If you're like me, the first google search you do when you get to a new city is "local cuisine".
So what are the typical foods of Cartagena? Here's 10.
MOJARRA or PARGO FRITO
Fried whole fish with coconut rice, golden fried patacones (smushed and fried plaintain) and a simple salad.
AREPA de HUEVO
A kind of mini pita bread made from ground-up corn, fried, opened, filled with an egg and spiced mince, then re-fried. Served with suero (like a sour cream) and chilli sauce. Also check out the other fried snacks Kibbeh, Carimiñola, Buñuelos and Papas Rellenas.
PAN de BONO
Although accepted to have originated in Cali, you'll find these delicious chewy-moist bread rolls throughout Cartagena. They are made on cornflour, yuca and cheese.. making them super moist and dense. If they are fresh out of the oven they are pretty-much irresistible.
MOTE DE QUESO
A soup made from ñame (yam) and local costeño cheese (similar to feta). It's really rich so a little goes a long way.
CAZUELA DE MARISCOS
Seafood casserole made on a base of coconut milk
POSTA NEGRA CARTAGENERA
A kind of pot roast of meat slowly cooked in panela (like brown sugar). Sweet and savory and tender and delicious.
Tripe and offal soup especially consumed on Sundays as a post-booze fix. Also try any Sancocho soup.
The array of tropical fruits here is staggering. Eat them as juices, ice-creams or on their own. Be sure to try Lulo, Nispero, Grenadilla, Papaya, Mango, Mora, Corozo, Mamoncillo etc etc
Cartagena is ceviche-mad. The dish arrived to Cartagena from the North of Colombia and also via the plethora of Peruvian restaurants that have set up shop here. There's different versions depending upon the origins, but basically it involves raw seafood (fish, prawns etc) "cooked" in the acidic marinade of limes, oil, garlic, onion, tomato, herbs. The Peruvian version also has crunchy toasted corn kernels. See also the prawn/shrimp cocktails made with mayonnaise, tomato sauce, garlic and chilli.
BANANO EN TENTACION
This is usually a side-dish or accompaniment to your corriente lunch. Basically they slow cook banana in Kola Roman -- the bright red soft-drink/soda that is a born and bred Cartagena staple. It tastes.. sweet.
A vanilla sponge cake drenched in three "milks": normal milk, condensed milk, and a kind of caramel milk. Ridiculously, hurt-your-teeth sweet.