Colombian Vegan Street Food
Most people assume vegans can´t eat street food. I used to assume the same.
But, luckily, that is a bald-face lie and crazy assumption against us veggies. People who travel with me know I love to eat, particularly that I love to explore new foods and talk about new foods with complete strangers who quickly become my friends. This ultimately adds up to an unbearable love for street food.
There is something so local, so real, so non-touristy braving the streets and experiencing true, real street food. The uncertainty, speaking with the micro-entrepreneur, the bargaining, the haggling, the sharing of stories, of recipes, of typical food. It`s something so simple and beautiful about taking to your feet and eating from the local vendors. Get out there and chat it up! It´s one of your best insights into locals, your best purchase for your money, and the best way to get to know a culture!
If you´re a little unsure about your Spanish, or want a little help navigating the big, winding roads of street food, here are a few good starting places in Colombia!
There are countless fruit and juice stands throughout Colombia. So easy to ask for a juice, get a cup of cut up watermelon or something a bit more adventurous! Cheap and tasty! Easily vegan, easily healthy, and fairly cheap. (Cheaper than the grocery store!) Beware carts in very touristy sections as they´ll try and charge you an arm and a leg.
Every where you´ll go, you´ll see little stands frying up chips and banana chips. They are delicious. Not the healthiest thing in the world, but greasy and the perfect pick me up in the afternoon. I asked what kind of oil they use, and it´s definitely not animal based.
Same basic idea, but here we have tiny little papas that have been boiled and salted. Make a good, filling cheap snack. If they offer to put lemon or lime on it, do it!
4. Corn on the COB.
Grilled corn on the cob. Exactly what it sounds like!
5. Cayeye -fried and mashed banana
This I only found in Cartagena, and is only in the north Carribean region. They take a unripe banana, fry it, then mush it, then fry it again, and cover it in salt. It´s a lot like a sopaipilla, just a little pancake of deliciousness. It´s good. If you see it, eat it! Throwing a bit of avocado would
Humitas is basically rolled cooked corn. It doesn`t sound very good, but with a bit of salt and maybe some avocado or some carne de soya, it`s delicious and a very traditional South American food.
Now oatmeal milk is a bit tricky and I send you with a warning in advance, many oatmeal milks in colombia use actual milk to make it. Colombians like it as a desert, not to avoid dairy. Not only that, but oatmeal milk vendors are hard to find. Many times the milk is in silver closed containers, or looks a lot like this white fruit juice other juice vendors are selling. You´re going to have to use some Spanish here to find the elusive oatmeal milk, which is delicious. It´s the holy grail to find. So good. So much sugar.
First off, you´re gonna have to ask around…¨Qué tienes?”-if you have zero ideas about what they got (Qué es eso? or Que se vende? also will work). If you see that it´s white, you can ask, “Esa es leche de avena?”
Once we´ve gotten to the fact that it is leche de avena, we have to ask about the elusive milk. I´d probably say, ¿Está hecho de leche de verdad? Tengo una alergia a leche, así que…”. Then, if I get an affirmative, I´d ask again, “Estás seguro que no contiene leche?” just one more time. It never hurts to ask again in a slighlty different way to really stress your point, and get them to think about it, rather than the sale.
Now, I know that seems formidable, too much work for a cup of milk, but boy is it delicious!
1. I´m not a vegetarian, so I haven´t had these myself in Colombia, but I know for a fact (having lived in Venezuela as a vegetarian) that you must must must try an AREPA con queso. Watch out, not all arepas are veggie friendly, many come with meat, so just make sure to order, “una arepa con queso, por favor”
Arepas on the street look delicious. I would definitely eat one if I was a vegetarian. Corn masa mixed with cheeseeee, yum.
They sound a lot like arepas, so I´m not really sure…but corn based mix with cheese. They´re all over and look good!
3. Papas Relleños.
Now I had a vegan one in an indian restaurant, so basically they´re like a giant samosa. Potatoes mixed in a bread outside with spices and a few veggies. Warning-not all papas relleños are vegetarian, in fact, the majority are not. Many have some form of meat in them, so I would ask, “Qué contienen? Hay carne o pollo adentro?” Once you get them to list off a few things, you should be set!
For your grocery shopping, hostal cooking needs, check out my post on Colombia´s Grocery Stores.