When most people think of Colombia, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t unique and delicious cuisine…but that is slowly and steadily changing. In the Cauca Valley in particular, the flavors of the Pacific, sweetened by sugar cane fields, and the myriad of exotic tropical fruits make this area a foodies paradise. Santiago de Cali is one of Colombia’s less explored cities, but it is here that you will find amazing mercados and fusión cuisine that will surely leave you wanting more.
If you’ve traveled throughout Colombia, you’ve likely tried the popular soups, Ajiaco and Sancocho, made with chicken, potatoes, and corn, but flavored and presented differently. You’ve probably savored mouthwatering almojabanas and pan de bonos (light fluffy cheesy breads), but each city and pueblo makes their own version, and Cali has arguably the best in the country. There is no shortage of typical fried foods either, from marranitas, mashed green plantains stuffed with chicharrón (think thick cut giant slices of bacon, fried), to aborrajados, sweet plantains stuffed with cheese, breaded, and fried, Cali street food is a must.
One of the most popular snacks, or mecato, is the cholado. There is a whole street dedicated to this souped-up version of shave ice, read: a refreshing tropical slushie loaded with exotic fruits, sweetened with condensed milk, and topped with a wafer and homemade jam. And speaking of sweets, Cali is famous for its Panela (unrefined whole cane sugar), its guarapo (juiced stalks of sugar cane), and it’s manjar or dulce de leche (a creamy treat similar to caramel).