In the vast plains of Colombia, a region known for its natural beauty and rich culture, you’ll find a culinary gem called “La Mamona,” also known as “ternera a la llanera” or “roasted calf.” This authentic and flavorful dish is a testament to the tradition and culinary skill of the Colombian llaneros.
The heart of this delicacy begins with the sacrifice of a “criollo” calf. What makes La Mamona unique is the age of the animal used. Specifically, a “mamona” is a calf that is still nursing, typically around 9 months old. This choice of young meat contributes to the distinctive flavor and texture of La Mamona.
The Preparation of La Mamona
The process of preparing La Mamona is an art in itself. The calf is broken down into a variety of cuts, each with its own characteristics. Some cuts include the rump, heron, bear, branding irons, chickens, chocozuelas, black pulps, hocks, shoulders, loins, ribs (which are split into two and called cachamas), breasts (when left whole, they are called caiman), and entreverao. The choice of cuts and their preparation can vary depending on the style and preferences of the Mamona grill master or specialist.
Simplicity in Seasoning
A key feature of true La Mamona is its simplicity when it comes to seasonings. The meat is seasoned only with salt and slow-cooked, either over a charcoal or wood fire or in an oven at 300°C (572°F). There are no complicated marinades or elaborate seasonings used, allowing the natural flavor of the meat to shine.
The Art of Grilling
Grilling La Mamona is a task that requires patience and skill. The meat is skewered on large stakes and placed around a campfire or leaned into a hot oven. It cooks for several hours, with the fat side out, allowing it to brown and develop a crispy exterior while remaining juicy and flavorful on the inside.
La Mamona is typically served with two traditional accompaniments: yuca (cassava) and ripe plantains. The yuca is cooked with salt and a wild cilantro leaf, while the ripe plantains are cooked until tender and sweet. These elements complement the richness of the roasted meat and add a delicious balance to the meal.
The Pleasure of La Mamona
La Mamona is not just a meal; it’s a culinary and cultural experience that celebrates the tradition and authenticity of the Colombian llanos. Every bite of La Mamona is a testament to the passion the llaneros have for their land and heritage. Whether enjoyed at a family gathering, among friends, or at festive events, La Mamona is a dish that brings people together and allows them to share the joy of good food and company.
La Mamona is a culinary gem of Colombia that represents the essence of the llanos, their culture, and their love for roasted meat. Each time you savor this authentic dish, you are celebrating the tradition and culinary heritage of a region that is unique in the world.