Visiting a foreign country means eating new food. Our guide to food and drink in Argentina will help you get prepared for your trip.
Argentina does not have an obvious traditional cuisine. This is primarily due to the high influx of immigrants throughout the history of Argentina, all of whom have left their mark on the food eaten in Argentina. Spanish food is the predominant cuisine in Argentina with other food influences including French, German, Italian and English. Interestingly you can also find traditional Welsh food in the Patagonia Chubut Valley which is populated by settlers who arrived from Wales in 1865.
Argentina is a meat loving country and the Argentines eat more meat per head than any other country. The Argentines love their traditional barbeques (al asador) and mixed grills (parallada). In particular, beef is the most popular meat in Argentina and the country is famous for its zealous consumption! So, although the evolution of vegetarian cuisine still has a way to go in Argentina, carnivores would find themselves in meat heaven.
There is a strong tradition in Argentina of families holding asado get togethers on a Sunday in their back gardens. It provides a great social outlet for enjoying good food and if invited, you will see the art of cooking meat done to absolute perfection.
When barbequing the food in Argentina, it is customary to cook the whole animal in a crucifix type position on an iron cross. Once the food has been cooked, it is then custom to start with the offal and steadily progress towards the best cuts of meat. It is also common to eat the intestines, kidneys and resulting black pudding, or, blood sausage.
The barbeque is not limited to meat alone however and may also feature other culinary delights which will appease those who do not have such carnivorous food tastes. For example, the types of food cooked may also include baked potatoes, white meat and salads.
Argentina is famous for parallada or mixed grill. Again, this is food heaven for a carnivore and the fundamental parallada typically features sausages, chicken, ribs and beef. You may also find that your parallada includes offal, intestines, sweet bread, udder and kidneys. It’s an exciting opportunity to try good tasting food that you may not have tried before.
Drinks in Argentina
“Mate” is a traditional drink in Argentina and drinking mate socially can often be an occasion of great ritual and custom. This drink is often used to break the ice in Argentina, and if ever you are offered some, it can be considered rude if you refuse. If you are traveling across Argentina, you may find that your own supplies of mate are an excellent vehicle to making new friends as the whole point to this drink is sharing it with others.
Mate, (pronounced mah-tay) is also known as Paraguayan tea and is made using the dried leaves of liex paraguayensis which is related to the common holly plant. It is then soaked in boiling hot water to release the flavour and drunk through a bombilla (a long metal straw).
Alcohol: Ginebra bols and cana are both national specialty drinks which you may wish to try when in Argentina. Wine, beer, gin, whiskey and beer are also common drinks. You will find that people in Argentina are typically light drinkers and the legally, individuals cannot drink until they reach 18 years old.
Tea and Coffee: If you like coffee, then you will love Argentina as they serve great coffee. The most popular coffee drinks are cortado which is a small coffee served in a glass with a little milk, cafe con leche which contains a more milk and cafe chico which is a thick coffee served in a small cup. Tea is also a popular drink in Argentina and it is often served with lemon slices and warm milk.
Fruit Juice and Soft Drinks: A popular fruit juice drink in Argentina is the licuados which is fruit drink blended with either water or milk (but usually with milk). Other common drinks include lemon, apple, and orange juice. Unsurprisingly, you will also have no problem finding drinks such as coca-cola and 7-up.
Food and Drink Routines in Argentina
Breakfast: Individuals in Argentina typically consume very light breakfasts which often consist of tea, coffee, mate, toast, marmalade and croissants.
Lunch: Argentines usually make up for a light breakfast at lunch however, where a substantial amount of food is often eaten. Lunch usually starts at about midday. It is difficult to give obvious examples of the food people might eat in Argentina for lunch as the cuisine is so varied. As in the UK, individuals can eat food as diverse as meat dishes, pizza and pasta.
Dinner: As with lunch, it is difficult to describe obvious food choices in Argentina due to diversity of cuisine. Dinner rarely takes place before 8 or 9 in the evening and it’s not unusual to see the restaurants in Argentina still packed at midnight.