At almost 6,000 ft above sea level, Salamina is located in Caldas, a department in the Paisa region (part of the Andes) where the Colombian city of Manizales is the capital. Blessed with abundant flora and fauna like almost everywhere else in the country, this mountainous old town thrives on agriculture and farming. Besides the usual fresh produce and famous Colombian coffee, Salamina offers some local specialities that will delight taste buds! One can expect innovation with the simplest of daily ingredients. Even if you are not a foodie, this recommended food list in Salamina promises to enhance your stay in this colourful ‘City of Light’!
1. Huevo al vapor (literally vaporized egg)
Think the Japanese styled chawanmushi - savoury steamed egg custard - with a twist! Trying the huevo al vapor in Salamina is a gastronomic experience that engages more than just your taste buds! The preparation of this ‘fluffy egg in a cup’ looks deceptively simple but the good show is yet to come. Like the brewing of witch’s potion, the basic ingredients of egg and sausages are combined before being ‘steamed’ by a giant coffee urn that puffs and hisses. Head up to the counter during the preparation of your order and you will be entertained! The final touch is a general dose of melted butter that may either intimidate the health-conscious or delight the gluttons. Although most cafes offer this unique dish, Café El Polo - the original cafe that invented huevo al vapor in 1955 - is the place to go!
In case you are wondering, the huevo al vapor is great for anytime of the day, although most people have it for breakfast, tea time snack or supper.
Cafe El Polo
Address: CR 6 6 20, Salamina, Colombia
Contact: +57 8595240
2. La macana (sweet dessert)
Otherwise known as the beverage that may confuse your taste buds, this hot dessert include ingredients such as cookies, cinnamon powder, milk, butter, sugar, etc. that surprisingly blends together quite nicely. The warm and sweet macana tastes as comforting as the next cup of hot chocolate, and can be quite filling! It is also available at Cafe El Polo and various other cafes in Salamina.
If time permits, visit a finca (farm) at Salamina in the early morning and you may just be fortunate enough to try a home-cooked breakfast prepared with love! A typical Colombian paisa meal consists of hot stew, rice, beans, meat of choice and fried platano (a cousin of the banana). There are plenty of farms in Salamina - mostly coffee and panela (sugarcane) plantations. For a unique experience, head up to La Samaria at San Felix - a finca where you can explore the gigantic palm trees, enjoy horseback riding and indulge in a piping hot, delicious breakfast made by the beautiful wife of the finca owner, Mr. Luis Abril.
If you are worried about losing your way, the easiest and most reassuring way to get to the finca would be to book a tour with Felipe, owner of Casa Carola B&B in Salamina.
Casa Carola B&B
Address: Cra. 7 #5-42, Salamina, Caldas (see map)
Contact: +57 315 8346262
4. Panela tea
Panela (sugarcane) plantations thrive in the region of Salamina and is one of the commodities of the old town. Often served in restaurants and cafes, the warm panela tea is a simple concoction of cane sugar and water that tastes better than it sounds. Lacking of energy or feeling thirsty? The panela tea is a comforting, sweet beverage that promises to rejuvenate the most tired travellers.
5. Kumis (Fermented milk)
While kumis is a common drink in rural Colombia, it would be a shame not to try the most popular kumis in Salamina at the corner neighbourhood store named Super Kumis! Sour, creamy and somewhat acidic, my first encounter with the yoghurt-like kumis came with various choices of ingredients. This traditional fermented cow milk may be alcoholic or mixed with easy-to-identify ingredients such as Milo. In case you are not used to the unique taste, just keep in mind that you are consuming ‘beneficial organism’.
To visit, just ask any passerby in town for directions.
6. Perra amongst other fast food
Move aside, McDonald or KFC! Colombia has their own version of fast food, which makes for a good snack or the equivalent of (to be honest!)food coma. As the night gets late, the choices of food are limited. If you experience hunger pangs after 9pm, there are two choices: street food or fast food. Perra gives meaning to the phrase: good things come in pairs. Expect double cheese, double bacon and double quail eggs piled on a huge bread with sausage and salad… a serving that is good enough for two to share. You can get this from Zenú along the main street of Salamina, which is hard to miss since not many shops will be opened at the late hour.
A fulfilling gastronomic experience in Salamina
Besides the above-mentioned, word has it that this mountainous town serves great trucha (a type of trout that tastes like salmon) alongside the usual Colombian fare. Prices are reasonable and in the company of the nice people in Salamina, your gastronomic experience will be a fulfilling one.
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