Nearly three years have passed since I left Barranquilla, where I lived for 12 months while working as a British Council language assistant. As London’s bitter winter intensified, my thoughts wandered to the sun, salsa and downright lovely locura that is my beloved Barranquilla. It was high time I headed back.
Arriving just as carnival was about to commence, I danced, drunk and shook my stuff with the rest of the city, while also revisiting all my favourite Colombian foods.
I’ve published various Barranquilla posts while living there (fried ear and salsa dancing here, how to make your own ajiaco here – just search “Barranquilla” on the home page for more), and in fear of repetition I’ll keep this one brief. Here’s a snappy rundown of my top Barranquilla bites.
First stop was La Immaculada, one of the cities top fruteras, around since 1982. A frutera is the place to head for fresh juices and fried goodies (aptly named fritos).
What did I eat? A carimañola (meat filed pastry with dough made from yucca) and a dedito (cheesy finger), alongside nispero and mandarin juice, plus the obligatory ají (chilli) sauce.
Mondongo is one of my favourite typical soups and a perfect embodiment of the nose-to-tail approach within Colombian cuisine whereby no meat is left to waste. Made mainly from tripe, the slow cooking of the stomach breaks it down from chewy to smooth, with a rich meaty flavour. Accompanied by yucca, potato and plantain, the flavour is picked up by a sprinkling of coriander and a squeeze of lime.
Returning to Barranquilla I realised how things we might consider as exotic at home (huge avocados, fresh coconuts and exotic fruits) are really just everyday alimentation for the costeños. Just look at this coconut lolly I had on route back from the beach – homemade and bought from someone’s front garden, this beats a pre-packaged Twister any day.
Or how about this lovely lady, serving half or whole avocados to accompany people’s fish lunches by the river? The sweetness and intense flavour of this avocado has thoroughly ruined any future avo-on-toast I may be tempted to buy while out for overpriced brunches back home.
Want to stop to quench your thirst in the mid-day sun? Why not grab an ice-cold coconut, sold on the side of the road. Sit down, sip the juice, and then ask your coconut vendor to machete open the shell for you in order to enjoy the sweet and creamy flesh.
Being back in Barranquilla, I slipped straight into my old routines and felt quite quickly that I’d never want to leave. But as my ten days flew by, London and it’s grey but homely skies were calling. I’ll always have a bit of my heart tied to Colombia’s coast, and now will aim to head back more often. In the meantime, I’ll be looking to recreate some Barranquillero recipes in my Brixton kitchen, so stay posted!
“Quien lo vive es quien lo goza” – offical phrase of Barranquilla carnival