I love juicy fruits. Sometimes I do not feel like drinking plain water. Having squashes during winter seems a bit strange to me. I tried drinking fruit flavoured green teas. Unfortunately, the artifical essences overpower the bits of fruit that are the namesake of the products. One of the pleasures of travelling is that you get introduced to new ways of consuming fruits. In this case fruit teas, which you can easily make at home. When I went to Colombia once, I was introduced to a burst of flavours dreams are made of.
When I was in Columbia, one of the interesting experiences was drinking fruit teas. I even got to taste a pumpkin spice latté type drink. Made with wholesome ingredients, devoid of artificial flavourings. Discovering that one could create a hot drink with pumpkin pulp flavoured with cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg was a completely new experience and emphasised the connection between food and culture.
I am aware that different geographical regions have their own cuisines. They may use similar spices in different ways. The cooking methods may even be similar, such as in the South East/East Asian stir fries. There are multinational variations of the patty-puff that South Asians know as the samosa, the Arabs know as sambusek, Indonesians and Malaysians call curry puff. In other words the same thing, different pronounciations, if not interpretations. Similarly, what the Indians call aloo tikki, the Pakistanis call aloo ka cutlet, or the English call potato cutlet. Hence while food and drinks have a way of bringing people together, they are also ways to get an insight into cultural relationships with ingredients.
Colombia is a beautiful country. Apart from the natural beauty, I was introduced to an entirely new world of anti-oxidant rich fruits and foods. My fruit obsession was catered to. I became acquainted with different varieties of passion fruits. I was only aware of the tiny wrinkled dark purple version. The yellow version is called grenadilla. It is not wrinkled and compared to the purple version, significantly bigger. The other version is greenish/ greenish yellow and called maracuja, which is usually used to make fruit tea due to its slightly bitter taste. It is also used as an alternative to lemon juice in culinary dishes.
Another interesting fruit I tried was chontaduro, also known as palm peach. It is a very fleshy, but slightly dry fruit and rich in Vitamin A. It is sold as a street food. You can choose to either have it drizzled with honey, salt or just plain. From my experience it really beats any kind of cravings you might have for sweet or salty snacks.
When I went to Cartagena, I tried another fruit called Sapote. In Colombia they have black sapote and South American Sapote. I tried the South American Sapote. This is an interesting fruit. It has brown skin, a little less hairy than a kiwi fruit. Or shall I say, more like a shaved kiwi fruit. It is about the size of a cantaloupe melon. While slightly less juicy, it has the same colour on the inside and has a tart sweetness like a mango.
As for delicious food, I feasted on black squid ink risotto and different versions of ceviche to my hearts content. Raw fish pieces, prawns and tiny squids and calamari “cold-processed” in the citric acids of lemon juice have always fascinated me since I was introduced to the concept on a television cooking show. Some ceviche versions are more fruity due to the addition of mango and papaya instead of sliced onions. I even tried a version with maracuja instead of lemon juice which rendered a sweet sourness to the dish. I also indulged in a gold covered chocolate cake and a succulent cheese cake.
One thing I like about buying fruit from the street peddlers in Colombia is that they peel and slice it for you on the spot. When you buy it from a stall keeper, the fruits are usually already peeled, so you can walk along eating it with a wooden tooth pick.
Finally, as for snacks, I am familiar with chili flavoured chocolate, which is rather unappealing to my tastebuds. However I sampled chili-mango flavoured ice lollies, which was an interesting combination. Nevertheless that might be because the Pakistani, or shall I say South Asian fruit salad is spicy. The spice mix used, called chaat masala, contains chili, black pepper, cumin and coriander, black salt and dried mango powder, together with the sweetness of the seasonal fruits blend well to create a pleasant sweet sourness. If you like that kind of flavoursome combinations that is.