Top 7 Foods from Buenos Aires
Article by Sharon Salt.
You haven’t finished seeing Buenos Aires until your stomach has had its fill, too. Here are the top seven foods (okay okay, foods and drinks) you need to check off before you can say you’ve seen – and tasted – it all:
Mate is a bitter, caffeinated, tea-like drink-that’s-not-a-drink. No Porteño would ever classify mate as a drink, and my boyfriend still laughs at me every time I have mate because I’m thirsty, but water is involved. It’s often prepared in a gourd by pouring water over yerba – which is chopped up plant parts, I guess – and sipped through a metal straw called a bombilla.
This stuff is communion, and you’ll see Argentines drinking it everywhere: in the street fairs among vendors, between friends at parks, in the homes of your acquaintances. It doesn’t matter if you’re a germaphobe or deathly ill, an Argentine or an expat — everyone drinks from the same straw. You’ll be fine, I promise.
2. DULCE DE LECHE
Dulce de leche is a caramel-like spread. To me – even though it’s much much sweeter – it’s Argentina’s answer to peanut butter if only for the fact that nobody understands how other countries live without it and you can put it on everything – on toast, with bananas, in chocolate etc. Also, like peanut butter, it is tempting to eat whole spoonfuls of it despite your better judgment. I’m not even talking calories. I just think you’ll throw up, it’s so rich.
Alfajores are individual-sized, chocolate-covered, dulce-de-leche-filled cakes. It’s like petit fours and cookies started hanging out and made a baby. You can find a thousand different varieties in any kiosco – with chocolate chip cookies, oreos, fruit filling, what have you – but they are also sold in coffee shops and at street fairs. I am told the best brands are Havana and Bonafide if you’re looking to take a box back to the family, but if you just want a chocolate fix at 4AM, then go for the Jorgelins with the black wrappers. And don’t forget to try alfajores de maicena, which are little shortbread and dulce de leche sandwiches rolled in coconut.
An asado is essentially an Argentine barbecue, except that they don’t use anything more than fire, a touch of salt, and some chimichurri sauce. Do not mess with the asado. It’s the simplicity that makes it so delicious, because let’s be real – if your meat is good enough, it doesn’t need anything fancy.
Unlike your typical barbeque, asados can take all day, which makes them an excellent excuse to get together, kind of like mate. The meat is cooked when there’s room for it, and it’s eaten whenever it’s done, so if you end up going, make sure to leave yourself the afternoon to enjoy the experience. And all of the next afternoon to digest it.
Okay, so maybe empanadas aren’t as exclusively Argentine as the rest of this list, but they’re a lot better here than they are in the States, where I’m from, so I say eat as many as you can while you can. Cheese, onion, and meat are all typical, but I’m not opposed to humita, either, though some people are less thrilled when they hear the translation: creamed corn.
A chorizo wrapped in bread, choripan is a beautiful thing. Accessible like a hot dog –cheap and in holes-in-the-wall everywhere – but generally better because it’s been slow-cooked over an open fire, these guys are addictive. If you’re in a place like Costanera, where there are a million and one stands, you can usually pick out a good one by scoping out who’s just laid out a fresh buffet of chopped onions, coleslaw, cabbage, and sauces. Go there and give your choripan the works, then eat it up while you wait in line for two more.
The flavor of fernet remains impossible to describe, but I suppose it suffices to say that it’s a bitter, aromatic spirit. It’s also a ridiculously delicious albeit acquired taste, even when served with Coke, as it is typically done here.
Added plus, though: it helps your stomach. If you’re starting to feel sick but don’t want to waste your last night in Argentina, fernet is your new best friend. Drink it that night and drink it in the morning to get rid of your hangover, even – it’s a miracle worker. But stick with Branca, Capri, or 1812, nothing cheaper.
Eat up, drink up, and enjoy Argentina! Your stomach will thank you later.