This is one of the dishes that Colombians call “Comida Tipica”. These dishes are called “Bandeja Paisa” and “Mini Paisa”. In this case, it was a “his” and “hers” meal, where the “Mini Paisa” in the back there was obviously the one for me. As with any dish, there are any number of different combinations of foods that may make up the meal in any given place.
In Colombia, “Bandeja” just means “Platter”. So there are a lot of different Bandeja meals on most menus, often one for each of the different kinds of foods that the restaurant specializes in. In Cartagena we often ate the Bandeja Pargo which was a Pargo Fish Platter, and quite delicious in a seaside city like Cartagena. Unlike the Badeja Pargo, the Bandeja Paisa doesn’t refer to the food it is serving in the name of the dish, but to the region from which that food comes. It’s the only one of the various Bandeja meals that names the region, rather than the food on the plate, and it’s an dish of pride for the people of Colombia, particularly those from the “Paisa” region of Antioquia.
The Basics of a typical Bandeja Paisa:
- Ground Beef, spiced with garlic and regional herbs
- Chicharron, which is a pork belly, cut like a thick-cut bacon, and then sliced in to chunks and fried
- Chorizo, which is the local sausage; in the above picture, it’s also sliced in to chunks
- Fried Egg
- Arepa, which is a sweet-corn patty
- White Rice
- Patacon, which is the Colombian name for fried green plantains
- Red Beans cooked with pork and regional herbs
- A Slice of Lime, or sometimes lemon
Additionally some Bandeja Paisa meals sometimes include:
- Morcilla, also called black sausage
- Salad, this is often just lettuce, sliced onions, and sliced tomato
- Fried Ripe Plantain
- Chicken, and/or other meat substitutions or additional meat varieties
If you’re thinking that this is a big meal, you’re right. Not only is this a big meal, but it is quite common for a restaurant there to serve this dish for any meal of the day. So if you were to walk in to a restaurant for breakfast and order a Bandeja Paisa, most restaurants (as long as they have it on the menu) wouldn’t even blink at the request. There are “breakfast” foods there in Colombia, like there are here. But the Bandeja Paisa transcends those labels, and is commonly eaten for any meal.
This is obviously not a Paleo meal. Arepa, white rice, and red beans make up a fairly large portion of the plate. And if you were to attempt to order the Bandeja Paisa without those being included, you might be in danger of having the cook spit in your food. Of course, I don’t know this first hand – I didn’t play Bandeja Paisa Roulette. But this dish contains such a high degree of pride, it might be similar to walking in to a Chicago Pizza Parlour and asking them not to deep-fry the pizza. They might accommodate your request. And they might spit in your pizza. Me? I just ate around the arepa, rice and beans. It’s better that way.
- What is your favorite regional food? Where did you have it? Is there a place that “does it best”?
- When you travel, do you seek out the typical foods of the region like I do? Have you ever regretted it? If so, don’t skimp on the story!!