Whether you are chasing a stopover snack or something more substantial, a healthy start or a sweet denouement, Cartagena’s streets provide! Eating the street is a way to plug into the local culture and gain insight into the daily lives, as you enjoy food the way Cartageneros do. It’s also extremely tasty. So arm yourselves with an appetite and an adventurous attitude and go explore. Here’s some street treats to look out for:
Arepa e’ huevo - Probably the most iconic Cartagena street snack, the arepa e’huevo is a twice-fried golden circular cornmeal parcel filled with egg and meat. Must try.
Carimañola - Made from the sticky yuca dough, Carimañolas can be stuffed with meat or cheese before frying.
Papa Rellena - Yet another deep-fried delight, the Papa Rellena (literally translated as “stuffed potato”) is cooked potato balls with meat, onions and spiced dipped into a batter, then fried until crunchy.
Kibbeh - Another fried treat, the kibbeh is a tasty legacy of the Arabic immigration to Cartagena. It’s made from bulgar wheat, finely ground beef, onions and spices.
Mango biche - Cartageneros love their mango green (unripe), crunchy, and doused in lime juice, salt and pepper. Mango biche is also the renowned preferred craving food for pregnant women. Now you know.
Bollos - These leaf-wrapped rolls are similar to a Mexican tamale and are made by steaming cornmeal, plantains, yuca, coconut, or any other kind of masa inside a bijao leaf. They are then usually enjoyed with a few chunks of the local cheese: queso costeño. They can also be sometimes found,stuffed with meat and vegetables.
Patacones - twice-fried plantains are pisa’o (flattened) dipped in salty, garlic water and topped with cheese, meat, salad, sauces, or simply enjoyed on their own.
Pesca’o - You’ll hear this food before you see it. Listen out for the men walking the streets with their giant silver buckets calling out “Pesca’o Pesca’o!!” What you’ll receive is a piece of salty fried fish accompanied by salty steamed yuca and wrapped up in a piece of brown paper.
Coctél de Camaron - If you thought the famous shrimp coctkail died after the 80s, think again! In Cartagena cups filled with a mix of shrimp, onion, tomato, mayo and lots of garlic can be found all along Avenida Venezuela. You can even eat it under a giant Sombrero Vuelta’o hat!
Tropical fruits - Depending on the season, you can find all manner of strange and exotic tropical fruits like lulo, granadilla, nispero, papaya, guanabana, corozo, guama, zapote etc Some can be eaten there and then, others are better mixed into a juice.
Postres Palenqueros - Look out for the ladies in beautiful coloured dresses carrying bowls on their head often the treasures they are transporting are an array of traditional sweets such as cocadas (coconut mounds) enyucado (coconut and yuca cake) bolitas de tamarindo (sugar-coated tamarind balls) and alegría (puffed corn brown-sugar and coconut balls).
Agua e Coco - Known as natures energy drink, you can order the coconut whole, or drink the water en bolsita, ripping open the tiny plastic bags with your teeth.
Salpicón - This colourful, sweet cup is kind of like a drinkable fruit-salad laced with lots of sugar.
Raspa’o - Cartagena’s version of the snow cone, Raspaó is shaved ice topped with flavoured syrup. Popular flavours include tamarindo and Kola Roman.
Tinto - Need an energy boost with all this eating? Never fea! A tiny cup of caffeine is always close at hand thanks to the roaming tinto salesmen. Look for the men carrying thermoses and cigarettes. The coffee usually comes pre-sweetened and is usually, surprisingly, extremely hot.