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Bandeja paisa is a typical dish served in Colombia’s Antioquia region, and was the perfect meal for peasants or workers who needed a protein-packed dish while working all day, climbing up the vast, mountainous terrain, and working on the farms. But this combination of protein and carbohydrates is still popular today. Though no writing of this dish is known before the 1950s, it’s a showcase of the influences of different cultures who arrived in Colombia, including the French, colonial Spanish, and British, and of course of indigenous Colombians. It should, however, come with a health warning.
Bandeja paisa is a large dish, containing a number of varieties of protein: most commonly minced beef, chorizo (a traditional pork sausage native to Spain and Colombia), morcilla (otherwise known as black pudding or blood sausage), and chicharrón (fried pork belly, fried pork rinds or crackling). Traditionally this meat was used to help farmers have enough energy and build strength to last the full working day in a hands-on environment undertaking hard manual labor.
On top of all that protein, bandeja paisa also contains a number of carbohydrates: white rice (typically eaten all over Colombia), plantain (a type of banana, bigger and with less sugar than the traditional type), and arepa (a traditional Colombian flatbread made from corn and served in a variety of forms). These carbohydrates give workers a slow energy-release throughout the day allowing them to keep their strength up.
A bandeja paisa also sometimes contains red beans, avocado, fried egg and corn. The ingredients vary between regions and even individual restaurants: each has their own take on the traditional dish. This is a special dish and is often eaten on special occasions in Colombia’s Antioquia region.
Bandeja paisa is often referred to as “a heart attack on a plate”; due to the combination of proteins, carbohydrates and additional foods, this is a high-calorie and high-fat meal. These foods are relatively good foods, but together and in such a large quantity this meal can be up to 1,000 calories. It is often referred to as “a festival of meat on a frisbee-style plate,” as the meal is often served on an oval-shaped plate in order to accommodate the sheer amount of food.
The bandeja paisa can be found typically in the Antioquia region of Colombia, including the areas of Medellin and Guatapé. This national dish is popular with tourists who want to challenge themselves and try to finish the whole dish in one sitting. The dish can be found in the majority of restaurants within the area, and is served with a variety of ingredients; more recently, restaurants have been serving the dish by the full- or half-portion to let tourists try the dish without having to struggle to complete it. This typical dish is a must-try in Colombia, along with many other traditional Colombian delicacies and specialty foods.