The Choriperro

Another misadventure in American food abroad

November 11, 2019

Filed under: colombia

Our inability to resist the temptation to try clearly awful interpretations of American food will probably become a regular feature on here. After eating a decent, though small, meal in the backpacker neighborhood of Cartagena, we were intrigued by food carts outside in the plaza. There was a huge crowd around one stand that was selling some weird pile of food which, as far as we could tell, consisted of a chopped hot dog, ham, chicken, beef, those weird potato chip shards/fries, melted cheese, many sauces, and probably more. Standing there watching the hoards of gringos and locals clamor for their piles, we decided that we probably were not going to be able to finish such a plate of food, so we moved on.

We continued to wander the plaza, finding many iterations of arepas, fresh-squeezed juices (some even Jesus-endorsed), ice cream, cervezas, and more on sale. We had an incredibly difficult time trying to choose what snack we would end our evening with before just deciding that we should go with a safe option of arepas. As we walked to the arepas cart we could not help but notice a cart selling insane hot dogs (known here as perros caliente, perros americano, and hot dogs). These hot dogs were split down the middle and grilled on a griddle before being topped with easter basket lettuce (term trademarked by Brian Green), potato chip shards, three sauces, and grilled/melted cheese.

Now it’s important to note we had been resisting roadside-grilled sausages for 3 weeks at this point. We saw them all over Bogota and just minutes before had said “no, gracias” to a vendor a mere 10 yards away from this vendor. Plus we have not eaten a hot dog in more than a year thanks to a very terrifying Guardian longread about cured meats. There was no discussion about whether we should get the insane hot dog - the answer was clearly no.

But then we saw on the menu a “choriperro.” We later learned that we both assumed different things about this item. Tiffany assumed it was like Mexican chorizo; not her favorite sausage but after weeks in Colombia where pretty much no food is spicy sounded like a great option. Brian thought it was going to be like an Argentinian choripan - a delicious, also spicy, sausage sandwich with chimichurri that we had been looking forward to since deciding to go to Argentina. Whatever our reasons, the stars aligned and we decided to order a choriperro.

We watched in horror as the lady grabbed what looked like a normal, albeit gigantic, hot dog to grill on the griddle. She was also making many other people’s orders, so it kind of became a blur of sizzling and sauce application and potato shards everywhere. But reader, you should know, we regretted ordering the choriperro the very moment the vendor started making it.

Eventually we got our choriperro monstrosity and headed to a curb to sit down and attempt to eat it. There was so much of everything. The bun was gigantic, the sausage was huge, there were three sauces (though we could not identify a single one), there were potato shards and easter basket lettuce™ cascading everywhere, and that layer of melted cheese covering all of this. The flavor wasn’t necessarily bad; mostly it was just confusing. It didn’t even taste like the sum of its parts. Somehow everything became more muted in combination with one another. And what was the point of the easter basket lettuce™??? We had unhinged our jaws and our minds for this?!

At the end of this ordeal, there was one piece of good news. Though it looked very much like a hot dog, it was not! It was some weak version of spicy-ish sausage. Also it cost us less than $3 for a several minutes of entertainment, a mediocre blog post, and a full stomach. So two pieces of good news.

Upon reflection, we appreciate the culinary chances and experimentation that Cartagena’s street food vendors are taking with American staples. We can only assume that poor, drunken backpackers love this kind of stuff. Also, what is more American than an overloaded, semi-fusiony, low quality, junk food masquerading as a full meal? So at the end of the day we will probably look back at the choriperro with fond and amusing memories... except for those potato shards. Tiffany continued to find those wretched potato shards in her shoes for another 12 hours.