By Briana Seftel
No trip to Argentina would be complete without feasting on some of its finest culinary pleasures: meat, meat and more meat. Okay, so you know Argentina is a meat lover’s paradise, but did you know the country has a passion for food and eating that is unparalled elsewhere in South America? Dining out is a social activity in Argentina, which is why you'll need to know what exactly to order when you get there.
Being that Argentina has the highest consumption of red meat in the world, unless you don’t eat meat, you simply cannot visit Argentina without trying asado, or mixed grill. You’ll find restaurants on every corner serving expertly grilled beef, sausages and more - what is served is really the chef’s choice. Asado, which refers to the cooking of the meat as well as the coming together to share the meal, can last an entire afternoon. Gathered in a parilla, or steakhouse, friends and family enjoy their meal with a glass of Malbec.
Found on every dinner table in Argentina, chimichurri is a spicy, tart sauce of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, chiles, parsley and oregano. Brought by Basque immigrants in the 19th century, chimichurri is most commonly served as a topping for grilled meats but can also be eaten with a number of other dishes like empanadas and sandwiches.
Argentina’s king of all snacks has to be the empanada. These half moon-shaped pies can be fried or baked and stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables. Dating back to the 13th century, empanadas were first brought by the Spanish settlers to Argentina. You can find them everywhere - just make sure you order more than one!
A sandwich named for its two main ingredients (chorizo and bread or pan), choripan is a popular street food and snack to eat while watching a Boca soccer match. Handmade pork and beef chorizo sausage is butterflied, grilled on a hot parilla and served on a crusty roll with chimichurri, tomato salsa, or any of a number of other condiments.
When you need a break from all that meat, try alfajores. Popular all over South America, these bite-sized treats consist of dulce de leche sandwiched between two butter cookies and rolled in coconut, powedered sugar or chocolate. Paired with a strong coffee, you won't find a better afternoon pick-me-up.
With a strong Italian influence in Argentina’s culture and cuisine, one of the most common dishes you’ll find is milanesa, a thin piece of meat pounded out until thin, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. It can be served with fried or mashed potatoes, topped with a fried egg (known as milanesa a caballo or milanesa riding horseback), or eaten cold as a sandwich filling.
Argentina’s national dish is locro, served on May 25 to celebrate the May Revolution which marked the beginning of independence in Argentina. A hearty stew of squash, meat, and hominy, it’s delicious any time of the year. Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru have similar versions of locro as well.
Think melted cheese, but 100 times better. Provoleta, as the name would suggest, is a thick slice of provolone-type cheese cooked over coals until browned and bubbling. Served as an appetizer with bread, think of this dish as Argentina’s answer to fondue. It usually precedes a meal of asado and is served with chimichurri on the side.
No social event in Argentina is complete without mate, an herbal drink made from the dried leaves of the rainforest yerba mate tree. Making and drinking mate is practically a religious experience for Argentinians, so don’t miss out!