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What Is Bandeja Paisa?

By Karize Uy
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bandeja Paisa is a Colombian dish known for having an array of meats in one plate. It is named after a community of people named “Paisa,” who live in the Andes region. Such is the popularity of the meal that it has become known as Colombia’s national dish. Bandeja Paisa is also known by other names, such as bandeja antioqueña, bandeja montañera, or bandeja arriero.

The word “bandeja” is translated as “platter,” so the dish Bandeja Paisa can literally mean a “Paisa platter.” At the time Colombia was colonized, the Paisa people were employed commonly as farmers, laborers, and “arrieros” — animal herders who would travel long journeys to transport supplies. To prepare for their laborious tasks and tiresome trips to and from the mountains, the workers would carry a generous helping of lunch to give them the energy they need throughout the day. The lunch would be primarily made of proteins and carbohydrates, both of which can satisfy a tired worker’s appetite.

Bandeja Paisa typically features an assortment of meat products, such as pork rinds, chorizo, and some powdered beef. Another pork viand, usually cooked with red beans, is also included, as well as chicharon, or a pork belly fried to a crisp. Eggs also add to the protein content of the dish, normally fried sunny side up. Black pudding, or coagulated blood sausage, is also a common ingredient in the meal, probably an influence from Spanish or English cuisine. Modern versions of the dish can have grilled beef instead of the powdered type.

For the carbohydrates, the Bandeja Paisa usually has a huge helping of white rice, a staple food for the Colombians and for many Latin American and Asian countries. The dish also includes arepa, a cornmeal patty similar to the tortilla. Fried plantains and avocado usually make up the fruit elements. The hogao sauce — a many-spiced Colombian sauce — is then added to bind the flavors of all the ingredients. In some occasions, the Bandaja Paisa also contains some panela cheese and a maize-derived drink called “mazamorra” as side dishes.

All the ingredients are traditionally placed in just one “bandeja,” but modern versions of the Bandeja Paisa have been observed to serve the ingredients in several small plates. Sometimes, a salad is also served as part of the side dish. The dish is a hearty meal, but some nutritionists say that it can contain too many calories or kilojoules.

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