Mon | Apr 24, 2017

In search of Sancocho

Published:Friday | July 17, 2015 | 7:00 AMDania Bogle

I did some research on Cali before arriving ... what to do, where to go, what to see, and, of course, what to eat.

No experience abroad is complete without a taste of the local cuisine. You don't have to like it, but at least don't leave without trying.

In Colombia, the popular dishes are empanadas ... which reminds me of a very small Jamaican patty. This can be filled with chicken, meat, or potatoes, or a combination; and arepas, which is like a bammy and also comes in large or small sizes. Colombians fill these with either meat or cheese and eat them as street food.

Stews made from beans and lentils are also popular, as they are in many parts of Latin America.

big breakfasts

I have never seen rice and peas as a combination staple anywhere outside of Jamaica. I saw it in my hotel for breakfast yesterday morning: Red kidney beans and rice with small pieces of beef. Apparently, rice for breakfast is the thing here, and soup - or rather, beef or chicken broth. Talk about breakfast being the biggest and most important meal of the day.

There is also a soup popular in Latin American cuisine known as sancocho.

I knew about sancocho from watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain's travel programme No Reservations, in which the chef turned travel logger had a bowl of sancocho in the Dominican Republic.

I went to a small Colombian restaurant on my first full day here. I asked for sancocho, but there was none. Instead, I had a dish of stewed beans with beef steak and a small cup of fresh juice. Natural juices are also very popular here.

The following day, the championships started and so I went hunting for lunch close to the stadium. Just outside the east exit, there was a restaurant across the street. I went to one restaurant first and was told sancocho is served next door.

no sancocho for you

However, after ordering next door, I was told that the meat was not ready and after waiting for nearly half an hour, decided to try somewhere else. Another restaurant three minutes' walk away also served sancocho, but as luck would have it, two of my colleagues ordered the last bowl. So none for me.

Yesterday, I arrived 15 minutes early for lunch and sat down. The manager saw me and came over "Sancocho?" she said.

"Yes!" I replied.

Apparently, the sancocho do costillo was only a starter, and for the main course, I had bean stew with sobrebarriga and vegetables and rice. Sobrebarriga, by the way, is a cut of beef taken from the flank. Quite filling and tasty.

As for the sancocho. Was it worth the effort? The jury is still out on that one.