Published September 2021
Street food represents the most genuine Colombian cuisine. In the street, like nowhere else, you can feel the heat of the grilled arepas or smell the fantastic aroma of a freshly fried empanada. These recipes are not measured according to the elegance of a table set or the sophistication level any haute cuisine dish displays, but rather their skill to seduce by using the perfect seasoning.
The street is where great cooks can promote typical regional dishes and pass on delicious family recipes. Luz Dary Cogollo’s cuisine emerged precisely in this way, bringing ingredients such as yams to Bogotá from the Colombian Caribbean and recipes such as mazamorra (made with white corn, milk, cinnamon, and sugar) and bananas. She also brought her strong desire to explore the exquisite flavors of Andean tubers and the country’s traditional herbs. So much diversity and success conquered their own space at the Mamá Luz restaurant.
A good-humored sign at the entrance sets the tone for the place: the first local rule is that Mamá Luz is always right. It could not be different: after years at the head of Tolú, in the Plaza de la Perseverancia, the chef became a reference, especially in the preparation of soups, which are widely consumed in the country. Her mote de queso, a Caribbean soup made with yams and cheese, and her ajiaco, a famous typical capital dish (broth made with potatoes, chicken, and corn), are among the most popular customers’ options. “I think my kitchen is me, and it is where you find my flavors. I am not a chef who repeats herself; I am a cook who owns my territory. I can take a piece of yucca and mix it with yam and rice in the best way I know, and I prepare it with all the love in the world. It is as if you were getting home”, Luz reflects.
The local biodiversity allows Colombian cuisine to have an incredible variety, exploring the typical ingredients from the Andes, the Amazon, the desert, and the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. One of the most appreciated broths by Colombians, for example, has the Pacific Ocean’s characteristics, as it contains fish and coconut milk. On the other hand, the bandeja paisa is the famous Colombian daily special. It includes rice, beans, fried eggs, ground beef, arepas, avocado, chicharrón (a kind of pork rind), and plátano (a type of banana chips). Unlike Argentinian empanadas, which are baked, Colombian empanadas are fried and filled with meat, cheese, or corn.