What better way to celebrate Colombia's Independence Day then with una bandeja paisa or empanadas with a little aji.
Colombia may be famous for their coffee but their cuisine is just as delectable, with many indigenous and Spanish influences.
Colombians are the seventh-largest population of Hispanic origin living in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, with the population reaching over 800,000. They are also the largest South American ethnic group in the U.S.
In honor of the country's 202 years of independence, LatinoVoices picked out the five top recipes to get those taste buds flowing.
La Bandeja Paisa
This "Paisa" Tray is served steaming hot for lunch all over Colombia but originates from the northwestern Department of Antioquia. This hefty dish is a staple of the country, keeping true to the spanish saying: "Eat breakfast like a king, eat lunch like a prince, and eat dinner like a beggar." If this is lunch, what's for breakfast? Ingredients: 1 Recipe Paisa Pinto Beans (Frijoles Paisas) 1 Recipe white Rice (Arroz Blanco) 1 Recipe Powdered Beef (Carne en Polvo) 4 Fried Pork Belly (Chicharrones) 4 Cooked Chorizos 4 Fried eggs sunny side up 4 baked plantainsor Tajadas de Plátano 1 Recipe Hogao Lime and Avocado for Serving <a href="http://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/paisa-tray-bandeja-paisa" target="_hplink">Click for Full Recipe and Directions</a>
Served primarily in the often chilly capital of the country, Bogotá, this broth contains all the components of a main dish combined tastefully in a bowl. Often served as a meal itself, the dish is as filling as it is difficult to make. It takes true talent and patience to prepare a good Ajíaco, a minimum a four hours (not including preparation) is required for best results! Ingredients: 3 pounds (~1.3 kilos) chicken breast, on the bone with skin (or 1 whole chicken, cut into parts) 6 quarts (~6 liters) water 3 pounds (~1.3 kilos) russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks 6 pounds (~2.7 kilos) new red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks 3 pounds (~1.3 kilos) papas criollas (in the U.S. use Dutch Creamer, Baby Dutch Yellow, Yukon Gold, or Yellow Finn potatoes), cut into 1-inch chunks 4 ears corn on the cob (fresh or frozen), cut into 3-inch pieces 2 handfuls of quascas (about 5 g dried or 10 g fresh) <a href="http://andreasrecipes.com/2006/12/27/ajiaco-bogotano-colombia/" target="_hplink">Click for Full Recipe and Directions</a>
Aguapanela (or Agua de Panela) most literally translates to "Sugar Cane Water." This traditional drink can be served hot or cold and lime wedges, which help reduce the drink's sweetness. Preparation is fast and easy, but its main ingredient may be difficult to attain at your local grocery store. Ingredients: 5 cups water,or to your taste 2 cups or 16 oz, grated or in chunks <a href="http://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/aguapanela-sugar-cane-drink" target="_hplink">Click for Full Recipe and Directions</a>
For those hot days of summer, this Colombian fruit drink is sure to refresh your palate. Often sold by city street vendors or served as a type of punch at family events, the key to a good salpicón is a medley of fresh tropical fruits. Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups diced apples, I used green and macintosh 1 1/2 cups diced strawberries 1 1/2 cups diced watermelon 1 1/2 cups diced banana 1 1/2 cups diced papaya 1 1/2 cups diced orange 1 1/2 cups diced fresh pineapple 1 1/2 cups grapes (red and green) 1 1/2 cups diced kiwi 6 1/2 cups Sprite Zero or diet champagne kola <a href="http://www.skinnytaste.com/2011/06/salpicon.html" target="_hplink">Click for Full Recipe and Directions</a>
In South America, empanadas are as diverse as the country they originate from. Colombian empanadas or "patties" are a great snack to go along with a cold glass of aguapanela or salpicón. These fried patties are usually stuffed with ground beef, chicken, or potato and served with ají (a colombian spicy sauce) and/or lime wedges to add flavor. Ingredients: 3 cups all-purpose flour (see Tips) 1 1/2 cups cornmeal 3 tablespoons sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 3/4 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup canola oil 1 1 1 cups water 1/2 cup hulled pumpkin seeds (see Ingredient notes) 1/2 pound lean ground beef 1 small onion, chopped <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/latin-american-empanadas-_n_1049741.html" target="_hplink">Click for Full Recipe and Directions</a>