When Zeidy Pena told her family she was going to open a cafe, they weren’t happy. Pena had a good job at SBS and they said, “How can you quit your job? We spent so much money on your university just so you can do this.”
But Pena was stubborn; she wanted to eat Colombian food again and she was sure she wasn’t the only one. “The community, they were increasing in Australia, and we didn't have a real place to go,” she told Broadsheet.
There was one problem – she didn’t know how to cook professionally, so she got on the phone with her mum Isabel to ask for help.
Almost all of Sydney’s Colombian food comes from one person, Moraima Cohen, a home cook who delivers her food pre-made. When La Herradura opened in December it was serving her food but now only a few of Cohen’s dishes remain, along with Pena’s mum’s cooking. “She moved to Sydney just to help me.”
Isabel’s speciality is cazuela de frijoles, a gravy-like pork, chorizo and red-bean stew that feels hearty enough to sustain the dietary needs of a professional strongman. “That’s my favourite dish; my father is from the region they cook that, in the mountains” says Pena.
Soups are a huge part of the Colombian diet and La Herradura serves sancocho de gallina (coastal-style chicken stew with plantain, potato and cassava), aijaco (chicken and potato stew spiced with a bitter and rare Colombian herb called guascas) and others with tripe, beef ribs (that one’s for curing hangovers) and green bananas.
Usually soup is plated up next to rice and vegetables; here it’s rice and avocado. Some of the Colombian customers eat it separately but others chuck everything in the same bowl and mix it into an even thicker, richer and stodgier mess.
The not-soup section of the Colombian menu (there’s eggs and toast, too) consists solely of tamales and arepas, two popular street snacks. Arepas are a corn or cassava-flour patty baked, split into a pita-pocket-like arrangement and either stuffed with cheese or other things. Here it’s the cheese option, with sides of sour cream, chorizo and salsa made at home by Isabel. Her tamales are made with a corn-based dough and meat that’s steamed in a banana leaf to make a starchy and salty polenta-like snack.
There are also empanadas, cakes and cheese-filled doughnuts, but for something more elaborate, visit on the weekend. You might get a $59 barbeque-meat platter for two, or a slow-cooked flank steak with fresh salsa. Occasionally they’ll serve these to a raucous night crowd backed by a traditional Colombian band.
Coffee is distinctly non-traditional espresso coffee made with beans roasted in and imported from Colombia. In Colombia they drink tinto, a crudely flavoured, often sweetened percolated coffee.
La Herradura Coffee Stable
6 Shepherd Street, Chippendale
(02) 9281 0460
Mon to Fri 7.30am–3pm
Sat to Sun 8.30am–4pm
This is another edition of Broadsheet's Local Knowledge weekly series, where Nick Jordan explores the eateries at the heart of Sydney's different cultural communities. Read more here.