Upon arriving in Argentina for the fall (or spring, I should say), I had a very limited knowledge of the food culture. Apart from trying mate once, I only knew the Argentinians liked their meats and breads, along with a nice glass of wine. But after being in Buenos Aires for a little over a week, I’ve already been exposed to some of the best meals I’ve ever had. Here are seven foods and drinks from the Argentine culture one should try when visiting the South American country.
This caffeinated drink is perfect for any social get-together. Dry tealeaves are packed into a gourd with hot water poured over them. The drink is then sipped from a metal straw called a “bombilla”. If you’re a germaphobe, this might not be the drink for you as the bombilla is shared by everyone in the party. During his visit to Buenos Aires this past March, POTUS Barack Obama mentioned that he enjoyed the Argentine drink so much that he was tempted to take some home with him. When I return to the United States in December, I’ll likely have the same idea.
Dulce de Leche
Translating to “sweet milk”, this popular desert resembles a thick and rich caramel sauce. Much like Nutella, chocolate syrup, or peanut butter, this topping is good with just about anything it’s paired with. My favorite is dulce de leche-filled churros, a combo that’s very easy to find here in Argentina. Of course, the sauce is perfectly fine to consume on its own. Just be careful not to finish a whole carton of it.
Argentina’s intensified version of a barbeque, asados are a meat lover’s heaven. With a lineup that includes steak, tenderloin, and ribs, asados can be the perfect way to wrap up a weekend with friends and family. The meat-heavy meal is often accompanied by fresh salad and red wine. If you want to truly experience Argentine cuisine, attending an asado is simply a must. But be prepared to spend a lot of time and energy as asados are usually an all-day event.
This baked pastry makes the perfect appetizer to any main course, although it can easily be a meal on its own (depending on how many empanadas you consume). Stuffed with a variety of foods that include meat, cheese, and vegetables, the empanada has become a staple in the Latin American food culture. It’s best served warm, but I’ve often eaten them cold out of the refrigerator on any given morning. Maybe that’s just the lazy American in me.
While it’s incredibly fun to say, Chimichurri is perhaps Argentina’s most well-known meat topping. A fine mixture of garlic, parsley, olive oil, and vinegar, Chimichurri is known by some to be the ketchup of the South American country, though it truly deserves its own trademark. If you ever need a respite from your Sriracha addiction, you might consider trying the popular green sauce. Chimichurri definitely lives up to its name.
A sweetened croissant, the medialuna has long been a popular breakfast go-to in Argentina. Named after its shape, “medialuna” translates to “half moon” in English. I would recommend pairing the pastry with a cup of café con leche, another Argentine drink consisting of a blend of espresso and steamed milk. While people usually eat them in the morning, medialunas can be the perfect afternoon snack.
Although sweets make up nearly half of the list, this hot beverage was too good to leave out. If you enjoy hot chocolate, you’ll love Argentina’s version of it. You’re served a rectangular chocolate bar with a glass of hot milk. All you have to do is stir the chocolate bar into the milk, and in a matter of minutes, you’ll have a delicious, creamy hot chocolate. The chocolate may look tempting to eat on its own, but trust me, it’s worth melting.
Although I avoided the freshman fifteen in college, I may not be as lucky this time around with almost four months left in Argentina. I’m in desperate need of a gym.