Most Argentine eat four meals each day. The diet may differ in different regions. Desayuno (breakfast) is a light meal of rolls and jam with coffee. For almuerzo (lunch), many Argentinians eat meat and vegetables or salads. After work but before dinner, people go to confiterías (cafés) to drink espresso and eat picadas, small dishes of cheese, mussels, salami, anchovies, olives and peanuts. Cena (dinner) in the evening is the largest meal of the day and almost always includes beef.
The tradition of eating beef began in the 19th century, when there were thousands of cattle in the Pampas region. Beef was roasted on a spit on an open fire. When it was done, people sliced off chunks. They ate by holding the end of a chunk in their mouths and cutting off the rest with a knife.
Today, beef is served in many ways. Bife a caballo (beef on horseback) is steak topped with an egg. Parrillada is blood sausage, ribs and other meat grilled together. Churrasco is grilled steak and milanesa is deep-fried breaded beef. It is common for Argentine to socialize over an asado, beef roast barbecued over an open fire. Many restaurants offer asado con cuero, whole beef roasted complete with hide and hair.
Yerba mate is a popular traditional drink, similar to tea. There are several ways of drinking yerba mate. The most traditional is mate cebado. Hot water is poured over the leaves of the yerba plant (an evergreen shrub related to holly) in a mate (gourd), which is often decorated with silver. When the gourd is filled with water, the leaves expand and fill the mate. People drink through a bombilla (straw with a strainer) made of silver
For an outsider it is barbecued beef that comes to mind when imagining Argentinian food. To a point is is true, the Argentinians eat a lot of meat, a little less than 70kg’s per person and year. Meat and chicken is dominant but there is a lot more to it than that, food habits vary a lot with region and which history they have. I will give you some examples of typical Argentinian food:
Jamones serranosThe dried ham has traditions from Spain and Italy.
Locro A stew prepared with corn grains.
Tucumán pastries. Simply a pastry with a filling, 9 times out of ten ‘dulche de leche’
Empanadas. It is a Pastry with filling. Of Spanish origin.
Chimichurri is a parsley/garlic sauce enjoyed with meat. The recipes can vary a lot, some times with chilis as well.
Fainá. It is a bread made with chickpea flour, has its origin in Italy.
Dulce de leche: This is made from boiling condensed milk until it becomes a thick caramel paste. To say that is a favorite among Argentineans would be a huge understatement. It is eaten at almost every meal of the day and for snacks in between. One of the favorite preparations is with alfajores, two short bread cookies with dulce de leche in the middle and dipped in chocolate. We have no idea how they haven’t all died from sugar shock.
Dulce de Leche (Sweet of Milk)
- 3000 of whole milk
- 800 g sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla powder or essence
- 1/2 tsp baking soda (the more you put the darker it gets)
In a large cooking pot: boil the milk. Then add the sugar, vanilla (just a spoon), and the baking soda, let it boil at very high temperature and constantly stir with a wooden spoon.
When the colour gets darker and the mix thickens, take a little out with a spoon to test if its ready. Do do this just put a spoon of the dulce in a plate and check that is not running.
When ready take off the heat and put the pot inside a container with cold water. Keep stirring for a few minutes and then just put the paste in clean glass jars. Wait until cool and then put lids on the jars! You can keep them stored for months!
Ice cream: One of the greatest parts about the Italian influence is the rich gelato that is all over Argen-tina. Tourists will be happy to know that the flavors has less fat than traditional American ice cream, so you can guiltlessly taste your way through the country!
Chocolate: Although it isn’t of Swiss or Belgian quality, there is some very good chocolate produced in Argentina. The ski town of Bariloche produces some of the best. The entire town is filled with chocolate shops.