From the Amazon with love: Celebrating food from the Colombian rainforest

I was lucky enough to be in town last month for another one of Mundo Wok‘s excellent gastronomic events. These evenings generally begin with a short presentation about a particular ingredient (like The Yuca Event I attended last year) or in this case, products from a particular region, followed by a 5 course tasting implementing many of those ingredients. Sounds about as good as a night out can get, right? For a food nerd, anyway.

Mundo Wok menu amazon

This event was centred on ingredients from the Amazon. Sure, most of us know that there is a significant amount of rainforest in Colombia – it is after all the second most biodiverse country in the world (Brazil is first) and the most biodiverse per square kilometre –  but did you know that 40% of Colombia is covered by the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest? That is a lot of rainforest!

The Colombian Amazon source: Shadowxfox

The Colombian Amazon, source: Shadowxfox

The Bogota-based ice cream company, Selva Nevada, had its two partners participating in the event; Antonuela Ariza working her magic in the kitchen and Alejandro Álvarez talking to guests about the business of sourcing ingredients from the delicate ecosystem that is the Amazon and the responsibilities that come with it. Selva Nevada specialises in flavours from the rainforest and other parts of Colombia. They work directly with many of the producers in order to ensure supply for their product and provide farmers with the tools to create sustainable livelihoods (more on Selva Nevada in the near future!).

Clearly not news to some, such as the founders of Selva Nevada, but the beauty of the rainforest’s biodiveristy is that it offers such a wide range of products that can be used for culinary purposes. Perhaps it’s due to lack of infrastructure, production techniques or willingness in Colombia that the Amazonian products that grow and are native to the country – the tasty edible things we were gathered at Mundo Wok to learn about – rarely, if ever, make it out of the balmy depths of the forest…this is slowly changing.

Some of the ingredients we were introduced to at Mundo Wok and later sampled in beautifully prepared dishes were copoazú, tucupí, asaí, chontaduro, and camu camu.

I love these names and I love the possibilities of using these ingredients in innovative creations while supporting the indigenous producers of the Amazon in the process. Our chefs that evening did a stand-up job as you can see below.

The spice of life - chill peppers from the Colombian Amazon.

The spice of life – chill peppers from the Colombian Amazon.

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Fresh heart of palm salad with arazá vinaigrette.

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Trio of mushrooms with açai, nettle pesto, and Wai Ya peppers.

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Pork loin with chontaduro and pineapple chicha.

Amazon dessert

Amazonian Sunset: nut sponge cake, chocolate, camu camu pearls, cocoa nibs and copoazú foam.

Special thanks to Mundo WokAntonuela Ariza (Mini-mal and Selva Nevada, Bogotá), Eduardo Martinez (Mini-mal and El Panóptico), Rodrigo Isaza and Jhony Cañas (Herbario – Bonuar, Medellín), and Diana Barrenche (Pídele a Diana, Bogotá) for a job done deliciously well.

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