One of my favourite things to do when travelling is to visit local food markets. With one day in Bogota, Colombia, I visited the Plaza de Paloquemao, took a cooking class and ate a whole lot of food.
Food is a huge part of all my travel experiences – visiting markets, learning about local dishes and of course eating. Lots and lots of eating. Trip planning always includes reading about local food, what’s in season, and the best places to eat. I’m not after fancy eats, just delicious.
While planning for my trip to Colombia with G Adventures I came across a cooking class in Bogota. With one free day in Bogota before the tour started, spending part of it learning about and tasting food was an obvious choice. I was going to be cooking in Colombia!
Led by Uncover Colombia, it wasn’t just a cooking class but a half day food tour starting with a visit to Plaza de Paloquemao to sample some goodies, purchase ingredients, then on to the cooking school.
At the Plaza de Paloquemao
Plaza de Paloquemao is a large fresh food & flower market in Bogota, Colombia with over 700 vendors selling fresh fruit & vegetables, meat, eggs, cheese, and fresh flowers.
Flowers are one of Colombia’s biggest exports with daily flights carrying them to North America. I had no idea many of the cut flowers for sale in my local shops made such a trek to get to us! The flower vendors set up outside early in the morning and are gone by midday.
The market was huge, confusing to navigate for a newbie and since my Spanish is limited to a few key words I was happy to have someone familiar with the market lead me around (and stop me from buying one of everything). We did stop to try a few things as we wandered through looking for the ingredients for the cooking class.
Eating at Plaza de Paloquemao
The first thing we tried was Lechona Tolimense – a whole boneless pig stuffed with rice, peas, potatoes and spices traditionally cooked in a brick oven for several hours. The stuffing is scooped out and served with a bit of the crispy skin and a corn arepa. It was so delicious. If that was all I ate that day I would’ve been very happy & satisfied. The filling was soft and flavourful, while the skin was crispy and porky.
Coincidentally, this truck with pigs was right across from the Lechona vendor. We asked and it was a delivery for another vendor.
The next thing we tasted was granadilla. This orange-skinned fruit is filled with a whole lot of small, edible seeds covered in a sweet jelly-like pulp. You are supposed to make a small hole in the skin of the granadilla and suck out the insides, but in my excitement I made the hole too large and had to scoop it out with my fingers. It was a deliciously sweet, messy experience.
Shopping for the cooking class
We had a list of ingredients to purchase for the cooking class, so while wandering around and learning about local produce, we shopped. The last time we tried at the market was a fresh pressed juice then headed off to the cooking school to begin the class.
With my belly full of delicious eats from the market and a bagful of ingredients, I was ready to get cooking. Up next: learning to cook Ajiaco.