In our newest food experiences installment, Sandy writes about our culinary highlights while traveling in Argentina.
We spent almost a month in Argentina, the longest time of any country while in South America. During our time there, we had the opportunity to try a variety of food, as we traveled overland from the city of Córdoba south to the Patagonia region.
The food of this country has an unique blend of influences from its Italian and Spanish immigrants and from the large number of cow and sheep herds. Meat is definitely one of the national dishes of Argentina and nothing is better than enjoying an asado or barbecue. On several occasions we ate wonderful barbecue steaks that were tender and favorable. In El Chaltén, the steakhouse where we ate had the barbecue area in full view.
A bowl of locro stew is a traditional meal in Argentina. It consists of white and garbanzo beans, various vegetables, beef chunks and smoked bacon. It was the special of the house in one restaurant where we ate dinner, so Darren ordered it. The combination of the beans, tender meat, bacon and fresh vegetables made for a satisfying meal.
Another typical dish is arroz con pollo or ‘rice with chicken’. This plate of food turned out to be very filling. There were several large pieces of chicken underneath the bed of rice and I could not finish them all!
One lunchtime staple for us was empanadas. These are small pastries that can be filled with meat, cheese or vegetables. We ate many of these during our travels. We bought them in a grocery store, purchased them at a gas station on a bus break and ordered them in restaurants. We even got them ‘to go’ and ate them for lunch when trekking in Los Glaciares National Park. Darren’s favorite had a meat and egg filling. I liked the cheese fillings and even enjoyed a spinach and onion empanada at one meal.
In Patagonia, lamb is eaten more frequently than beef. Here, we ate the most amazing lamb dishes. Darren ordered a lamb stew bursting with large, luscious chunks of meat. I ordered lamb chops at an asado restaurant. They were moist and flavorful, falling off the bone as I cut them!
Also common to Patagonia cuisine are salmon, spider crabs, squid and trout. One night I had delicious ravioli stuffed with salmon. It was accompanied by a rich four cheese sauce and parmesan cheese.
Argentina is known for its wine but also has a traditional drink called mate. It is a tea made from the dried leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant. The leaves are placed in a small cup, also called a mate. Hot water is poured into the cup and the drink and is sipped through a metal or cane straw called a bombilla. Darren tried it several times at breakfast as we traveled through Argentina.
Also worth a special mention is a sweet paste, called dulce de leche. It translates literally to mean ‘candy of milk’ and is made from slowly cooking sweet milk. It is found everywhere in Argentina; we saw it at breakfast as a spread on bread and in every restaurant as a dessert. We thought the best dulce de leche was in ice cream. One shop we visited in Bariloche had nine kinds of dulce de leche ice cream to choose from!
Our food experiences continue as we travel through three more countries in South America.