BEST ARGENTINIAN FOOD FOR FOODIES LIKE YOU
March 18, 2021
Argentina is one of the top destinations in Latin America for foodies, especially for meat lovers like me. The country is one of the leading beef producers globally, so it’s no surprise that Argentinian food would revolve around meat and dairy products. Besides that, Argentinian food is heavily influenced by Spanish and Italian cuisine, brought by the onslaught of immigrants from these countries during the early 19th century. Nowadays, it is also reshaped by the recent influx of immigrants from Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay, adding their flair and influence to the traditional dishes.
During my quarantine in Argentina, I made sure that I try as much traditional Argentinian food as I can, and in this blog post, I will share some of the delectable items I tried during my year-long stay in the country.
BEST PLACE TO TRY ARGENTINIAN FOOD IN BUENOS AIRES
To satisfy your cravings for Argentinian food, you can head to one of the numerous Argentinian restaurants in Palermo Hollywood, and San Telmo. Some of the most well-known restaurants are Don Julio’s, SecreTito, and La Cabrera for premium steaks, Ña Serapia and El Hornero for classic empanadas and locros, El Club de Milanesa and El Antojo for milanesas, and finally, Havanna and Rapa Nui for desserts.
You can also visit one of the food trucks and food stalls around the city. The most famous ones are the Patio de los Lecheros, Mercado San Telmo, and the Patio Gastronomico Rodrigo Bueno.
TRADITIONAL ARGENTINIAN FOOD
Vamos a hacer un asado, ¿Quieres ir?
Asado is literally barbecued meat. However, for Argentineans, it goes beyond that. Making asado is quintessentially a bonding time between family and friends. It is an honor to be invited to one by a local, signifying that they already view you as part of their family.
Meat, cheese, and sometimes vegetables are roasted in a parrilla, an iron grill that’s ever-present in every household. Men are typically assigned to cook the meat, but nowadays, ladies also join in the fun and can also be asado masters.
As for the cuts of meats cooked in an asado, my all-time favorites are Ojo de Bife (rib-eye), Bife de Chorizo(Beef sirloin), and Bondiola(pork shoulder).
We also have empanada in the Philippines, so this Argentinian food is not foreign to me. However, the difference came from the preparation; Philippine empanadas have a sweet pastry and are fried, while Argentinean empanadas are mealy and baked.
They say that the best empanadas in Argentina are in Tucuman and Salta. Though I haven’t visited those regions yet, I managed to try their version from the numerous empanada stores selling regional varieties, and I definitely agree that they have the best ones! Their specialty is their hand-cut meat filling and extra flaky crust. It’s like food orgasm whenever you bite into one, and the yummy filling oozes out, talk about food heaven!
Typical empanada flavors include jamon y queso (ham and cheese), Roquefort (blue cheese), bondiola bbq, humita (corn), and pollo (chicken).
I am a sucker for hearty stews, so it’s no surprise that locro is one of my favorite Argentinian food. It is a soup traditionally eaten during winter and prepared with hominy, squash, potato, meat, tripe, sausage, and lots more. Every household would have its recipe, so no two locros are alike.
The best locro that I tasted in Argentina was in Córdoba, at a restaurant called Los Infernales de Güemes. Be sure to check it out when you go there!
Milanesa is a breaded chicken or beef fillet, sometimes coated with spices, salt, and pepper. It is then covered with pan rallado(breadcrumbs), then either baked or fried (think of it as the Argentinian Schnitzel). It is my go-to food whenever I go to bars with friends, as it is comfort food at its finest.
A leveled-up version called the Milanesa Napolitana is also available in almost all Argentinian restaurants. It is your basic milanesa smothered with tomato sauce, melted cheese and then finished with sliced ham. Well, think of it as your milanesa pizza. Sounds yummy right?
There are extreme versions of this. You can also find guanaco milanesa in El Calafate (check it out at Mako Upscale Bar) and llama milanesa in Salta and Jujuy in the north.
Choripan (or chori), is short for CHORIZO + PAN and is one of Argentina’s most common street foods. You can generally find this in food stalls around the numerous parks in the city or any parillera in almost all Argentinian cities. In asados, choripan serves as appetizers; the chorizos will be roasted first, then served with some sides, and always with chimichurri to whet your appetite before the main meat dishes.
I tasted the best choripan in Argentina in an unnamed stall in Bosque de Palermo and El Dante Choripanes Food Truck in Cordoba.
This list won’t be complete without mentioning mate, Argentina’s de facto national drink. It is an herbal tea served in a mate, the bulb-like glass made of various materials such as gourd, wood, metal, among others. The Argentinian way to prepare it is to compact a portion of the yerba mate, place the bombilla (the metal straw), then fill the rest of the mate to the brim with the herb. You then need to fill it with hot water and sip as desired continuously. The cold version is called terere and is more common in Paraguay.
Yerba mate is a community drink, and it is common to share your mate with other people. It is such a common occurrence that it is one factor for the increase in the infection rate of the COVID virus, and the government started to advise everyone not to share their mate with others.
DULCE DE LECHE
Dulce de leche is a caramelized milk used as a spread or to flavor various food items such as ice cream, cakes, pastries, and even liqueurs. Almost all South American countries have their version, but for me, the Argentinian version is the best due to its lighter taste, and easily spreadable consistency.
The best version that I tasted is the helado de la leche de cabra con dulce de leche (goat’s milk ice cream with dulce de leche) available at the famous Argentinian ice cream parlor Rappa Nui. Be sure to try it when you are in Buenos Aires or Bariloche!
DESSERTS – ALFAJORES and FRANUI
Alfajores are sinful, delicious pastries available in every bakeshop around the country. It is a cookie-like sandwich with a dulce de leche spread, sometimes bathed with dark, white, or milk chocolate. The most iconic version is the maicena, filled with dulce de leche and sprinkled with coconut shavings. You can also buy premium alfajores in several specialty stores and tourist shops, and the best ones I tasted are from Havanna, a pastry shop found in Buenos Aires.
As for Franui, it is a famous Argentinian dessert consisting of a raspberry coated with chocolate, sometimes filled with dulce de leche. The most iconic one is from Rapa Nui, but there are also other specialty shops selling these.
WHAT ABOUT REGIONAL ARGENTINIAN FOOD?
I’ve written a separate blog discussing some of the Argentinian food you can find in El Calafate, El Chalten, Mendoza, and Cordoba. You can find the link to these articles below.
El Calafate and El Chalten – Cordero Patagonico, Cordero Arrolladito, Guanaco meat, and Calafate Ice cream
Mendoza and Cordoba – Lomito, Wine, and Fernet
OTHER ARGENTINIAN AND FOREIGN FOODS TO TRY IN ARGENTINA
Aside from those items I listed, you can try other food items while you are in Argentina. Pizzas and hamburgers are also local favorites, and almost every Argentinian restaurant will have its specialty recipe. Gelato is also pretty standard, and I have tasted some of the best ice cream flavors here, my ultimate favorite being banana split, calafate, and dark cocoa.
In Buenos Aires, you can also find numerous Venezuelan, Colombian, Peruvian, Bolivian, and Asian restaurants around. Some of them even have fusion dishes; a good example is a Chinese restaurant serving Venezuelized food. I am not a fan of fusions, so I didn’t try this.
Argentina also has the best beer scene in Latin America. Almost all of the bars around Buenos Aires only serve artisanal beers; IPA, APA, Cream Stout, Lager, Cidra, and lots more. I overindulged myself here, as these beer varieties are expensive in my country, so might as well seize the moment!
COST OF DINING OUT IN ARGENTINA – 2021
Argentina fell on an economic slump during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the inflation rate is amongst the highest worldwide. However, due to the high exchange rate of the Blue Dollar, the cost of living in Argentina if you earn USD or Euro has been extremely cheap, so cheap in fact that you can survive with just 400$ monthly and still live like a king.
If you decide to eat outside, expect to pay around 800ARS (5$ Blue Dollar) per meal. The most expensive restaurant in Buenos Aires is Don Julio, a premium steak house in Palermo. The last time I ate there, I spent nearly 2,500ARS (17$) ordering premium steak and wine. As for bars, a pint of artisanal beer cost around 160ARS ($1) during happy hour and 230ARS (1.5$) afterwards.
***Have you tried any of these dishes? What do you think about them? Comment down on the section below.