Panaderias (bakeries) abound in Colombia. It’s more than likely that you will pass two, if not three or four, if you go out on a walk. If you’ve got 200COP you can purchase a roll (blandito, frances, hojaldre…) or if you’re willing to spend a little bit more, some popular breads are pan de bono, pan de yuca, and almojabanas.
As you continue on your walk, you will probably encounter someone selling empanadas. They may have a storefront establishment, or just a little cart on the sidewalk. The meat and rice (or potato) filled pastries are deep-fried. A variety of sauces are offered to compliment your empanada. You are at least assured aji if not all the bottles of sauces you also find at the hot dog or hamburger stands.
Quality varies greatly. You are warned not to partake of the lonely empanadas sitting in a glass case, unless your immune system is uncommonly strong; who knows how long they have been sunbathing. Classier establishments do not guarantee higher quality; I had an almojabana at a Juan Valdez coffee shop that was rather stale and dry.
Word of mouth is your best bet with anything Colombian. This applies from finding a job, a place to live, a vacation spot, and food.
Yesterday, a friend took me to a somewhat highly recommended restaurant in Chia. She and her sister really like La Magola…so much that she can’t count the number of times that they have eaten there. La Magola is on the eastern side of Chia, on what is called the Avenida Pradilla (This isn’t my favorite part of town, because the quaint, quiet part of Chia is in the center of town where cars aren’t allowed to drive).
When we arrived around noon, there were only two other people there. We walked up to the counter and surveyed the available fare: 3 different types of empanadas, pan de bono and almojabanas. We placed our order, then walked to a table with our plastic Dixie cups of masato con canela and a paper bag filled with mini pan de bono sticks. The employee warmed our empanadas while we got settled and snapped a few pictures.
Patricia enjoyed her traditional Colombian empanada filled with rice and meat, while I ventured out of Colombia to try what they called a Chilean empanada. The difference is in the crust as well as the filling. The Chilean pastry is made from wheat flour, while the Colombian empanada is wrapped in a cornflour dough. My empanada was filled with meat, onion, a green olive, raisins, and a slice of hard-boiled egg: surprisingly not a bad combination. Addicts to aji that we are, we spooned aji onto our empanadas, although they were flavorful enough without it.
I don’t know that I would go out of my way to visit La Magola, but I wouldn’t turn down an invitation either.