The Bandeja Paisa is quite possibly one of the largest meals you’ve ever had on one plate. Correction: platter. You see the literal translation of “Bandeja Paisa” is: Paisa Platter (Paisa is the nickname for people from Medellin and area.) It makes sense to call this the Paisa Platter, because you need a platter to fit all of the food they serve you. If there was more food, they’d need an entire table.
The Bandeja Paisa is famous Colombia-wide. You’ll be asked more frequently in the Paisa region whether you’ve tried one or not, but the same question will be asked by Caleños, Costeños, and Rolos when you tell them that you’ve lived in or visited The City of Eternal Spring, Medellin.
The Bandeja Paisa came to be out of necessity. It’s a platter of food that can fill up a hungry farmer for a full day of tolling in the fields. Traditionally the farmers would eat this for lunch, and many times that would be their only real meal of the day. Since it’s not common in Bogota they would not have feasted on hot chocolate and cheese for breakfast. Que pena (what a shame.)
“So what does a Bandeja Paisa consist of?” you may be asking. Well I believe that three different animals and their offspring are butchered in the making of this fantastically large dish. There’s a steak, a chorizo (sausage,) chicharon (essentially deep-fried bacon,) a fried egg, beans, rice, an arepa (also traditionally Paisa,) a fried plantain, a slice of avocado, and just so you don’t feel bad a handful of salad. Ironically enough, usually the only thing not eaten by a typical Paisa would be the salad.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never tallied the calorie count of this platter of food. I don’t know if you really want to count that high. Your blood pressure may rise with the ever rising count. Rest assured, however, that you will be able to tackle a complete day in the fields toiling away.
In my case, however, it was a perfect post-cycling meal. After riding up and down the mountains of Medellin you’ll have worked up an appetite. There was a restaurant right near my place that served up a mean version of the classic for only 8,500 pesos ($5.)
So what does it taste like? Well as you may gather by now, it’s a feast. The meat in general in Colombia is nothing fancy, but fresh and tasty. The chorizos are hit or miss. Sometimes the chorizos are delicious, but other times they are just a way that butchers get rid of fat and grizzle, which makes them not very desirable. The chicharon is also hit or miss. Chicharon can be the most delicious fried bacon you’ve ever had, or it can taste like the rejected hunk of fat that you throw your dog when he looks up at you while you’re eating. The beans and rice are pretty standard, always fresh and filling. The salad is not usually focused on, because the restaurant assumes you’re not going to eat it anyway. I think it may be law to include salad with every meal in Colombia, but no true Colombian eats it.
So where can you find this feast for the arteries, er soul? Pretty much any traditional restaurant in Medellin or the Zona Cafetera will have it on its menu. Just come prepared. Maybe rent a bike beforehand, or climb Monserrate then ride to Medellin; that may be a sufficient calorie burn. Do enjoy, however, because it is a staple dish, I mean platter, in this part of Colombia.
The Bandeja Paisa in all its calorious glory.