You’ve already seen some of the typical Colombian dishes: the bandeja paisa, a generous dish served in the capital of Antioquia, and the ajiaco, a tasty and creamy chicken soup created between Boyaca and Bogota. Now we’ll go to Tolima, one of the 32 departments in Colombia known for its extravagant and tasty food. The typical dish of Tolima is the “lechona”. You’ll notice that it’s one of the meatiest dishes and, without a doubt, one you should try every time you come to Colombia.

What’s Lechona?

You’re walking down the street in the middle of Ibague, the capital of Tolima, and, all of the sudden, you see a giant roasted pig with its mouth open. Someone with a big spoon is taking plate after plate of pork and peas out of the pig’s belly and people look with delight at the spectacle. That’s a lechona, the typical dish of Tolima: a roasted pig skin and head stuffed with pulled pork and peas. The pork has been marinated with chopped onion, garlic, salt, pepper and cumin, and the peas are mixed with lard and chopped onion.

The pig you see on many restaurants in Tolima has been roasted for 13 hours. Some recipes say that you should roasted for 6 hours and others say 20 hours. If you try it in Bogota, you’ll see that the stuffing also has rice. The traditional preparation involves a clay oven and the lechona is served with a side of arepa and curd made of brown sugar and corn dough. Pretty wild mix of ingredients, isn’t it?

What’s The Story Behind It?

As many Colombian dishes, the modern recipe is a result of something the Spaniards brought mixed with the Colombian touch. It’s said that the Spaniards took the dish from the Arabic culture, but, initially, it didn’t have any stuffing. Instead, it was just a roasted small pig or “cochinillo”. When it came to Colombia, locals decided to use peas -which are used in almost every Colombian dish- and gave the pork a twist. Add to that the piece of curd and the arepa and you’ll have the classic Colombian tasty dish.

Where Can I Get It?

As we mentioned before, the Colombian lechona has two versions: the one cooked and served in Tolima, with a stuffing of pork and pea, and the one served in Bogota, with a stuffing that adds rice and potatoes to the mix. For you to have an idea of both versions, we’ll suggest two restaurants: one located in Ibague and the other located in Bogota.

Boqueron

This is the perfect place to try the traditional lechona from Tolima. Not only does it have a ton of history -because it was founded 60 years ago- but it also represents the pride of Tolima´s culture. Aside from the lechona plate (which costs around 2 and 3 dollars) you can take a can of lechona, the innovative way of taking Tolima to every part of the world. Simply, you can’t miss it. You can find it in the highway between Ibague and Armenia.

Donde Pacheco

There’s a neighborhood in Bogota where you can find over two dozens of lechona restaurants. Olaya, located in the South of Bogota, is the place to be for lechona lovers. And you can choose any restaurant and you’ll be satisfied. However, if you want to taste the absolute best, you have to eat at “Donde Pacheco”. The plate is bigger than you would expect, the taste is from other world and the cost can go up to 4 dollars. Now that you know, nothing will stop you from enjoying a plate of lechona!