Food & Cuisine in Argentina

The Argentinean cuisine shares more similarities with Spanish, French, Italian and European cuisines rather than with Latin American cuisine. In fact, it is this feature that gives it such a distinct flavour. Certain Argentinean dishes have also been derived from indigeous groups like the Guarani, Quechua and the Mapuche.

Wheat-based dishes with an Italian flavour are hot favourites with people here. In fact, the pizzas made in the ovens of Argentina are more dough-rich than the pizzas made in Italy.

Dishes like the Asado or barbecued meat, empanadas, dulce de leche and yerba maté in addition to Spanish, Italian and French food are found in restaurants across the country.

Argentinean breakfasts are light, while lunches are sumptuous. People here usually eat their lunch in the early afternoons and then dinner is served only after 8.30 or 9.00 pm. Even restaurants do not serve food till dinner time. Teatime snacks such as pastries or ham-and-cheese toasted sandwiches (tostados) are served in restaurants between 6 and 8 pm.

Typical foods

 

Asado / Parrilla

Steak, beef ribs and grilled meat (parrilla) from the asado (a cooking technique that uses multiple varieties of meat) are the favourite staples in Argentina. Some of the other delicacies include morcilla or blood sausage, chorizo or pork sausage, chinchulines or chitterlings, and mollejas or sweetbread. People in Patagonia prefer chivito (goat) and lamb dishes more than beef dishes. Fried meat or schnitzel and breaded meat are often eaten as snacks, stuffed in sandwiches or served with a puree of mashed potatoes. These are generously dipped in a sauce - chimichurri, which is made with herbs, vinegar and garlic.

Dulde de leche is another favourite with Argentineans. This is a sweet paste that is used as fillings in cakes and pancakes, or used to add a full-bodied flavour to ice cream, or relished with crisp, golden toasts. Alfajores, a type of shortbread cookie with a layer of dulce de leche or a fruit extract, is also a great hit with the people of this country. Dulce de batata is another delicacy, made with yam or sweet potato. Fresh fruits are relished too. In fact, Argentina is a major exporter of avocadoes, apples, plums, pears, peaches and kiwifruits.

If you are in Argentina, you must tuck into Empanadas - small pastry crusts filled with cheese, meat, corn or just about anything that is tasty and edible. Empanada Gallega, a variation of this, is a circular meat pie that's cooked with tuna.

Salads and fresh vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, onions, squashes, lettuce and eggplants feature in Argentinean meals.

Picadas

Picadas, which generally accompany alcoholic beverages, are worth tasting. Picadas are actually platters with French fries, olives in brine, cheese, salami, maníes (peanuts), and other equally delicious nuggets.

Pizza and pasta, the staples of Italian meals, are also eaten with gusto. Fresh and piping hot, canelones, fideos, ñoquis, tallarines and raviolis can be bought from shop counters in larger cities.

Sandwiches de miga, another favourite snack, is a delicate sandwich made with crust less white bread, thinly sliced meat, cheese and lettuce. If you feel like munching, you know what to tuck into!

Argentineans have another food fetish - helado (sorbets and ice creams) of the Italian kind. Cool, delicious and fruity, these are an absolute must for those long, hot summer days.

You may want to visit the tea houses in Chubut, which has a large Welsh community. These tea houses are famous for their hot, buttered scones and Torta Galesa or Torta negra which are rich fruitcakes.

Drinks

 

Maté

While the food is absolutely heavenly, the beverages in Argentina are equally exotic. Try the maté a traditional drink made with twigs and dried leaves of the yerba maté plant (Ilex paraguariensis). These plant extracts are placed in a small cup called ‘mate', that's carved out of a horn, gourd or bones. Sweetened with sugar and flavoured with dried orange peel, mate can be sipped through a bombilla, a cane or metal straw. Tea and coffee with a sprinkling of chocolate is also quite popular with people here.

Quilmes, which was first produced in a town called Quilmes in Buenos Aires, is a pale lager that is the national beverage of Argentina.

Aguardiente (firewater), also known as Caña quemada ("burnt cane") or, caña ("cane"), is made with sugar cane and is a popular beverage.

Beverages use a lot of herbs like lanceleaf, peperina, thyme, mallow, passion flower, palán and boldo. Some of the other popular herbs, some of which are medicinal too, are carqueja, poleo, bira bira, muña muña, rosemary, rue, canchalagua, chamomile and palán.