• Bondi eatery El Indio specialises in corrientazo – along with other kinds of South American street food. (El Indio)Source: El Indio
El Indio serves wholesome, house-made street food that brings the soul of South American dining culture to life.
Neha Kale

28 Feb 2020 - 12:39 PM  UPDATED 28 Feb 2020 - 12:46 PM

There are few rituals as synonymous with Colombia as sitting down to savour a corrientazo. Often, you'll see workers in cities like Bogotá or Cali or Medellin punctuate the middle of their days by tucking into some combination of meat, beans, rice and plantains.

These wallet-friendly meals are often dished up by family-run eateries with just a handful of items on their menu and speedy, unfussy service.

The corrientazo, Spanish for "electric charge", dates back to an era a few centuries ago, where men would refuel each day with a hearty lunch – and, if you were lucky, a siesta. But they're still an important part of daily life.

The corrientazo, Spanish for "electric charge", dates back to an era a few centuries ago, where men would refuel each day with a hearty lunch.

Bondi eatery El Indio specialises in corrientazo – along with other kinds of South American street food. 

Camilo Reyes, who founded it in late 2017 with his brother Peter, says, "[At El Indio], we have eight options for the corrientazos including vegan and vegetarian versions. They include [toppings like] pork, lamb, shredded beef, chorizo, rice with a little bit of feta cheese and sauce on top.

"My brother and I came up with the idea for El Indio – we had a business importing fresh roses but wanted to cook again. We wanted our own place rather than work for someone else."

"You get a whole meal which is home-made, tasty and made with love."

At El Indio, you can order corrientazo with toppings such as chimichurri, salsa verde and sweet plantains. All the dishes at El Indo are made fresh and grown locally although the plantains – a staple of South American cuisine – are imported from a banana-growing region in Colombia. 

"We love plantains, they are super common in South America," Reyes grins.

You can also choose from a selection of arepas including The Queen, a concoction of slow-cooked cold chicken, avocado, black beans, queso fresco and picadito and the less traditional Don Ovejo, stuffed with mint, feta, grilled eggplant and tzatziki and slow-cooked lamb.

"Arepas are a type of Indigenous food from the north of South America," says Reyes, who adds that El Indo also offers Agua de Panela, sugarcane juice topped with lemon and mint and Ponymalta, a malt-based Colombian beverage along with a series of small-batch wines. 

"We thought they would be amazing to serve it with slow-cooked meat and sauce that [we make] on the site."

The Reyes brothers also make desserts from scratch. These include olguitos, a piquant Colombian lemon dessert, a dulce de leche cheesecake and tres leches, a pillowy sponge cake soaked overnight with three different types of milk.

The Reyes brothers also make desserts from scratch.

The decadent cake, often enjoyed on special occasions, represents a point of connection for the food cultures of South America, a region shaped by various customs and histories. 

"Tres leches is made with full-fat milk, condensed milk and evaporated milk but at El Indio, we also add dulce de leche," says Reyes, who has tentative plans to offer breakfast on the weekends. 

"We make it in Colombia, but they also have it in Venezuela, the Chileans have one, the Argentineans have one – it varies depending on the country. It’s not often that you would eat it, but it is a very special thing."

Love the story?  Follow the author on Instagram @nehakale and Twitter @neha_kale.

El Indio
222 Campbell Parade, North Bondi
Daily, Tues-Thurs 5pm-10pm
Sat 11am-10pm
Sun 11am-8pm

Try a cheesy hot chocolate on World Chocolate Day
An unlikely pairing of chocolate and salty cheese makes for one of the best winter drinks and is actually a Colombian specialty.
Switch things up with breakfast at Arepa Days
The owners of Colombian cafe Sonido! have opened a second location in Preston, complete with an arepa lab.
A Colombian cafe in an aquatic centre? Si!
With cheesy arepas, Colombian new potatoes and maracuyá fruit, El Toucan Cafe is making a splash at a Melbourne pool complex.
These pastries are really just an excuse to eat Colombia’s next-level caramel
Richer. Thicker. And down-right delicious.
Colombian black cake (torta negra Colombiana)

This is Colombia’s version of a rich fruit cake. Dense with prunes, raisins and figs, generously spiked with both rum and port, and cleverly flavoured with aromatic spices, it is hard to stop at one piece. Traditionally dulce quemado (sweet burnt brown sugar), either homemade or bought, is used to sweeten this cake, but molasses makes a perfectly acceptable substitute as I've done in this recipe. 

Corn cakes stuffed with shredded beef, black beans and rice (arepas rellenas)

There is an astounding array of arepas (corn cakes) available across South America, from the Colombian versions, which are thinner and wider, cooked on a griddle and topped with a range of ingredients, to this Venezuelan version. It consists of thicker arepas, which are halved and then layered with fillings, in a similar way to a sandwich.

Colombian vegetable soup (sopa de verduras colombiano)

Despite the tropical weather, in many parts of Colombia soups remain a popular part of the food culture. This recipe for richly flavoured vegetarian soup is quick to prepare and freezes well. Feel free to omit the pureeing stage if you prefer a chunkier soup.