When seeking fabulous food in South America, you could do worse than Argentina. A rich history and stunning landscape make it a vibrant place to travel. Argentinian’s are some of the friendliest people in the world, sharing their stories and traditions with eager visitors. Choosing from so many delicious dishes can be daunting, so we have summarised five experiences in Argentina that every foodie must enjoy while visiting this colourful country.
Argentinian cuisine is diverse and delicious. Whether through an authentic Asado or Mate-drinking ritual, the best way to immerse yourself in the culture is getting involved with the locals.
1. Enjoy a Local Argentinian Asado
The Asado is a rite of passage in Argentina. From cosmopolitan, bustling Buenos Aires to the sparsely populated Pampas, it’s never not en vogue. Dating back to the mid-19th century, this humble BBQ shaped Gaucho culture.
Despite advances in modern cooking techniques, wild cattle and open fire remain the order of the day. The Asado is truly cemented into local life. At weekends, adults and children spill out onto residential streets, bonding over embers late into the night.
TAKEAWAY: It’s about much more than a simple BBQ. The Asado represents cultural connectivity; bringing together family and friends, old and new. From succulent steak to tasty chorizo, and perfect pork to luscious lamb, meat-eaters are in heaven.
For the veggies, crisp salads and colourful roasted vegetables adorn plates accompanied by crusty bread. Not forgetting, of course, a bottle of Mendoza’s finest Malbec. Check out this video to see how to prepare an authentic Asado in Buenos Aires.
2. Prepare and Drink Mate with Friends
No matter where you hang your hat in Argentina, you’ll soon spot the sea of colourful flasks and decorated cups clutched by passing locals. These items are crucial to the successful imbibing of Mate; a ritual enjoyed by Argentines, country-wide. People carry the flasks and cups around like a child carries a favourite toy. Argentinians perform the ritual in parks, on beaches, and street corners morning, noon and night. Preparation is as important, if not more so, as the consumption itself.
Mate cups (just called Mate), the bombillas (straws) and Yerba Mate leaves are sold all over Argentina. While the leaves don’t look that appetising – think dried-out green tobacco – the drink itself is pleasant. It has a smoky, woody taste and the caffeine in the leaves packs a punch. Sourcing your own equipment and setting up the ritual is easy. However, if you are lucky enough to be invited by the locals to drink Mate with them, go for it. In Argentine culture, it is considered impolite to refuse.
3. Satisfy your Sweet Tooth with Dulce de Leche
Toast. Pancakes. Bananas. Ice cream. Coffee. A spoon… Dulce de leche, the addictive caramel sauce, goes with everything. Commonly found as a staple of hostel breakfasts across Argentina, this sickly-sweet sauce is delicious. Whether straight from giant vats, or in individually wrapped portions – it’s easy to get your fix.
If eating straight from the spoon in public isn’t quite your style, there are other ways to enjoy the sugary goodness. Tuck into Alfajores, for example; the most popular sweet-treat in Argentina. These delightful deserts comprise two small cookies wedged together with a dulce de leche filling. The best ones are rolled in desiccated coconut for added taste and texture. They come in all sizes, from bite-size to head-size and a variety of flavours too. We love the smaller, traditional ones, surreptitiously popped into one’s mouth when no one is looking…
4. Learn About Wine Production in the Uco Valley
Two things usually come top of mind when thinking about food in Argentina. Succulent steak, and wonderful wines. The latter can be enjoyed in high-end restaurants, or cheaply sourced from local shops – it’s all delicious. For those who fancy a bit of education with their indulgences, the best place to get clued up is the Valle de Uco in Mendoza. There are several wine-producing regions in Mendoza, each with their own personality. The Valle de Uco is the sophisticated and stunning older sibling of nearby Maipu and Lujan de Cuyo. With vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see, it’s a wine-lovers paradise. Each Bodega provides specialised tours and tastings. Check out our review of Mendoza’s best Bodegas to help you plan your visit.
5. Make Your Own Empanadas
Empanadas are a staple of traveller life. They are cheap, filling and tasty. With so many variations available, even the fussiest eater can find something to tickle their fancy. Argentinians sell empanadas everywhere from street corners, to specialist empanada-only restaurants. Typical Argentine empanadas are baked, unlike their Chilean cousin who can be found deep fried. Fillings include queso, jamon, and choclo but the traditional recipe is made with ground beef, olives and egg. Learning how to make your own empanadas is a fun activity, providing an insight into local life – as well as a taste of it! They are easy to make, and totally delicious. Check out this recipe to make traditional Argentinian Empanadas for yourself.