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Colombian gastronomy: my rediscovery of the ajiaco

Ajiaco
Joanna Ruiz

Joanna Ruiz

Journalist and migrant. I have a huge passion for writing and telling stories. I live in Bogotá since 2014. Instagram: joa_ruiz / Blog: leaquealgoqueda.blogspot.com

I’ve known Ajiaco my whole life. My mom prepared it really well but just for special occasions, such as Christmas and someone’s birthday. However, since I arrived to Bogotá, I’ve rediscovered this very typical Colombian soup and made it part of my daily life.

My Mom’s Ajiaco

As some of you might know, I’m from Venezuela and my parents are from Colombia. Now that I live here in Bogotá, I understand many of their customs a bit better. I have also incorporated some activities that used to be sporadic as a part of my day-to-day life. Having Ajiaco is one of them.

Being a child of immigrants always gives you different experiences. On Christmas Eve, for instance, my mom always served us ajiaco for dinner. I used to think everyone in Venezuela had the same dish, but they didn’t. While I was having Ajiaco, most Venezuelans were having hallacas, the Venezuelan version of tamales. It wasn’t a big deal because I loved that thick soup made with different kinds of potatoes and chicken that always had a piece of tender corn on the cob.

Rediscovering  Ajiaco in Bogotá

It wasn’t really common to find Ajiaco in Caracas, so I always expected my Mom to make it for special occasions such as Christmas or someone’s birthday. The second time I came to Bogotá, I had the opportunity to have it as much as I wanted and I realized something: my mom’s Ajiaco was awesome but it wasn’t the original Ajiaco. It lacked something very important.

It lacked guascas.

If you have tried Ajiaco, you know it has guascas, a kind of herb which gives this soup its characteristic flavour. I can’t describe its taste, so if you haven’t tried it, you really should. I realized later my mom didn’t add them on purpose. The reason? She didn’t like them at all. When you are the one who cooks, you have those privileges!

My Mom also didn’t add crema de leche (cream) or alcaparras (capers), although I’m not really sure why. So, although we were having delicious Ajiaco in Venezuela, it wasn’t the same Ajiaco I’ve been eating since I arrived to Bogotá in 2014. I’ve rediscovered Ajiaco since then and it’s been an amazing experience.

Ajiaco
© Photograph by Francisco de la Carrera

My Relationship with the Ajiaco Gets Stronger!

I became a complete Ajiaco lover about two years ago when I worked near a very typical restaurant called Sopas y sopitas (Calle 69 # 8-57, Quinta Camacho). Its menu is very limited but all its dishes are cheap (at the moment they cost about COP $10,000 or USD $3,3 approximately) and delicious. It’s  one of the best corrientazos I’ve been to. Its Ajiaco is probably the best I’ve tried in any restaurant this city has to offer. Every Monday, no matter what, I went there and had the whole Ajiaco experience: the soup, with all its potatoes, chicken, corn, guascas,  cream and capers, with a portion of rice, a piece of aguacate (avocado) and one banano (banana). It was heaven!

My Mom and the Guascas Reconcile

Last time my mom was here in Colombia, she decided to make Ajiaco. After touting hers as the best one on Earth, I talked to her very seriously about the importance of the guascas, the cream and the capers. I told her they were essential to make the delicious potato soup a true Ajiaco. I wasn’t willing to be fooled anymore. She reluctantly made it the way I asked her too. However, after finishing our dishes, she accepted it was really good this way as well.

And you know what? This one has been the best Ajiaco I’ve ever had in Bogotá. It was not only because she made it with all the formal ingredients, but also because it had the most important ingredient of all: my mom’s love.

Have you tried Ajiaco in Bogotá? What do you think about it? Are you an Ajiaco lover just like me? Tell me your experiences with Ajiaco,or with Changua or any other typical dish in Bogotá, in the comments section below!

Keep visiting Colture for more information on gastronomy and typical food in Bogotá.

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