Monday, February 18, 2013

Arepas de choclo

Because the equator passes through Colombia's southern tip, seasons are more or less non-existent, divided into the "rainy season" and "less rainy season." However, each city has its own distinct climate and micro-climates. Bogota is almost always cold, grey and rainy. Cali is almost always 85ºF, while Medellin is known as the city of eternal springtime, at 70ºF year round. Now, most of Colombia's cities are situated in the valleys between the mountain ranges. For a change in temperature, all you have to do is to pass the city limits and drive up into the mountains. Come long weekends and holidays, many city dwellers do just that as many have farming properties/homes in the surrounding mountains of their respective cities, called fincas.

But even if you don't have a finca, there are other reasons to leave the city-- to enjoy the cooler climate, to get a rest from the noise of the city, and (my favorite), to eat.  One of my absolute favorite Colombian foods is sold up in the mountains around Cali, called arepa de choclo, and our (Canadian) friend Vanessa was visiting from Brazil so we decided to make the trek.

Arepas de choclo are arepas made from ground fresh sweet corn, baked in clay ovens and filled with cheese. They are every bit worth the trip up, sweet from the corn and salty from the cheese, hot out of the clay oven. The roadside restaurants that sell these also sell two other cold-weather classics, agua panela and hot chocolate, with cheese if you like, as well as empanadas and other classics of fritanga valluna

Buses run up from Cali into the mountains-- if you're lucky you can grab a chiva, the iconic and terrifying/exhilarating bus with benches for seats and open sides. In order to collect the fare and give change, the driver's assistant hangs off the side of the bus, using the poles at each row to hold himself up. While zooming around the mountains with motorcycles whizzing by. Not even kidding.

We hopped into the back of one of the jeep-like trucks that runs people up and down all day, which was less scary than the chiva but still plenty bumpy.

There are, of course, places in Cali that sell arepas de choclo, but I find it much more fun to get out of the city to devour them in the cool mountain air. They even sell a kind of sweet corn flour to make them at home, and though they aren't quite the same they aren't bad, either. And yes, we totally brought a bag of it back to Brazil.


  1. you didn't want to put any throwback pictures of me crying over hot chocolate with cheese? no?

  2. it was a good "learning experience"
    and yes, i did

  3. We have several different version of the Arepa de Choclo in Armenia, Quindio. But not in the mountains. Thanks for the info!