As anyone who has been lucky enough to take an Argentina tour will know, this is a country that loves its food. When you think of Argentine dining you inevitably think of huge steaks and great wine but there is more to it than that.
Argentine food has a strong European influence, with pasta and pizza also being very popular and good thanks to Italian immigrants. Let us take you on an Argentina tour as seen through its cuisine.
One of the more popular Argentine eating experiences is the Parilla, pronounced parishaa which is essentially a large grill or barbeque on which are placed frightening amounts of beef, kidney, black pudding and sausage. These meats are also often added to heavy stews, such as Locro which is a stew made of pork, white beans and sweet corn, or Carbonado which is a stew of beef, fresh vegetables, apples and peaches. Many cities have restaurants called “tenedor libre” which literally means “free fork”, advertising an all you can eat buffet. These are very heavy on the meat in the Parillada section and you will often have difficulty walking afterwards!
Chimichurri – the Sauce of Argentina
In some areas of Argentina, lamb and goat are more popular than beef. These dishes are often accompanied by chimichurri which is a sauce made from herbs, garlic and vinegar. Due to the relatively delicate palate of most Argentines, their chimichurri does not usually include spicy chili as is the case in many other South American countries.
Argentines also have favorite snacks such as sweet corn patties known as humitas, pastries stuffed with a variety of ingredients such as minced meat, chicken, ham or cheese, and tamales which are tortillas made of cornmeal and filled with meat. Other popular choices are stuffed rolled beef which is known as matambre relleno and sandwiches de miga which are made with buttered bread with no crusts, thinly sliced cured meats such as ham, cheese and lettuce.
Argentina tour of sweets and desserts
Argentines, along with most of us, like sweets and the most common one is called “dulce de leche” which is made by heating milk and sugar together to create a caramel-like sauce. This can then be spread on bread, biscuits and used to fill cakes as well as being a very popular flavor of ice-cream. Other sweets include the dulce de membrillo which is basically cheese with a paste that is made of a fruit similar to a pear and dulce de batata which is made from sweet potatoes and yams and combined with cheese.
The Italian influence in Argentine cuisine is found in the popularity of pizza and pasta. However, these dishes have an Argentine twist with the pizza being more like calzones and the pastas are cooked “al dente” and covered with thick sauces that are more like stews than a light sauce. Italian-style ice-cream is also popular and is often served in large ice-cream parlors and drive-through businesses.
Mate de Yerba- Argentina´s national drink
A very popular, and culturally important, beverage which you will see people drinking all over the country is called “mate”, with the accent on the first syllable. Mate is made from the dried leaves and twigs of the “yerba mate” plant. These leaves and twigs are placed in a gourd to which hot water is added below boiling point so as not to burn and spoil the flavor of the herb. Mate is often sweetened with sugar, dried orange peel or other aromatic herbs to hide its normally bitter taste and is sipped through a metal or cane straw. An Argentine ritual is to share a single mate between everyone at a family or social gathering, with the gourd being returned to the host after each guest has finished. The host then prepares the mate again according to the individual preferences of each person.
Visit vineyards on your Argentina tour
Argentina is synonymous with red wine which is produced all over the country in many different regions. This subject is such a varied one that we can deal with that in another article. As you travel Argentina you will have a superb culinary experience especially if you are an avid carnivore and enjoy red wine, make sure you include plenty of active days in your itinerary so you can work off the excess that is sure to accumulate! They do also make some great white wine but it is the red that is king.