Argentine cuisine is described as a cultural blending of Mediterranean influences (such as those created by Italian and Spanish immigrants) as well as Native American influences, within the wide scope of agricultural products that are abundant in the country. Argentine annual consumption of beef has averaged 100 kg (220 lbs) per capita, approaching 180 kg (396 lbs) per capita during the 19th century; consumption averaged 67.7 kg (149 lbs) in 2007. Beyond asado (the Argentine barbecue), no other dish more genuinely matches the national identity. Nevertheless, the country’s vast area, and its cultural diversity, have led to a local cuisine of various dishes. The great immigratory waves consequently imprinted a large influence in the Argentine cuisine, after all Argentina was the second country in the world with the most immigrants with 6.6 million, only second to the United States with 27 million, and ahead of other immigratory receptor countries such as Canada, Brazil, Australia, etc.
Argentine people have a reputation for their love of eating. Social gatherings are commonly centered on sharing a meal. Invitations to have dinner at home is generally viewed as a symbol of friendship, warmth, and integration. Sunday family lunch is considered the most significant meal of the week, whose highlights often include asado or pasta.
Another feature of Argentine cuisine is the preparation of homemade food such as french fries, patties, and pasta to celebrate a special occasion, to meet friends, or to honor someone. The tradition of locally preparing food is passed down from generation to generation. Homemade food is also seen as a way to show affection.
Argentine restaurants include a great variety of cuisines, prices, and flavors. Large cities tend to host everything from high-end international cuisine, to bodegones (inexpensive traditional hidden taverns), less stylish restaurants, and bars and canteens offering a range of dishes at affordable prices.
Argentinian National Dishes
Asado are the techniques and the social event of having or attending a barbecue in various South American countries, where it is also a traditional event. An asado usually consists of beef, pork, chicken, chorizo, and morcilla which are cooked on a grill, called a parrilla, or an open fire. Generally the meats are accompanied by red wine and salads. This meat is prepared by a person who is the assigned asador or parrillero.
An empanada is a type of baked or fried turnover consisting of pastry and filling, common in Latin American and Filipino cultures. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, and literally translates as “enbreaded”, that is, wrapped or coated in bread. They are made by folding dough over a filling, which may consist of meat, cheese, corn, or other ingredients, and then cooking the resulting turnover, either by baking or frying.
They resemble turnovers from many other cuisines and cultures, including the pasty from the British Isles, the samosa from the Central and South Asia, or the pirozhki from Russia.
Locro (from the Quechua ruqru) is a hearty thick stew, associated with native Andean civilizations, and popular along the Andes mountain range. It’s one of the national dishes of Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Southern Colombia. The dish is a classic corn, beans, and potato or pumpkin soup well known along the South American Andes. Typically locro is made using a specific kind of potato called “papa chola”, which has a unique taste and is difficult to find outside of its home region.
The defining ingredients are corn, some form of meat (usually beef, but sometimes beef jerky or chorizo), and vegetables. Other ingredients vary widely, and typically include onion, beans, squash or pumpkin. It is mainly eaten in winter.
In Argentina it spread from the back to the front Cuyo region to the rest of the country. It is considered a national dish and is often served on May 25, the anniversary of the May Revolution. A red hot sauce made from red peppers and paprika known as Quiquirimichi is served sometimes on the side.
In Ecuador, a variant known as yahuarlocro is popular. It incorporates lamb entrails and lamb blood to the recipe.
The milanesa (in Italian “cotoletta alla milanese”) also known as ‘milanga’ in Argentina and Uruguay, is a South American variation of an Italian dish where generic types of breaded meat fillet preparations are known as a milanesa.
The milanesa was brought to the Southern Cone by Italian immigrants during the mass emigration called the Italian diaspora between 1860-1920s. Its name probably reflects an original Milanese preparation, cotoletta alla Milanese, which is similar to the Austrian Wiener Schnitzel.
A milanesa consists of a thin slice of beef, chicken, veal, or sometimes pork. Each slice is dipped into beaten eggs, seasoned with salt, and other condiments according to the cook’s taste (like parsley and garlic). Each slice is then dipped in bread crumbs (or occasionally flour) and shallow-fried in oil, one at a time. Some people prefer to use very little oil and then bake them in the oven as a healthier alternative. A similar dish is the chicken parmigiana.
Choripán (plural: choripanes) is a type of sandwich with chorizo, popular in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. Similar to the American hot dog, the name comes from the combination of the names of its ingredients: a grilled chorizo sausage and a crusty bread (Spanish: pan) such as a marraqueta, baguette, or francés.