Colombian Papa Rellena – A meal in your hand & a recipe worth trying

March 2016

papa rellenas photoMichael: Calle 53 just East of the Avenida Caracas is a part of Bogotá I always enjoy wandering, looking and tasting. This is the area where Bogotanos go for art and craft supplies as well as lessons. My wife and her sister shop the many craft stores which line both sides of the street. There seems to be everything from fabrics and candle making supplies to small wooden home accessories ready to paint. And during the Christmas season there is everything needed to decorate your home or business. One of my favorite restaurants,Chigüire 53 sits right in the middle of it all. Street food vendors can be found. But it is the small tucked away places that also entice me to partake my daily coffee. Their glass cases filled with tasty delights often sit just outside the entrance. The look and smell from empanadas, buñuelos and more draws me in.

One day large round balls in a case at a shop named Magola caught my attention. They were different than anything I have seen in my eleven years in the country. Larger than a baseball they looked gave a look of something delicious. But I wondered what was under the covering.

From inside the ten foot wide store a man dressed in white walked to the front and greeted us with a smile. “Papa Rellena,” he answered to my question.

My wife knows how much I love trying Colombian food. “Do you want one,” she asked. It was almost a redundant question. But at the same time it surprised me that she asked. The ball looked fried and not something my cardiologist would approve of. Not to mention that every since my heart procedure my other half often takes a drill sergeant stace when it comes to my diet.

The ladies asked for something more healthy to eat. Everyone ordered a tinto (black coffee) to drink. Sitting at one of the three small round tables we took in the decoration. Besides the places to sit there was another glass case and a place to make coffee. The wall decoration consisted of only one framed drawing of a lady. Later, the man in white told us it was the patrona (owner).

The food and drinks arrived with a large plastic glass filled with aji (homemade Colombian spicy sauce). I recognized that my papa Rellena was to be eaten like an empanada by adding a little sauce to each bite.

Perhaps a little late in asking, but finally I inquired what was in the large ball. The server rattled off ingredients faster than my Spanish knowledge could understand. “Too fast,” I said to my wife after he left.

“He’s Costeño,” she said. That explained it all to me. The name refers to people from the coast of Colombia. They often speak fast cutting words and have an accent I am still working on understanding.

papa rellena inside 300“Rice, egg, hamburger, onion, and potatoes,” my wife said to clarify. But the surprise from me came halfway through the ball. The egg is actually a whole hard-boiled one.

Graciela: There are papa Rellenas in other countries. Cuba and Peru are especially known for them. But theirs are made different than ours in Colombia. In fact as you travel the country you will find variations with herbs and spices. Some recipes exclude the whole egg inside. Though to me it is not true Colombian without it.

The ingredients are healthy. Though some may argue with the egg. The part that makes the cardiologist cringe is the final product is boiled in oil.

Michael: The taste was worth the slight problem to my cholesterol. My wife let me know that it will be another year before she lets me eat something like that again. We paid our bill with the papa Rellena coming to under $1 USD. The Costeño gentleman asked me how I liked it. “Muy rico,” I replied. He smiled, shook my hand and invited me to return.

For those wishing to try these at home here is a link to a recipe.

If you are like me then something I can watch helps. In that respect there are many Youtube videos out there in English on how to make Colombian papas Rellenas. But after watching many my favorite is one in Spanish. Though she does not put in the egg, Clau Creativa demonstrates how to make this Colombian meal in a ball. Even if you do not speak Spanish you can follow what she is doing easily. Check her video out HERE. And you can find her recipe at this location.