My Favorite Colombian Sweet

Christina Stockamore, our colleague at National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations, recently returned from a family reunion in Colombia, and naturally, she brought us treats. After we sampled them, we wanted the full story….not to mention another bite.

When in Colombia, I often sneak into my aunt’s pantry to find the tin of José A. Obleas cookies and the tub of Alpina arequipe. In the corner of the kitchen, I quietly savor my wafer sandwich filled with a spread made from whole milk and sugar. 

The arequipe spread is similar to dulce de leche and this creamy caramel glues together two thin, circular wafer cookies, called obleas, to create a dessert by the same name. Obleas are so light and crunchy that it’s easy to eat 3 or 4 without noticing! I asked a friend to describe the taste she said it reminded her of McDonald’s cake cones on the outside and melted Werthers candies on the inside. (Mmm.) The outer wafer shell is often paired with other spreads, such as guava, raspberries, and whipped cream.

No trip to Colombia is complete without a quick stop to the local grocery store to stock up on more tins and more tubs. Traveling back from a recent reunion in Colombia, I had a tight connection in the Fort Lauderdale airport. I raced through the security checkpoint and realized I forgot to put a very special (over 4 fluid ounces) liquid in my checked bag – my arequipe. I rolled my eyes and walked grudgingly over to the security agent. He looked puzzled when he inspected it, while I explained that it was arequipe, my favorite caramel spread from Colombia. I must have given him a convincing look because the next thing I knew, he glanced cautiously from side to side and then proceeded to slowly return the contents in my bag. What a relief!

Now I just need to find a Colombian market in the neighborhood to replenish my pantry back home. 

Photo: Kate McCormack