Argentina is known as a country obsessed with consuming large quantities of beef, and who can blame them? Their beef is some of the best in the world. However, this reputation is changing, expanding to include a wider range of Argentine cuisine. With the increase of wine tourism in this diverse and fascinating country, tourists are discovering that Argentina is so much more than world class beef.
While the cuisine of Argentina is heavily influenced by the Spanish, the Italian and German immigrants have also helped. It’s not unusual to see Italian pizza or pasta, or German dishes such as a schnitzel (milanesa) on a restaurant menu, alongside empanadas and the famous Argentine barbecue, asado. Nowadays, there is a trend to reclaim and infuse traditional methods and regional ingredients which give a distinct identity to the food in each corner of the country.
Here are some of my favourite traditional Argentinian foods:
Asado – This is the national dish, but it’s not just a dish; it’s an event. Originating from the gauchos (cowboys), the asado brings together friends and families across the country every weekend. This slow cooking method can take hours, from burning the wood down to red hot coals, monitoring the distribution of heat under the grill, and deciding when each cut of meat is ready to be sent to the table. The asador (the person responsible for this dedicated process) rarely sits at the table, rewarded by selecting the best pieces to eat straight from the grill. You can expect to find large cuts of beef, pork, ribs, chorizo, blood sausages, tripe and sweetbreads. All you need to add is chimichurri and a glass of Malbec, and this is Argentina at its best.
Chimichurri – A popular condiment, this green salsa is made of finely chopped parsley, oregano, onion, garlic, chilli pepper flakes, olive oil and lemon or vinegar. It is sometimes used as a marinade and commonly served to accompany any kind of meat.
Empanadas – Popular all across South America, these little pockets of goodness are similar to the British Cornish Pastie. Literally meaning ‘wrapped in bread’, empanadas are an easy meal if you’re on the move. There are as many variations of fillings as there are grandmothers in Argentina. Baked or fried, the most common ingredients include diced beef or mince, onion, boiled eggs, and spices such as cumin. Regional influences are strong; try llama and potato empanadas in the North-west, fish empanadas in the North-East, and lamb empanadas in the South.
Dulce de leche – Argentina’s sprawling countryside provides not only fantastic beef, but also dairy. This helps to produce a much loved and treasured culinary delight: dulce de leche. This is a thick caramel made from fresh milk, sugar and vanilla, reduced slowly until sweet and thick. It is used in alfajores, cakes, desserts, and a national favourite, helado (ice-cream)
Alfajores – Argentina is one of the world’s largest consumers of alfajores – a crumbly, round, shortbread-like biscuit filled with dulce de leche, jam, or chocolate or lemon mousse. Argentines enjoy them at breakfast, dessert or throughout the day, and they are also given as a sign of affection or a souvenir. Try an industrial alfajor covered in chocolate, or a handmade alfajor de maicena – made with cornflour, filled with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut to cover its sticky edges. On your next trip to Argentina make sure you have a box of alfajores tucked away in your bags for your journey home.
These are a small sample of some of the amazing taste sensations that await you when you visit Argentina. With a number of world-class chefs calling Argentina their home, the country is full of restaurants leading the way in culinary creativity. Our guests experience all of these delights, as well as some of the best fine dining and degustation experiences the world has to offer. Come and join us in Argentina and see for yourself.