The Colombian caribbean gastronomy is broad and diverse as the "Costeño" personality (nickname for people that live in this zone of the country) recognized by the influence of immigrants that brought with themselves many ingredients and cuisine techniques that arrived to our diner's tables.
The discovery of America represented the clash of two worlds. A cultural exchange that influences in the territory's culinary with new foods and recipes permeated by the coexistence between three races: indigenous, white and black.
A typical dish known for being a multicultural meal is the 'Hayaca' or 'Hallaca' (doesn't exist historical record about its spelling), a corn-base wrapped with, vegetables, pork or beef, that is traditionally eaten in family celebrations mainly in holidays.
Hayaca o Hallaca
For this recipe, indigenous communities contributed with the corn for the dough, the spice 'achiote', tomato, sweet pepper, and the technique of cooking wrapped in Bijao's leave -traditional caribbean plant-. The stew preparation in african; the chicken, pork and vegetables such as onions are spanish.
Hoja de Bijao
Lácydes Moreno, historian and chef, describes it such as "Paella wrapped in Bijao's leave"
Original from Venezuela, between XV and XVI century, the 'Hayaca' was invented by black slave and indigenous servants that prepared a meal with the rest of food from their masters, a plate that make better their staple diet. Some people say that 'Hayaca' arrives to the colombian caribbean coast because during the Colony, for fear to the corsairs, the trade coming from Venezuela arrives through of Cartagena's port.
The Hayaca's elaboration consists in prepare the corn dough and, at the same time, the stew with garlic, onion, tomatoes, and pepper for the pork or ground beef. When it is ready the dough is smashed and stuff it with other ingredients such as dried grapes, coriander, olives, and more vegetables. Once is ready it cooked in vapor with 'The Marie bath', a jewish technique according to Zósimo Panópolis, who wrote the older known texts about alchemy, and he say that this technique was invented by an alchemist woman, María the jew, from where gets the name.
In Colombia also exists a similar preparation known as 'Pasteles' in the inland country, with the main difference that the dough is replaced by rice.
Another traditional dish in this region of the country is the famous 'Patacones' (a fried green plantain cake), which came about thanks to the arrival of the plantain by the Spaniards in the 16th century. Although its recipe is African, its shape and name are reminiscent of a Spanish gold coin called Patacón during the Colony.
Patacones con queso costeño
Traditionally patacones are eaten with 'costeño' cheese, which is a harder and saltier cheese than that eaten in other areas of the country. This is mainly due to the fact that the cheese decomposes faster in hot climates, so they had to add more salt than usual in order to preserve it.
Sweet and sour combinations are also very typical of the Colombian Caribbean. An example of this is the 'posta negra', a preparation of beef with panela or piloncillo, as it is known in some parts of Mexico, or the well-known 'plátano pícaro' which is made of ripe plantain cooked in a panela sauce.
In this corner of Colombia it is common to combine sweet and salty in any of the three meals of the day, a custom that we owe to the influence of the Arabs (who later passed to the Spanish) who also used to mix sweet, salty and sour in the same dish.
One of the things that most surprises foodies that visit this region of the country is the amount of fried foods that are part of our daily meals. Any time is good for an 'empanada', (fried corn dough wrapped with cheese or beef, chicken or pork in a half moon shape), or a 'carimañola', (meat or cheese wrapped in yucca dough), without leaving aside the favorite of the diners: 'arepa e' huevo', (a fried circular corn dough filled with egg), which would not have been possible without the African contribution with its technique of frying in abundant oil, or our conquerors who brought the ingredients, spices and seasonings that today accompany our palates and are part of our gastronomic culture.
Arepa de huevo