Food and Wine from Central and South America: Cuisines from Argentina
The cuisine of Argentina has been shaped as much by the waves of European immigration, from Spain, France and Italy in particular (pizza and pasta can be found everywhere), as from the indigenous culinary traditions of the Quechua, Mapuche and Guarani people.
Argentina is one of the world's major food producers of beef, wheat, corn, milk, beans and soy beans. As such, red meat is the most common feature of Argentinian cuisine and the popularity of wheat-based Italian dishes means the Argentinian pizza uses more dough than Italian pizza.
Argentina is the world's fourth-largest wine producer behind Italy, France and Spain. Argentina's best wine traditionally comes from the cabernet sauvignon grape, but more recently, vineyards have been using the malbec grape to produce some of the world's finest red wines.
Eating beef - In Argentina there is a fierce pride in the quality of red meat, and parrillas (mixed grills) are a great way to discover the full range of beef cuts at one sitting. To start, try chorizo (spicy sausage), morcilla (blood sausage) or an empanada (meat pastry), before ordering a bife de lomo (fillet steak) or bife de chorizo (rump steak). To order a steak cooked to your taste, ask for: bien cocida (well done), a punto (medium rare), jugosa (rare, literally 'juicy') or muy jugosa (very rare).
Be sure to try:
Asado (parillada) - Various cuts of meat cooked over coals and usually served with chimichurri marinade, French fries and salad.
Charrasco Argentino - A large and juicy gaucho steak.
Empanadas - Tasty little pastry pies usually stuffed with meat.
Carbonada en zapallo - Squash stuffed with a beef and vegetable stew.
Ñoquis (gnocchi) - Potato pasta dumplings usually served with a tomato and herb sauce.
Alfajores - Shortbread cookies sandwiched together with dulce de leche (see below) or a fruit paste.
Carbonada - Beef stew with rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, squash, apples and pears.
Puchero - A casserole of beef, chicken, bacon, sausage, corn, peppers, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, sweet potatoes and squash.
Sopa a la criolla - Roasted suckling pig.
Arroz con pollo - Chicken and rice casserole with eggs and vegetables.
Puchero de gallina - Chicken, sausage, corn, potato and squash.
Locro - A stew of corn, white beans, beef, sausage and squash.
Empanada de humita - Pasty filled with corn, onion, cheese and flour.
Milanesas and fries - Similiar to European wiener schnitzel, sometimes topped with cheese and tomatoes.
Pizza - The Argentinian version resembles Italian calzones and includes pizza canchera and pizza rellena (stuffed pizza), among others.
Fainá - Thin bread made with chickpea flour.
Dulce de leche - A sweet paste used to fill cakes and pancakes, spread over toasted bread for breakfast or as an ice cream flavour.
Churros - Cylinders of pastry, usually fried, sometimes filled with dulce de leche.
Argentina is one of the world's largest wine-producing countries, with several regions producing fine wines. The most notable are the Andean provinces of Mendoza and San Juan, which produce almost 90 per cent of the total wine production in Argentina and which are also home to some of the most scenic vineyards in the country. The Salta region, in the region's far north, produces high quality cabernets sauvignon and torrontés wines, while the Rio Negro region at the southern end is known for cool-climate varieties like sauvignon blanc and pinot noir wines.
Argentina has traditionally been a red wine country and the most popular reds are those made from the cabernet sauvignon grape and more recently the malbec grape - the latter produced in a Bordeaux style, often aged in oak for a result that is soft, deep and velvety. You can also find varieties such as tempranillo, bonarda, barbera and torrontés. White wines are largely chardonnay and chenin, with some good rieslings and sparkling wines.
Try a Marta's Vineyard Malbec Reserve and savour its typical black cherry, blackberry and spiced aromas. For a white, try the fresh and complex Marta's Vineyard Semillion Reserve 2003 - great with seafood.
Service charge is sometimes added in hotel restaurants, however tipping is largely discretionary. It is normal to leave a 10 per cent tip in restaurants and bars.
Best time to go
Any time. Spring and autumn are probably the best times to visit Mendoza, Córdoba, the Lake District and Buenos Aires, which has a hot and humid summer with an average temperature of 24°C and a high of 28°C.
Did you know?
The most common form of greeting between friends in Argentina is kissing cheeks. Argentines tend to dine very late, with dinner usually served between 9pm and 10pm.