Each year as part of their syllabus, students from the Salford MBA (Master of Business Administration) are given the opportunity to take part in an overseas study visit to Bogotá, Colombia. Packed with visits to Colombian businesses, great and small, MBA students are given a unique insight into the country’s business culture as well as getting the chance to explore everything else the region has to offer.
Here, MBA student and Manchester Storm player, Michael Clemente discusses the aspect of Colombian culture that left the greatest impression on him: the food.
The thing I was most excited about before our trip to Colombia was trying and experiencing the culinary culture of the country. I don’t consider myself a ‘foodie’ but anyone that knows me knows that my favorite part of each day involves eating food. Lucky for me, I found a fellow food adventurer in my Manchester Storm teammate, Luke Moffatt. We made a pact to try to eat as much authentic Colombian food as we could.
When we arrived in Bogota the first thing I did was question our tour guide about where we could find amazing local cuisine. We were told that we needed to eat Bandeja Paisa, Colombian’s national dish (Bandeja Paisa) consisting of white rice, red beans, ground beef, plantain, chorizo, morcilla (Colombian blood sausage), chicharron (fried pork belly), arepa (corn bread), avocado, and a fried egg. After arriving at the hotel the group went for a walk for food and Luke and I split off in the hunt for the national meal. Luke used his rudimentary Spanish to ask every pedestrian “Donde Bandeja Paisa?” We ended up at Restaurante Tipico Las Acacias, a funky establishment that featured a guitar wielding singer playing lovely salsa music.
After being served delicious soup to start our Bandeja Paisa arrived. It was a huge plate that was over flowing with food. We savored every bite and it was a serious battle to finish the plate. The egg was fried perfectly, the beans perfectly salted, and the blood sausage was one of the best sausages I have ever had! The chicharron melted in my mouth and the avocado was massive, and the salsa that accompanied the dish added the perfect amount of heat to the dish.
A few days later, on our journey to a Colombian coffee farm, we stopped at a roadside food stand high up in the mountains for snacks and a bathroom break. The bathroom was not the most hygienic bathroom I have used in my life and I was a little iffy about eating anything from the food stands. However, our tour guide demanded we try the arepa con queso. Our mouths started to water as we watched the cook make the arepas by hand and grill them. The taste was an unbelievable combination of the sweetness of the corn and the saltiness from the cheese. I inhaled the arepa despite it being piping hot and we quickly ordered another round of them before we hopped back on the bus.
Our next culinary adventure occurred the next day when we stopped at a mall for a quick lunch in between the business visits. We decided to live a little dangerously and left the mall to explore the line of small food stands across the street and settled on the place that was packed with people. We ended up with another massive meal that consisted of Ajaco soup – a hearty soup filled with chicken and potatoes – followed by plate filled with carne aside, rice, and the most flavorful chickpeas I have ever eaten.
Throughout our trip we had been badgering our tour guides to take us to the Asaderos that lined the streets. Every day we passed them our mouths started to water at the different meats roasting by a large open flame. Luke used his Spanish, successfully this time, to order us platters that featured each type of meat. We recognized two of the meats as steak and pork but the final meat was a bit of a mystery to us so we asked our tour guide what it was. She started to laugh and explained that it was a giant rodent called chigüiro. We googled pictures of the animal and it resembled a massive version of a guinea pig but the meat was already bought and it smelled so good. It turned out to be a great choice, as the steak and pork were excellent, but the real star of the meal was the chigüiro. It looked like chicken breast but tasted like a more succulent version of pork loin.
Our final meal was something the entire group was looking forward to. We were going to spend the evening at the famous Andrés Carne de Res in Chia for an evening of food, drink, and traditional Salsa dancing. The tables were filled with a range of appetizers, the most popular one resembled a quesadilla made with a thick, sweet corn tortilla. The main dishes consisted of multiple types of steak cooked to perfection and sauces that made them taste like heaven. The potatoes that accompanied the steak were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. After filling our stomachs and drinking some aguardiente (Colombia’s favorite spirit), we hit the dance floor to burn off the excess calories.
The rest of the night was spent laughing hysterically doing a horrible job of salsa dancing. Towards the end of the night there was even sing-a-long to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”. Eventually, we all ran out of gas and the decision to retire back to the hotel was made and the bus ride back was when exhaustion finally set in.
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