American Grocery Shopping In Bogota

In my cultural classes about Colombia, it was made clear that “American” applied to everyone in this hemisphere, so the proper term for someone from the U.S.A. was “unitedstatesian.” Of course, here in Bogota, if you say that you are from New York, then the Colombians will say that you are an “American” or a “gringo” … so… so much for that.

Bogota has many “American” grocery items but some of them are very hard to find. But, most of the main grocery stores (like Carulla, Jumbo, and Exito) carry “American” goods. The specialized produce store, Surtifruver, has a meat counter and a cheese store, Cava de Queso, inside their stores. Also many items can be found at the Carulla on Calle 84 is what I call the “expat” Carulla as they carry pickled herring from Sweden and other items that expats look for.

IMG_7085The following are some of the items that I have found hard to find, and where to find them:

Sweet potato: sometimes called the “Peruvian camote” as the orange fleshed American sweet potato is used in Peruvian ceviche dishes (like the one in the photo above). This can be found in Paloquemao, not just at Peter’s Chinese vegetable stall, but at more and more places. They can’t be found every time I visit, but with more and more frequency.

Kale: Now it’s even available in styrofoam containers at Paloquemao. Also can be bought at the organic shop on Calle 72, and more and more, at the mainstream grocery shops.IMG_0463

Chili: It is possible to find chilis in Carulla, Surtifruver, etc. but the Chile Lady of Paloquemao has a wide assortment, both fresh and dried.

Lemons: seen sometimes in Pricesmart (Costco) and I’ve heard, in Exito.

Spring onions: Oh, you can find them, but they aren’t the succulent tender kind that I’m looking for.

Asian vegetables: read about it here.

Thai basil: It can be had once in a while in the Surtifruver on Calle 85. But, if you ask at the herb stalls at Paloquemao…. you will get some other herb with tight small leaves.

Mint: Also, if you ask for “menthe” you will get handed something that doesn’t quite smell like you imagined. If you want biggish mint leaves, then ask for “yerbabuena” and it’ll be good in your summer rolls.

Fresh milk: At Carulla on Tuesdays (and other days but Tuesday seems to be delivery day). Also, can be had from some organic grocery delivery companies.

Fresh cream: Nope.

The World Market in Bogota at Codabas

The world's spices at the spice shop in the fruit and vegetable market.
The world’s spices at the spice shop in the fruit and vegetable market.

Where to find the world’s products in Bogota? Recently, I went to Codabas, a market in the northern part of Bogota. It’s up on Carrera 7 # 180. Codabas has a central building with fruit stalls surrounded by a parking lot of shops.

Inside the central building is a spice shop with every spice you didn’t know that you couldn’t find in Bogota. Cardamom. Chili mix. Fresh honey. Salt from the moon. Okay, I jest.

Clean fruit and veg.
Clean fruit and veg.

Some of the shops around the parking area include an Italian shop (they sell wine for less than 15,000 COP = $8 which is fairly cheap for Bogota) and other Italian items.

Frozen shumai dumplings.
Frozen shumai dumplings.

I was thrilled by the “Arabic” sandwich shop where I bought pita bread. (All of it. I also bought hummus. But, mostly, I was excited to find flat bread like I’ve found in the middle east.)

Hummus, babaganoush, labnah, and pita bread.
Baba ganoush, hummus, labnah, and pita bread.

Across from there is a Peruvian store but it was a bit pricey.

Arabic cafe.
Arabic cafe.

There were several fish shops which sold lots of frozen Asian seafood, like clams from Vietnam, and Asian foods (like frozen shumai dumplings). Plus, they sold a good brand (from Canada) of pickled herring. And squid ink. Just in case you were making squid ink pasta.

Pickled herring and squid ink.
Pickled herring and squid ink.

I will go back to explore some more but personally for vegetables (and especially for chiles and napa cabbage) I like the less sterile feel of Paloquemao a little bit better. IMG_8137Also, the Carulla on Calle 84 actually caters to the expats and carries many imported products.

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.