Meat, Sweet & the Bites In Between
– The Meat –
Argentina is ranked as one of the top producers of beef, and the Argentinians are incredibly proud. Steak is king, and they do it so well, our uber driver told in his favourite parilla (steakhouse), the steak is so tender you can eat it with a spoon. The steaks here are more likely to arrive to your table well done, and aren’t smothered in sauce such as peppercorn, the Argentinians let the meat do the talking, although it regularly comes with a side of Chimchurri sauce to cut through the rich taste.
There are literally countless meat dishes to sink your teeth into; Chorizo, Bife de Chorizo (which isn’t chorizo, even though it’s in the name, it refers to the way the meat looks before it’s cooked), Morcilla (blood sausage), Matambre, Bife de Lomo, Ojo de Bife etc , and all meat comes with lashings of chips that are big enough to be a main meal by themselves. The chorizo in Buenos Aires is very different from the smoky Spanish style chorizo, much less paprika and spice, a more porky taste, then put it in a crusty bread roll and it’s called a Choripan, which tastes like the best barbeque sausage and bun combo you’ve ever had (I think I’ve eaten about 30 so far).
Asado’s, which is what barbeques are called in Argentina, are religiously held on Sunday’s and are an all afternoon and night event, which include enormous and varied types of meat and all the red wine you can drink. I swear I could smell asado every single day (morning and evening) I was in Buenos Aires.
– The Pizza –
You can’t really walk a block in Buenos Aires without finding a pizza shop, but its not the typical pizza you are used to. The ratio of pizza base to cheese on some pizzas here in Argentina is some what crazy, I’d say 3 parts cheese to 1 part base – more like the appearance of a cheesecake. Other pizzas appear thinner than the before mentioned, but the cheese is a thick, gooey wall that extends in a cartoon stringy fashion when you bite into it.
The pizza comes from the Italian immigrant influence, but typical to Buenos Aires its been taken and made into something that’s completely their own. I found that the standard pizza topping in Argentina is cheese, olives and oregano, but my favourite pizza here is the fugazetta.
Our American friend who has lived in Argentina for 9 years told us that Argentina is not the type of place where you can ask to change your pizza toppings! There is also millinesia which is a chicken or beef fried steak covered in pizza toppings and cheese – calorific but one of those things you have to try before you die. There are plenty of famous pizza places here in Buenos Aires, one being La Mezzetta which is a little out of the way, but so worth it, i’d recommend taking a taxi.
– Empanadas –
These little pockets of deliciousness were and still are my favourite Argentinian food. Full of flavour, oh so juicy, and totally different in every part of Argentina, my very favourite were the ones we had at Peron Peron. Similar to a Cornish Pasty (smaller but with more flavour!), these little delights could be baked or fried.
There were a lot of deals around for 12 empanadas and a pizza for 200 pesos, which worked out at about £4. Empanadas can be filled with allsorts, and every region of Argentina does it differently based on what they grow there or have an abundance of. For example, some regions use beef, lamb, or fish as the main protein, and other regions might have sugar and raisin empanadas.
We went to an empanada making class, which I’ll type up aaaaaall the secrets in a different article. I was told that Patagonia uses lamb in their empanadas, and I’m excited to be able to try a different style in less than 3 weeks time!
– The Sweet –
One thing that is totally unavoidable in Buenos Aires in Dulce de Leche, which is their version of caramel but made with milk, which has a delicious pre-fudge velvet texture and moreish sweetness. If any food could stand to be sweet, you better believe there was a version injected or slavered in dulce de leche.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Argentina had their own style of biscuits called Alfajores, which is dulce de leche (surprise!) in the middle, and either side is a crumbly shortbread style biscuit. These are super popular and carried in 99% of all shops, they can be large, small, and/or covered in milk, white or dark chocolate.
Another sweet treat that stole my heart (and I’m not normally a sweet toothed person!!) was Chocotorta, a layered cake with 6-8 layers of alternating dulce de leche and chocolate biscuit soaked in espresso (which gives a genoise sponge and tiramisu style texture), with delicate piping on top. It melts in your mouth and slips down way too easily.
Finally, my last treat is almost as wide spread as the infamous Alfajores, and they are called Medialunas; these are sugar glazed croissants, which are so sticky and delectable, it’s a wonder why they haven’t been widespread across Europe already.
– The Ice Cream –
Now, if Argentina’s main export is beef, then they have an abundance of milk, and owing to the Italian influences and blistering summer heat, that milk was turned into ice cream. Ice cream flavours are typically served as ‘sabores’ (flavours) and ‘boca’s’ – ‘boca’ literally translates into mouth, but if you’re imagining that this portion size in a mouthful, fear not, because the ice cream is literally PACKED and SQUEEZED into every crevice of the cone and then piled up as high as gravity allows.
Palermo was great for chic ice cream bars; Creme Lab made the ice cream then and there in store for you, using liquid nitrogen, served on a giant waffle cone, here I sampled the oreo flavour. The Ice Cream Guys was just around the corner but had a totally different styled; served in bar form on sticks, we sampled the raspberry cream and the nutella flavour.
Freddo is chain ice cream store, but they have the most variety of flavours. All ice cream shops carry dulce de leche flavour, but Freddo goes above and beyond with regular dulce de leche; flan y dulce de leche, dulce de leche with chocolate chips, dulce de leche with brownie pieces and more (told you it was popular).
– – –
I’m not going to lie (this blog can’t be all sunshine and rainbows), I was a little let down with the food in Buenos Aires… I think I naively assumed everywhere in South America was going to be smothered in spicy chilli’s, guacamole and tequila. I learnt that Argentinians typically don’t like spice (or even black pepper!) and on many occasions I found the cuisine bland. I think here in Argentina the sole focus is on the quality of the food, and any extra flavourings come as a later thought. It also didn’t help that I have been a long time vegetable lover, so what they do best – the meat – went over my head, but it was fun to try.
I found a lot of new flavours that I quickly became obsessed with, such as empanadas, choripan, chocotorta and last but not least, dulce de leche (which I am going to make myself at the next opportunity!!). I’ve been told cuisine ranges from region to region, and can’t wait to taste the flavours of Patagonia in a few weeks.
Ciao for now!
Upcoming post – Empanada Cooking Class