If you are lucky to find yourself traveling to Argentina, it won't take you long to discover that Argentineans love their families, their fútbol, their Malbec and their asados.
For the longest time Argentina was known for having the best beef in the world and they continue to be one of the largest exporters of beef. As a result, eating beef is as Argentinean as dancing Tango.
Argentine cuisine is as much about the experience as it is about the food. They love to have asados, or barbecues, with their nearest and dearest and relax with a glass of wine and good music. The Argentine asado isn't just any barbecue, the process is a bit slower which results in tender flavorful meat. Unlike American barbecues, when having an asado, the beef isn't cooked over the flame, it is actually cooked over the smoke and the heat that was produced by the flame.
The term asado has two meanings. When you’re going to a social event that’s a barbecue, you’re attending an asado. When you have a meal at a barbecue, the beef, salads, desserts, and other food is also an asado. A staple of the Argentine diet, the beef is usually cooked outdoors, either on a parrilla (grill), or over an open fire.
This is a time honored tradition that came about thanks to the Gauchos, or cowboys, in the mid 1800's. Gauchos were nomadic horsemen who flourished in the grasslands (pampas) of Argentina, Uruguay, and part of Brazil from the mid-18th to the mid-19th centuries. These men lived where they worked, on the pampas, with a diet almost exclusively of beef cooked over an open fire. Hence, created the concept of the asado. It is now the most traditional way of serving Argentina’s legendary beef.
The most popular cut of meat is the Bife de Chorizo, or a New York Strip. We also recommend the Ojo de Bife (Ribeye) or the Asado de Tira (short ribs).
Asado isn't the only popular way to serve up some tasty meat. The favorite "street food" in Argentina is called "Choripán".
Choripán is named after its ingredients. Chorizo is a type of sausage, and pan is bread, usually a length of a baguette. Choripán is a grilled beef and pork sausage sandwich on French bread, usually with chimichurri sauce added. You can't walk down the street without seeing a vendor selling Choripan. We've heard it's actually forbidden to leave the country having not had a choripan ;).
Another favorite "quick bite" in Argentina are Empanadas. Empanadas are stuffed pastries, that can be found throughout all of Latin America. But just as the dialects of Spanish are different depending on the region, the same can be said for empanadas. In Argentina, they are traditionally filled with vegetables, cheese, chicken, beef, or a combination of the three. They are a hand-held food eaten as a meal or a snack. They are a perfect party food — hold a drink with one hand, and a beef-filled empanada (the most popular variety), with your other hand.
Our favorite empanadas are: jamon y queso (ham and cheese), bife (beef), roquefort and queso y cebolla (cheese and onion).
As much as Argentineans love their savory they also have quite the sweet tooth. The national sweet is Dulce de leche.
Dulce de leche is a dessert from milk, vanilla flavoring, sugar, and baking soda. Loosely translated as sweet milk in English, the ingredients are slowly heated in a saucepan until they thicken. It is almost like a caramel, but softer and lighter in color. Dulce de leche can be served as a pudding, used as a pastry filling, a boutique coffee flavoring, it can even be made into ice cream. There are so many uses for Dulce de leche, and you'd better believe they've thought of them all!
If dulce de leche is a favorite sweet, then it's no wonder it is used in their favorite cookie: Alfajores.
Alfajores are Argentina’s most popular dessert, they’re rich, buttery shortbread sandwich cookies with a dulce de leche filling. You can find them coated in chocolate or a powered sugar frosting. They come in all sizes and you can find them in cafe's, bodegas, in checkout lines at the farmacia. . . You would have to try very hard to not encounter alfajores in Argentina, and you would be out of your mind to not try one.
Now, if cookies aren't really your thing, but you have a sweet tooth, not to worry, the Argentinians take their ice cream very seriously. It is a big part of their culture, because like the asado, it brings people together. Despite the fact that they love their Malbec, Argentineans are not big drinkers. You will find that going to get ice cream is a favorite activity among Argentineans of all ages.
The thing that sets Argentine ice cream apart from the rest of the ice cream in this world, is that they make it using 1 part milk and 1 part cream. Thanks to the heavy Italian influence, Argentinians were able to take the art of gelato and put a new spin on it. The result is a silky, decadent, yet not too heavy, ice cream. There is a heladería on nearly every street, so you won’t have far to go to find an ice cream parlor. Popular flavors? Dulce de leche (of course), chocolate con almendras (almonds), and sambayón
If you're in Buenos Aires and short on time, but you want to experience all of the Argentina's delicacies, we highly recommend checking out the Ultimate Culinary Dining Experience
Here you will not only learn about Argentine cuisine, but you will learn how to make some traditional dishes as well. You can even have some fun and participate in an empanada-making competition to see which student in your group has created the most innovative empanada. Once the fun is out of the way, you can settle in and enjoy a meal consisting of empanadas, steak with mashed potatoes and vegetables, alfajores, and unlimited Malbec.
If there is one thing you can be sure of in Argentina, it is that you won't be leaving hungry.