Congratulations to meat, pasta and ice cream lovers!
But Argentine cuisine is not just that, my friends. Argentine gastronomy is varied and differs a lot from south to north. It is the Latin American country with the most European influence in its dishes - Italian and Spanish - but native roots are also preserved. The latter is especially noticeable in the northwest. So, to pizza, pasta and meat, we must add tamales or humitas, for example. But if something deserves to be highlighted above all in this great country is the culture of mate. Mate to wake up, mate for breakfast, mate before lunch, mate after lunch, mate to wake up from nap, mate at snack time, mate for dinner, mate before going to bed. Any excuse is good to share with people.
Learning to "cebar" mate.
Let's review some of the typical dishes and drinks in the gaucho country. Let’s start with meat, as it is one of the countries that consumes (and produces) the most meat in the world.
Note. The videos shown here are in Spanish.
There are many varieties and cuts of meat, but these are, perhaps, the most representative.
ASADO ARGENTINO (ROAST ARGENTINE MEAT)
Everyone knows about the quality of meat in Argentina. Especially bovines. Well, if you add the method they use to make them in the roasts the result is formidable. The technique of cooking on the coals from a distance (a distance greater than that used in other countries), takes a long time… But the result is worth it: the meat is juicy. There is no hurry in Argentina. In fact, waiting times are the best! The Argentines take the opportunity to drink some mates while they catch up.
One of the star dishes in the south of the country. It is also done on the coals, slowly, but I have set it aside because it is typical of Patagonia, while the rest of meats are more easily found throughout the territory.
This is how they prepare lamb in southern Argentine. And my brother wants to get one.
BIFE DE CHORIZO (ENTRECOTE)
This dish is responsible for my father not trying much the Argentine flavors. He asked for it the first day he got to the country, and he liked it too much. There was no way to get him out of his bife! It is a fillet of the anterior dorsal part (intercostal) of the cow, kind of an entrecote. It is cooked on the grill and seasoned with a mixture of wine, rosemary and salt that has previously been let to rest for several hours.
Bife de chorizo!
With this recipe we end meats. Thin fillet, usually beef or chicken (but can also be fish, soy, eggplant ...), breaded (egg and bread crumbs), and fried. There are two ways to consume it: on a plate, which comes with a garnish such as salad, mashed potatoes or French fries; or as a Milanese sandwich (they are so big that with one of those you have already eaten for the whole day).
PIZZAS AND PASTAS
The Italian gene is shown in the very rich and varied pastas they have in the country. Some of the most popular recipes are the following.
FIDEOS (NOODLES) WITH TUCO
Tagliatelle with a tomato, onion and carrot sauce. And a lot of meat if you want! Watch the recipe (with no meat):
SORRENTINOS OF HAM AND CHEESE
Circular pasta stuffed with ham and mozzarella, whose birth seems to have taken place in Argentina itself (in Sorrento, a restaurant in Buenos Aires). Now it is a classic of Argentine pasta.
As in Chile, they have a tradition of eating gnocchi on the 29th of each month. This pasta made with potatoes can be eaten in different ways. For example, with a Bolognese sauce or with a four-cheese sauce. The origin dates back to the late nineteenth century, a time of scarcity in northwestern Italy, where the crisis triggered the prices of wheat, which was replaced by the wonderful potatoes.
HUMITAS AND TAMALES
The fact of finding corn is synonymous with being close to the Andean culture of countries such as Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador... and the Chilean and Argentinean north. Highly consumed in the provinces of Salta and Jujuy, humitas and tamales consist of masses of corn lightly seasoned, wrapped and cooked in the own leaves of corn. Some differences 1) While the humita is usually fresh corn, grated and crushed in the mortar, the tamale is usually made with corn flour. 2) Tamales may contain other ingredients (including meat), and may be wrapped in leaves of other plants (such as banana, avocado, bijao or maguey) during cooking. In addition, they vary greatly from one region and from one country to another (there are even sweet tamales). Thus, the Argentine tamal is traditionally made from corn flour and anco pumpkin (a variety of pumpkin), stuffed with beef or chicken, raisins, olives, eggs and seasonings. If you have the chance, visit Chicoana (Salta) in the first week of August to witness the National Tamal Festival.
Delicious humitas in Tucuman.
Just delicious. Although they are consumed throughout the country, the northwest ones stand out, where they are considered gastronomic patrimony. There are different ways to prepare them according to the province (and the region). Empanadas salteñas, jujeñas, tucumanas, cordobesas, riojanas... In each province the ingredients vary: beef, chicken, mondongo (guts), South American camelids (lama, guanaco), potato, onion, chili, garlic, olives... Do not miss this recipe:
The cook does not look very happy, but she is an artist making empanadas!
Distinctive stamp of the Argentine culture. You can not visit Argentina without trying this (bitter) infusion. Moreover, you need to do it in a group. Never say no when someone hands you one! It is amazing how this beautiful tradition in which an infusion is shared as if it were the pipe of peace is so present in every corner of the country's culture (it is also consumed a lot in Uruguay, Paraguay, southern Bolivia, Brazil and even Chile). Argentines drink mate all the time and take it everywhere (I would say that some have a problem ...). It is funny see how many Argentines backpackers, who do without some gear and clothes to walk lighter, piggybacking, however, the whole mate equipment (yerba mate, thermo, bowl and straw). Yerba mate – it contains caffeine –, is a digestive, purifying and preserving infusion of the organism (contains antioxidants). You can find more information about its potential benefits here (only in Spanish): https://www.plantas-medicinales.es/yerba-mate-antioxidante-digestivo-adelgazante-y-mas/. Although there is a debate about who started using mate first (Uruguayans and Argentines boast about this herb in equal parts), the truth is that this plant is native to the basins of the Paraná, Paraguay and Uruguay rivers, and it has already been used thousands of years ago by several native ethnic groups of Tupi-Guaraní origin (the Avá, the Mbyá, the Ñandevá, the Kaiowa...). In Brazil and some parts of Paraguay they have a variety called tereré, which instead of being drunk hot is drunk cold. The bitter taste is due to the tannins contained in its leaves. I counteracted it with sugar, which some locals do as well. But the real Argentine drink it as it is. And without stopping. To finish with the mate, I would like to share something that the anthropologist Daniel Vidart said: "Mate is more than just a drink. It is a tradition that overcomes the isolationist customs of the Creole and matches the social classes... and through the times, it is the mate who made the wheel of friends, and not the wheel who brought the mate. And not only that, in turn is also a symbol for anyone who moves away from his native country (Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, some states of Brazil and Bolivia) and finds in him a remembrance and a link with his land."
Any time is good for a matecito
A lot of wine production in Argentina. The red wines from the region of Mendoza and the white ones from Cafayate stand out (do not forget to go from winery to winery in your visit to Cafayate: free tastings!). The Malbec red wine bears the seal of Cultural, Food and Gastronomic Argentinean Heritage.
Long live wine!
Bitter alcoholic beverage made from various types of herbs (myrrh, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, oregano and saffron, among others), which are macerated in wine alcohol, and subsequently filtered and aged in oak barrels for a period that can be go from six to twelve months. It has a dark color, an intense aroma and its alcohol content is between 39 and 45 degrees, depending on the brand. Originally it was only a digestive drink, but nowadays it is usually served as an appetizer, as a digestive after a meal or even for partying. Although it can be consumed pure, given its flavor and alcohol content, it is usually drunk combined (especially coke).
Argentina also has delicious craft beers. The best ones that I tried are in the Lakes region. In El Bolsón there is a lot of tradition.
How happy beer makes me!
DULCE DE LECHE AND ALFAJORES
The dulce de leche was my undoing in Argentina, and that is why it is also known as manjar in Peru and Chile (it also receives other names such as cajeta in Mexico or arequipe in Colombia and Venezuela). This is a traditional sweet made in many areas of Latin America, which is merely a caramelized variant of milk: milk, sugar and vanilla essence. But what a delicious and sweet variant! In Argentina they eat it directly from the can, spread on bread, or in desserts. Among these, the alfajores stand out. The Muslims brought them to Spain (then Al-Andalus), and the Spaniards spread them throughout Latin America in the colonial period. But nowhere, as far as I know, are they as popular as in Argentina. Its name comes from the Arabic Hispanic al-hasú which means 'the filling'. They consist of two or more cookies joined by a sweet filling and usually dipped in chocolate, icing or powdered sugar. In Argentina, the filling is usually made with dulce de leche, but it can also be made of fruit candies such as quince (alfajor cordobés). Look and learn how to make them:
The Italian influence is felt in the Argentine ice cream, an authentic delight. In Villa La Angostura there are many artisan ice cream shops where I tried the best ice cream of my life. I just could not stop eating ice cream (like three ice creams a day). In addition that they are very good, the range of flavors is infinite and original: tomato, wine, calafate. By the way, Argentina is the country where most ice cream is consumed in the world.