Asian and Oriental Grocery Stores in Bogota – Taiwanese Bakery

Taiwanese buns at Afternoon Tea.
Taiwanese buns at Afternoon Tea.

“Prepare to have your mind blown,” said Mr. X. I stepped into Afternoon Tea, a two-month old Taiwanese bakery and I was indeed bowled over to find such a delicious bakery. Their baked goods, especially the Taiwanese cream bun, were soft and sweet. They also make bubble tea (tapioca balls were pretty good with a bit of chew at the center) with fresh juices. I had passion fruit today but I’ll be back to try the others. Supposedly, soon, they will have the red bean paste buns as well. They are located on Carrera 15, No. 94-51 and they have plans to expand, including providing delivery (domicilio as it’s called here). Their cakes are delicious too. I ordered a cake to take to a birthday and for 45,000 Colombian pesos (about $22), I got a spongy delightful eight-inch white cake decorated with fruit. Their cheesecake is good. Not cloying but it does have fibers from the fresh mango and passion fruit (thanks for the roughage in my diet). They can also make a chocolate cake with alcohol, but I haven’t tried it so I don’t know how it is. ***I was in for a chat when I picked up my cake and I commented that they should post photos on their Facebook page… and they did! I hope that they’ll soon post delicious food photos…

The front of the bakery.
The front of the bakery.

It was a great day for finding Asian (or “oriental” as they call it here) grocery supplies. Earlier, I found the Global Gourmet on Carrera 14, No. 90-12, and nearly collapsed from joy at finding fresh tofu, edamame, fish sauce, wonton wrappers, sesame oil, sesame seeds, peanut oil, woks, chopsticks, mango chutney, seaweed, green curry paste, cookbooks, rice bowls, miso paste, tapioca flour, somen noodles, rice noodles, 10 kilo bags of rice, and so much more. Unfortunately, they do not have fresh vegetables. Not a cheap store but at least they have all sorts of hard to find items. They have been open for nine years so there must be someone buying the goods. The folks in Afternoon Tea didn’t even know about this store.

Global Gourmet on Calle 14 at 90.
Global Gourmet on Calle 14 at 90.

Then, I found the Asian section at Jumbo, the mega supermarket near Calle 110, No. 9B – 4 (like a Walmart) located in the Santa Ana mall. This mall also has a taxi service in the basement so it’s easy to catch a cab home with one’s groceries.

The Asian section at Jumbo.
The Asian section at Jumbo.
Fish sauce, rice sticks, and so on.
Fish sauce, rice sticks, and so on.

For kimchi, I bought some at the Casa de Coreana restaurant, Calle 104A, No. 11B-61. It cost 10,000 Colombian pesos ($5) for about a pint. It was acceptable, and according to the lady in the restaurant, the best in town. We’ll see.

Kimchi from Casa de Coreana.
Kimchi from Casa de Coreana.
Global Gourmet sells more than just food.
Global Gourmet sells more than just food.

Carulla also sells some imported goods like sushi seaweed and rice.

Global Gourmet receives fresh tofu several times per week.
Global Gourmet receives fresh tofu several times per week.

Now, the most difficult part of shopping for Asian food is finding vegetables. I found out from the folks at the Taiwanese bakery that Paloquemao market sells Asian vegetables on Tuesday mornings.

Sriracha, French mustard, and other global foods in Global Gourmet.
Sriracha, French mustard, and other global foods in Global Gourmet.

I’ll update this as I find more sources. Later, I’ll blog about the Asian restaurants… as I taste test them.

If anybody knows of more sources of Asian food or good Asian restaurants in Bogota, please share this with me by commenting or sending me an email at m@madventures.me. Thanks!

Someone told me that Maki Roll, a restaurant, was also an Asian grocery store. I went to investigate. The restaurant smelled of bulgogi and sesame oil. They had a few items for sale in the glass counter and on the shelf between the kitchen and the cash register. They sell Korean spicy ramen (which makes them the only place to carry this brand so far). They also sell kimchi (not as good as Casa de Coreana’s), individually prepped seaweed, and kochikang, the spicy Korean red paste.

Bubble tea at Afternoon Tea.
Bubble tea at Afternoon Tea.

All in all, between these stores, it is possible to almost find everything I’d need to make the basics of Korean food. Tonight, there’s a bag of bulgogi beef happily marinating away.

The Market in Bogota – Paloquemao

A salesman peeks out from his herb stall at Paloquemao market.
A salesman peeks out from his herb stall at Paloquemao market.

Paloquemao is possibly the most famous market in Bogota. Paloquemao is located in the west of Bogota. As people often refer to it as the “flower market,” I had expected rows and rows of flower stalls under and open roof.

One of the passages in the market.
One of the passages in the market.

Instead, Paloquemao was a warren of narrow stalls all bunched together like a souk. There were separate sections for fruit, meat, house plants, and food stalls. The prices were better than at the supermarkets.

The fruit lady was very friendly and kept making me try new fruits, once I told her that I only wanted to try fruits I’d never tried before. I left with a backpack full of produce for 30,000 Colombian pesos ($15). It didn’t even occur to me to bargain. Should I have?

There is an even bigger market, Abastos (also called Corabastos or Central de Abastos), which is the wholesale market and apparently the second largest in South America. I’ll visit it one of these Sundays.

The array of fruit and vegetables from the market.
The array of fruit and vegetables from the market.

Trying the National Dishes of Colombia? Ajiaco, Sancocho, Empanadas, and Arepas

Ajiaco, soup with chicken breast, guasco, rice, corn, and avocado.
Ajiaco, soup with chicken breast, guasco, rice, corn, and avocado.

Every place has it’s national dishes. Here in Colombia, if you ask, they’ll probably mention the two most famous soups: sancocho and ajiaco. Or the empanadas and arepas.

I really like ajiaco because it’s got cream on it and you can add your own rice and avocado (like bacon, avocado makes everything better). The distinctive taste and color of ajiaco is a herb called “guasca” which is translated into English to “gallant soldier” but I’ve never heard anyone call it that. It also has medicinal uses. There are many types of corn in the world. The cob in my soup was different than in the corn in the U.S. The corn that most of the world, outside from the birthplace of corn — the central Americas, eats is the small and sweet variety. This corn was starchier and each kernel was much larger (choclo, like what I’ve had in Peruvian restaurants). The way to eat the cob in the soup is to take the handy skewer, turn the cob, and spear the skewer into the end of the corn. Then it’s easy to bite the kernels off the cob. I’ll write more about the restaurant where I had the ajiaco another time.

Freshly deep fried empanada and salsa.
Freshly deep fried empanada and salsa.

Every country has a dumpling of some sort, sometimes boiled, steamed, or fried. The other day, I had a delicious fried Bogotano empanada. The sauce was surprisingly spicy. Everyone told me that Colombians don’t like spicy food. That may be, but this salsa did not take prisoners. Wowza. Eating these empanadas from a street stall reminded me of the fuchka of Bangladesh.

Inside is rice, beef, and chicken.
Inside is rice, beef, and chicken.

As for the arepa. This one was made of white corn, griddled and brushed with butter. Inside was a center of melted cheese. I didn’t actually like this very much as it had a slightly soured yogurt-like tang to it which I didn’t find all that appealing although I love that flavor in dairy products (more about dairy another time). I’ve had arepas before which were spliced and stuffed like sandwiches but this one was more like a pupusa. Will have to try others along the way.

Arepa, straight up with melted butter.
Arepa, straight up with melted butter.

No Entiendo – Language Shock and Talking Turkey Ham

No entiendo.
No entiendo.

While I can’t understand some of the road signs and the altitude is exhausting, the most shocking thing about moving to Bogota is how tongue-tied I feel. In order not to seem rude, every person has to be addressed in Spanish. While there are places in the U.S. where I only hear Spanish spoken, the big difference is that I’m not expected to respond in Spanish. So far, here in Bogota, the people I’ve talked to have been incredibly nice about my stunted Spanish. But then again, the phrases have been extremely simple:

“Buenas” = “goods” for good morning, good afternoon, good evening.

“Muchisimas gracias” = a million thanks (rough translation)

“Muy amable” – you are so kind/so nice of you

“Que tenga buen dia” = “Have a nice day.”

The other night, I realized that after months and months of Spanish classes, I didn’t know how to say to the waiter, “yes, you may take my plate.”

I won’t go into all the mistakes that I’m making when I manage to actual get a few words out. So far, the funniest part of speaking Spanish was when I was ordering a sandwich and I thought I’d stick to something simple like a ham and cheese… then the sandwich lady asked me, “jamon de pavo o jamon de cerdo?” Turkey ham? Or pork ham? I wasn’t aware that “ham” was generic for “lunch meat.”

So about six bucks?
So about six bucks?

The other shocking thing is figuring out the currency. At the current exchange rate, it’s about 1,881 Colombian pesos to one U.S. dollar. So far, I’ve been knocking off three zeros, dividing by half and adding a little on top. Is it my new math?