Chontaduro is a species of palm fruit well known by the native population where it is grown, the tropical forest of South and Central America. It has a high contents of vitamin A and C and has been used as a food source for centuries. Several locals in Popayán offer this fruit on their little stands on wheels. I saw it here for the first time, and as a big fruit lover I was very curious about the taste.
The fruit took a little time to get used to. I expected to be sweet and juicy. Instead, it was starchy and tasted nutty like butternut squash. The flesh is deep orange and mealy like a Caribbean sweet potato, but more fibrous. Chontaduro is frequently slowly cooked in salted water. However, it can be eaten raw, peeled and dressed with salt and lemon or honey, or used to make jelly.
Popayán has a centuries long gastronomic tradition which has been passed from generation to generation. Traditional culinary practices are protected and encouraged and there is a strong respect for traditional cuisine in Popayán especially during Holy Week and Christmas when certain foods are prepared exclusively for these holidays. In 2005, Popayán became the 1st UNESCO City of Gastronomy as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative.
The city has many excellent cafés and restaurants where you can try a great variety of local culinary delights. There are also several traditional markets. For cheap authentic food try La Galeria del Barrio Bolívar, market near Plaza Bolívar. When you are in Popayán don't forget to taste some local foods and drinks - they are delicious!!
Empanadas de pipián - stuffed pastries made with peanuts and a special type of potato called papa amarilla due to its yellow colour; empanadas in Colombia are usually served with Aji, a sauce made of cilantro, green onions, red or black pepper, vinegar, salt and lemon juice
Tamales de pipián - they are smaller than other tamales, somewhat like an appetizer size, and they contain a yellow potato mixture called pipián; they are served with a hot Aji sauce
Manjar blanco - sweet delicacy traditionally made by slowly and gently cooking milk to thicken and gradually adding sugar (a variation of arequipe or dulce de leche); it can be used as spread or filling for pastries
Champú - a thick drink made with crushed maize, fruits (lulo and pineapple), sweetened with panela and seasoned with cinnamon and cloves
Aguardiente caucano - a strong alcoholic drink based on anis; it's the favourite drink in informal parties