Before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century and founded Bogota city, there was a settlement called Bacata, part of the political confederation of the Muisca indigenous people, and many of its ingredients, such as potatoes and corn, have resisted, evolved and enriched the dishes. The gastronomic culture of Bogota is often abundant, delicious and warm, made to delight its citizens and visitors.
The most famous dish in Bogota is ajiaco, a potato-based soup. What makes this dish special are the three varieties of potato grown in the highlands of Cundiboyacense: sabanera (with a purple skin), pastusa (similar to an Idaho potato) and criolla (a small, yellow potato), an ingredient that gives ajiaco its thick consistency, as well as corn on the cob and guasca (South American herb). In addtion, you can also add some chicken and avocado.
In the indigenous Muisca society, at certain times of the year, citizens had to pay tribute to the caciques with gold and cotton cloths and celebrate festivals drinking chicha, a fermented drink traditionally prepared in a clay pot with corn and pineapple and sweetened with panela (brown cane sugar). Sometimes a non-alcoholic version is made with the same ingredients, but without letting it ferment, so it can be drunk immediately after preparation. Chicha made of corn has a unique and interesting flavor.
Tamales are made from cornmeal dough and steamed in a banana leaf or corn husk. Colombian tamales are much larger than Mexican ones and have a softer dough. In Bogota, a tamal is usually served with a cup of hot chocolate, which involves breaking a piece of cacao from a block and mixing it with milk or water, then serving it with bread or pieces of cheese for dipping.
Changua is a word that comes from muisca. It is a hearty milk and egg soup often served for breakfast. (It’s essentially eggs cooked in a mixture of water, milk and salt). It’s said that the traditional recipe became so popular because it helped Bogotans cope with the morning cold. Changua is accompanied by calado, an stale bread, and some people also add cheese or almojabana, a cornmeal and cheese roll. The changua often evokes strong reactions, either you love it or you hate it, but you must try it either way.
Sancocho is a soup that contains potatoes, yucca, corn on the cob, different meats and even fish. The soup from Bogota is called puchero santafereño (after the Spanish word for “stew” and the colonial name of the city, Santa Fe) and contains potatoes, arracacha (a root vegetable), plantains, yucca, corn on the cob, chicken, beef and pork, and is topped with an onion, garlic and tomato sauce called hogao.