When you’re in Colombia and you want to grab a quick lunch, you’ll probably be having a plato of something delicious. In our experience so far in Medellín, a plato has been: a plate of white rice, lettuce, tomato, carrots, and arepas (a kind of corn tortilla), with a big portion of a bean soup. Since the soup is really the exciting part of meal, we started calling this soup plato soup.
Traditionally, this soup is made with a huge hunk of meat in it, usually pork. In fact, when we were at a roadside restaurant in Parque Arví, we ordered the plato, but very specifically without meat. A vegetarian in South America can dream, right? We each received a big plate of rice, plantains, arepas, and a steaming bowl of pig knuckle bean soup. Apparently pig knuckle doesn’t count as meat.
So they took our bowls away, pulled the knuckles out, and brought us a “meat-free” version of the soup. Since neither of us just fell of the pig knuckle truck yesterday, we knew we were still eating a pork bean soup. But sometimes as traveling vegetarians, you just have to look the other way. After all, we were about to go on a multi-hour hike and we needed those beans for protein! That’s right all ye mums and dads of vegetarian children. Don’t worry, we’re getting our protein (and those beans plus the corn arepas means we just loaded up on create complete amino acids). As our friends gorged on pork chops, chorizo, and steak, we stuffed ourselves silly with our platos and soup and then had no trouble hauling ourselves up that mountain.
So in honor of our pig knuckle platos, I bring you this fancier, though truly vegetarian version (actually, vegan) of the soup.
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 1.5 hours
Serves: oh man, so many people. Maybe 8?
What You Need
- 1 large plantain, mature, chopped
- 2 large potatoes, cubed
- 2 large heirloom tomatoes, cubed
- 1 carrot, shredded or thin dice
- 1 small leek, rinsed well and chopped
- 3 cups fresh pinto beans (or 3 cans of beans of your choice)
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- 2 bouillon cubes (optional)
- 1 TSP salt (or as you like it)
- 1 TSP crushed red pepper
- 1 TBS cumin
- roughly 10 cups water? (several cups, use your discretion)
- fresh cilantro
What You Do
- Cook your rice. While the rice is cooking, start everything else.
- Wash the fresh beans and check them for quality. Toss them in a soup pot with enough water to cover them and 2 inches more. Boil, covered.
- In the mean time, peel and cube your potatoes.
- When the beans are almost soft, toss in the potatoes and add enough water to cover the potatoes by 2 inches.
- Prep the rest of the veg (plantain, tomatoes, carrot, leek) and set aside.
- Sautee the carrots and leek in a frying pan with a little oil until they are soft. Cover and steam a little if need be.
- When the potatoes and beans are soft, toss in the carrot & leek, plantain, tomato, cumin, bouillon (optional), salt, and crushed red pepper.
- Add enough water to give the pot a soup consistency, not a stew consistency.
- Bring to a boil then simmer low for about 30 minutes.
- Using a masher, mash some of the beans and potatoes so that the broth becomes a little thicker. Some people set aside beans or potatoes and do this in a blender, but I am lazy and this method works well for me.
- When the plantains are a lovely golden color and the tomatoes are soft, it’s done.
- Serve in a bowl with a small plate of rice on the side.
- Garnish with lime wedges, avocado slices, and cilantro.