If there is a single food that can represent Argentina, it is beef. The rich grassland plains, the pampas, rest in the shadows of the Andes and feed the people not only their wheat and corn, but also the grazing land for the cattle and sheep. Argentine beef is highly prized for its flavor and tenderness. The cattle were introduced in the 16th century, and were running wild in vast herds less than 200 years later. As with the United States, the romantic image of the cowboy, or “gaucho,” pervades the culture.
Argentina, though, boasts a healthy coastline and fish are plentiful. You’ll find them grilled, fried, marinated and cooked in just about every way imaginable. Empandas, “turnovers”, stuffed with beef, chicken, vegetables, corn, and many other fillings are found in many Latin American nations. These turnovers can be eaten as appetizers or light meals.
The cooking method of choice in Argentina is, without a doubt, grilling. Beef steaks, sweetbreads and kidneys crackle over the flame, along with vegetables, fish and sausages. The tender skirtsteak, the churrasco, and the bistek, or flank steak, are some of the most popular cuts.
In Argentina, beef rules. Not just steaks, but every part of the beast. The parillada mixta, or mixed grill, is Argentina’s almost ritualistic meal event and not a place for dedicated vegetarians. Sides of beef rotate slowly on vertical spits around a fire pit, waiting to be hacked off in pieces by “asadores” (grill chefs) and finished to the diner’s delight. Platters swish through the parrillada restaurants heaped with mounds of grilled roasts, sausages, steaks, ribs, sweetbreads, intestines, and more.
- Ricardo and Nancy Mermet