The countries of Latin America are historically connected, interwoven with diverse traditions resulting from indigenous communities and colonization and the mixing of cultures. We relish our reputations for rhythm and warmth. The exchanges between our nations are somewhat familiar, though not without surprising and often comical moments. This is particularly true in the culinary world, where our vocabularies diverge.
Maize is one of the plant species with the oldest record of domestication. Present throughout the American continent, the way to consume corn varies from region to region.
In Mexico, corn enjoys near omnipresence, seen in tortillas, gorditas, sopes, tlacoyos, tostadas, and a long list of etceteras. Colombians make it into different types of arepas, dough for empanadas and tortas (not to be confused with Mexican tortas), and prepare it in a salty or sweet broth like in the dessert mazamorra. The predominant varieties are white and yellow.
This dish has its various adaptations in both countries, with the Colombian tamale being more similar to the Oaxacan one due to the banana leaf wrapper.
Bocadillo and ate
Ate is a fruit paste, prepared from fruit pulp that is cooked with sugar and makes a perfect partner to cheese. Brought to the Americas from Spain via the Middle East, in Colombia, bocadillos veleños are made from guava and in some regions you can find them with arequipe (dulce de leche, cajeta in Mexico).
Ambiguity in names
There are dishes that have the same name but refer to something completely different, which can lead to interesting misunderstandings. Here are a few examples.
Also of Spanish heritage, the Mexican version is generally prepared as a fried flour tortilla dipped in sugar. In Colombia, that would be known as hojulea (flake), while a Colombian buñuelo is a ball of fried cassava flour with cheese.
A Mexican torta is a type of sandwich, but in Colombia it is the word for cake.
While Mexicans refer to the large variety of this fruit as plátano macho (plantain), in Colombia they distinguish between plátano verde, pintón, or maduro (green, yellow, or ripe), with others just being bananas and, when prepared, they are called tajada or patacón.
Some general diffences
Many Colombian dishes include potatoes, of which there are hundreds of varieties, notably more than are grown in Mexico.
In Colombia, food is usually served all at once, rather than in courses or as it comes, and is accompanied by fruit juice, making Mexico’s aguas frescas look rather diluted.