Latin American Cuisine – A Colombian Breakfast

In this article, I will talk about the cuisine of Colombia, specifically the breakfast that is eaten in Medellin, Colombia. You will also learn some helpful Spanish words such as how to say egg whites and egg yolks in Spanish.

At least once a month and sometimes twice a month, I will receive an email from a customer who wants to know more about the culture of Colombia, especially about “Paisas,” the people of Medellín, Colombia.

I could go on and on forever telling you about Medellín. Most people think of Medellín, Colombia as the city that was once known for being the most dangerous city in the world (just 20 years ago — during the rule of former billionaire drug trafficker, Pablo Escobar).

But today Medellin is a metropolis with sprawling high-rise buildings, beautiful spring-like weather, friendly people, a night-life (which I enjoy even more than major cities in the U.S. such as New York, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta) and, of course, a city with strikingly beautiful women everywhere. But in this email, I will only talk about “el desayuno paisa” (breakfast of Medellín).

By the way, a typical breakfast in Colombia varies from one city to another. But this is a typical “desayuno” (breakfast) in Medellín or “desayuno paisa”:

1. Huevos con aliños (also called “huevos con hogao”)

“Huevos” are eggs. And “huevos con aliños” consist of “huevos revueltos” (scrambled eggs) with “tomate y cebolla” (tomato and onion).

By the way, when I lived on the coast of Colombia, in a city called Barranquilla, the term that they used for scrambled eggs is “huevos pericos.”

While we are on the topic of “huevos” here are a couple words that English speakers often say wrong in Spanish. On more than one occasion, I have heard a native English speakers use a literal translation when referring to “egg whites.”

You do NOT call them “los blancos de huevos.” And when I first started learning Spanish, I once called the yolk “the yellow of an egg” literally. Here are the correct words:

a. Claras de huevo (egg whites — literally “clears of the egg”)

b. Yema de huevo (egg yolk)

Back to the typical “desayuno paisa”…

2. Arepa de maíz con mantequilla — Corn arepa with butter. An arepa is a tortilla made of ground corn dough and it is popular in both Colombia and Venezuela.

3. Quesito — a white, very fresh, soft cheese.

4. Calentao — this is a mixture of the “frijoles” (beans) that are left over from the night before and the “arroz” (rice) that is left over from the night before.

5. “Salchicha” (sausage) or “Chorizo” (spicy sausage) or a slice of “Carne Asada” (grilled meat). And the grilled meat can be a choice of either “vaca, puerco o pollo” (beef, pork or chicken).

6. Café con leche (Coffee with milk) or “chocolate” (hot chocolate) or “jugo” (juice).

In a restaurant, this “desayuno” (breakfast) costs about 6.000 or 7.000 Colombian pesos. About $3.00 or $3.50 U.S.

By the way, this morning I cooked a typical “desayuno paisa” for me and my “novia” (girlfriend). As usual, I skipped the “arepa” and put a couple of slices of “pan” (bread) in the “tostador” (toaster) and made “tostada” (toast).

I think I am one of the few people in Medellín who own a toaster. And as usual, my “novia” did not eat the “tostada” and she cooked an “arepa” for herself on a small “parrilla” (grill) over the “estufa” (stove) and coated it with “mantequilla” (butter), and then she put a couple of slices of “quesito” (fresh, white cheese typical of Medellin) on top.

I told her one day that I am going to cook her a “desayuno” Gringo-style:

Blueberry pancakes or waffles or, french toast with turkey bacon. A breakfast which I personally prefer over “desayuno paisa” any morning. Which explains why at least once a week I go to the McDonalds here in the morning in order to eat pancakes smothered in “jarabe” (syrup) and “mantequilla” (butter). And don’t let me get started on how much I miss New York pizza or a Philly cheese steak.