Popayán is a dangerous city. But it’s not dangerous in the way you normally associate Colombian cities with danger.
It is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, and this means a hell of a lot of requisite food tasting.
Every night, I’d retired from the white, quiet streets of Popayán nursing a food baby.
Simply put, Popayan cuisine is both varying and delectable. I never tried any of the food containing strange animal innards since the mere thought of cow stomachs and chicken hearts makes me sick.
However, the town has a multitude of other meals and snacks and drinks to try.
Along every street are small roadside panaderia stalls where you can order any number of different breads and pastries.
There were sweet breads and savoury. Inside many were chicken or other meat and of course cheese, but my particular favourite was a donut-shaped cheese bread made of yucca and corn called pan de bono.
Another much heavier option, is the arepa, a fat corn tortilla that is crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle. It can be cut in half and filled with meat as well, but a warning now: it is terribly filling.
If you’re a backpacker, you might think that’s a good thing. Excellent, you say. A cheap meal that’s gonna fill me up the rest of the day.
But don’t forget. This is a city of gastronomy. You WILL be tempted by the other offerings. You WILL be disappointed when you can’t fit in another bite of another strange culinary delight. And this is what Popayán is about after all. To visit this city and not leave with a few pounds extra body weight is a travesty!
Of course, having a sweet tooth, I couldn’t resist the local sweets. There were plenty of them:
- Peanuts covered in arequipe, similar to Argentina’s dulce de leche (a sticky caramel)
- Manjar blanco, which is cooked sugar cane and milk fudge
- Arepa covered in arequipe
- Brocadillo, delicious soft blocks of guava, covered in sugar
Popayán is a wonderful destination to visit, but I would issue a warning first; if you do intend to travel here and you are game to try all the different foods on offer, try to fit it in after a trip to the Caribbean coast, as the Popayán weight-gain is probably not conducive to bikini-wearing.
For more adventures…
If you’re in the neighbourhood, don’t forget to go to some of these other places:
- Check out the Ecuadorian market town of Otavalo
- Meet Pablo Escobar’s brother in Medellin
- Fall in love with Cartagena
- Venture to paradise on Colombia’s Caribbean coast