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A Tour of Typical Argentine Food

image of Laura Schneider

Argentine asado. Photo by Laura Schneider

Typical Argentine food is without doubt a topic of great interest for tourists and visitors, but between pastas and meats many people wonder: What is the most typical food of Argentina?

According to Wikipedia in Spanish [es]:

La gastronomía de Argentina se caracteriza y diferencia de las gastronomías del resto de América Latina por grandes aportes europeos. En Argentina se combinan perfectamente, la gastronomía criolla, italiana, española, e incluso algunos pequeños influjos del África subsahariana, debido a los esclavos llevados desde África al territorio que actualmente es Argentina.

The cuisine of Argentina is characterized and different from the cuisines in the rest of Latin America because of great European contributions. In Argentina the iberoamerican, Italian, Spanish, and even some small influences from Sub-saharan Africa, due to the slaves taken from Africa to the territory which is present-day Argentina, blend perfectly together.

In the blog Animales de ruta [es],Guillote asks [es]:

¿Existe la comida tradicional argentina? Esta pregunta ronda mi cabeza desde que empecé con mis viajes a través del mundo conociendo diferentes culturas. Muchos países tienen sus comidas típicas y tradicionales. Pero para empezar el debate, tengo que dar mi punto de vista y/o opinión de qué es la comida tradicional.

La comida tradicional o típica de un país es aquella que se come con regularidad, ya sea en casa o restaurantes caros. También es aquella que se vende en los puestos callejeros, comprada por la clase trabajadora en sus mediodías por ser barata y accesible.

Does traditional Argentine food exist? I've been thinking about this since I started my travels around the world getting to know different cultures. Many countries have their own typical and traditional foods. But in order to start the debate, I have to give my point of view and/or my opinion about what makes up traditional food.

A country's traditional or typical food is that food which is eaten regularly and is found at home or in expensive restaurants. It is also the food which is sold by street venders, and is bought by the working class for their midday meal because it is cheap and available.

The author concludes:

De la lista, la única que (a mi opinión) consideraría comida típica es la empanada: la venden en cualquier lado, la comen todas las clases sociales frecuentemente y es barata

From the list, the only food which (in my opinion) would be considered typical food is the empanada: It is sold everywhere, every social class eats it often, and it's cheap.

The blog Pura gula [es] also commented on empanadas and posted a recipe for empanadas from the Córdoba province [es]:

Las empanadas son una comida típicamente argentina. Tan típicas que cada provincia tiene la suya.

Empanadas are a typical Argentine food. So typical, in fact, that every province has their own version.

Beef empanadas. Image from Pablo Flores on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Beef empanadas. Image by Pablo Flores on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

But for many, Argentine food is associated with the asado [roasted meat]. The asado, a cause for Sunday family get-togethers, a gathering of friends, football games, birthdays, and other festivities, is never lacking on the Argentine table. Even though there are several ways to make it–on the grill or on a spit, for example– in the end an asado is an asado.   

The Blog from NOA [es] presents some alternatives for preparing it:

La cocción a fuego directo es la técnica de cocción más antigua usada por la humanidad. En el campo las dos maneras más tradicionales de preparar son el asado con cuero, bajo tierra, o al aire libre ensartado en asadores o estacas. El asado con cuero es exclusivamente argentino. En el noroeste suele hacerse con carne de llama, un verdadero manjar de los dioses.

Un auténtico asado es el que se realiza con brasas de leña y madera y no con carbón vegetal. Hay quienes consideran un agravio el asar carne con carbón vegetal. Según los cocineros salteños las mejores maderas son las duras. Porque las blandas se queman más rápidamente y no producen buenas brasas.

Cooking by direct fire is the oldest cooking technique used by people. In the country the two most traditional ways to prepare the asado are the asado with hide, under ground, or in the open air inserted onto roasters or spits. The asado with hide is exclusively Argentine. In the northwest it is usually made with llama meat, which is truly a food of the gods.

An authentic asado is one which is made with wood chips and not with charcoal. There are those who consider it offensive to roast meat with charcoal. According to professional chefs the best woods are hard, because soft woods burn too quickly and don't produce good embers.

The Argentine Club of Spit Roasters [es]says that “the asado is friendship,” and shares a video of one of the most traditional methods for making the much sought-after asado:

Concebimos el Asado a la Estaca como un patrimonio cultural y cada estaca, cada costillar es cuidado con el mayor celo profesional, con la mayor dedicación, con el mayor amor y los resultados, están a la vista. No hacemos los “asados mas grandes del mundo”, sino verdaderas obras de arte gastronómico que justifican haberlos hecho durante horas y los disfrutamos al máximo, con buenos vinos y nuestras amistades. – El Asado es Amistad.

We conceived the asado on a spit as a cultural heritage and each spit, each ribcage is cared for with the greatest professional enthusiasm, with the greatest dedication, with the greatest love, and the results are clear to see. We don't make the “biggest asados in the world,” but rather true works of gastronomic art which justify spending hours making them. We enjoy them completely, with good wines and our friends. – The Asado is Friendship

On the other hand, The chef Marcelo España in the blog Mi Mundo en una cocina [es] tells a story about typical foods from the country [es], where she mentions a dish which we can't leave off to the side: milanesas, or breaded beef cutlets:

Se rumorea que los argentinos tenemos el hígado a prueba de balas. Será de tanto comer milanesas con papas fritas, el dúo más exitoso de este lado del Río de la Plata (más que los Pimpinela). Muy simple: es un filete de carne rebozado con huevo y pan rallado que, por algún motivo que la ciencia no ha logrado determinar aún, combina fabulosamente bien con unas papas bien crocantes.  Además es, por lejos, el plato favorito de los niños argentinos.

It is rumored that we Argentines have bulletproof livers. It would be too much to eat breaded beef cutlets with French fries, the most successful duo this side of the Río de la Plata (more successful than Pimpinela [a famous Argentine duo famous for singing romantic songs and their unique style of singing]). It is very simple: It is a fillet of meat dipped in batter with egg and bread crumbs which, for some reason that science still hasn't figured out, combines fabulously well with some crisp fries.  In addition, it is by far the favorite dish of Argentine kids.

In addition, España mentions some typical desserts, like flan (custard) with dulce de leche:

A la hora de los postres, el flan con dulce de leche es el broche de oro de cualquier cena. Se prepara con huevos enteros, leche y azúcar. Aunque dicen que es un invento romano y que el propio César lo degustaba antes de dirigirse al Senado, el flan es argentino por adopción. Pedirlo con dulce de leche resulta una obligación y sumarle crema batida es, casi casi, una perversión.

At dessert time, the flan with dulce de leche is the highlight of any dinner. It is made with whole eggs, milk, and sugar. Even though it is said to be a Roman invention and that Caesar himself tasted it before speaking before the Senate, flan is Argentine by adoption. Ordering it with dulce de leche has become a requirement, and adding whipped cream is nearly a perversion.

On YouTube there are many videos that teach how to prepare typical Argentine recipes. On the Recetas de Tortas YA! [es] channel, sweet preparations are shown, like these alfajores de maicena:

It should be noted that Argentina shares many typical dishes with her neighbors, especially with Chile and Uruguay.

Beyond these, there are many other typical dishes we could mention. What is typical Argentine food to you?

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