, and in deliciously salty arepas alongside your breakfast eggs (and toast which I found superfluous and couldn’t finish).
But the most famous kind of arepa eaten in Santa Marta is called the arepa de huevo, which is an arepa fried with a whole egg inside (you can see one in the plate on the left above). Arepa de huevo are a meal in themselves, a filling and portable breakfast or afternoon snack. One way to extend a trip (for those of us who like to cook) is to replicate foods eaten while travelling once we get home, so that`s exactly what we did once we got back to Cali. It’s not the Caribbean, but it’s pretty damn close.
(This is my fourth and final post about Santa Marta, organized by Colombia travel, and I would really like to thank the people at Proexport, our guide Carlos, and the people from Aviaturs. They took care of everything and were endlessly gracious, informative, and helpful in every way possible.)
2 c. areparina (preferably yellow Promasa, though white works just fine too)
Vegetable oil for frying
In a large bowl, mix the areparina with 1.5 cups of water and a big pinch of salt. If needed, add more water by the tablespoon until you have a pliable dough (you may need up to half a cup more water). Knead the dough for a couple of minutes, then set it aside, covered with plastic, while you heat up 2-3 inches of oil to fry in a medium pot. You’re going to fry the arepa twice—once so that it puffs up, giving you a space where you’ll insert the egg—then once again to cook the egg and brown the arepa a bit.
Form the dough into four round arepas, about half an inch thick. When the oil is very hot (if it’s not hot enough, the arepa won’t puff up), place an arepa in the pot. It should immediately begin to puff up. Once it has fully puffed, give it another 15 seconds in the oil, then remove it with a colander (those spider ones sold in Chinese markets are great here) to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the rest of the arepas. Don’t turn off the heat on the oil.
Using a clean dish towel to protect your hand, grab one of the arepas and use a paring knife to open a 2-inch. slit on one edge, opening u the pocket. Crack one egg into a small cup, preferably one with a spout (a creamer would be perfect here). Now, with one hand keeping the slit open, use the other hand to pour the egg into the arepa pocket, making sure not to break the yolk. Pinch the slit closed as you slide the arepa back into the hot oil, then let go (obviously). Fry the arepa until lightly browned, flipping carefully after 30 seconds in the oil.
Remove to paper towel-lined plate and repeat process with the other arepas. Serve hot.