7 Things to Taste in Argentina

4th April 2008

As some of you know, we lived in Buenos Aires for a month last December, and I still have lots to tell you. Here’s a primer on some of the more traditional foods you should try if you plan a visit:

Seven Things to Taste in Argentina

Seven Things to Taste in Argentina _ Mighty Girl
Toast spread with dulce de leche.

Churros at the Recoleta fair.

1. Dulce de leche Fresh dulce is practically sexual. You’ll be tempted to pinch a bit to slide between your thumb and forefinger. Instead, may I suggest pouring a gallon or so on the bed sheets and rolling around in it naked? …No? Well, you can also use it on ice cream, fruit, or toast if you’re concerned about the cleaning bill. Be sure to try a slightly crisp panqueque swelling with warm dulce filling. (Miranda’s makes a great one — calle Costa Rica 5644.) Also seek out the fresh, dulce-filled churros dipped in chocolate, which are available at the Recoleta fair on Saturdays and Sundays.


2. Matambre is a stuffed flank steak often served cold as an appetizer. The one we cooked was prepared and wrapped by our neighborhood butcher. It was rolled around carrots, onions, potatoes, a few hard-boiled eggs. Consequently, it looked like a severed limb wrapped tightly in plastic (for freshness!). The flavor was similar to corned beef, but with a more dense texture. Try it after midnight, when you wake up ravenous and still a bit fuzzy from the wine you had in lieu of dinner. One slice straight from the fridge is an excellent restorative.

Alfajores with various tea pastries.

3. Alfajores These small sandwich cookies taste nostalgic, like a part of your childhood you don’t quite remember. The fresh ones collapse in your mouth, giving you more time to ponder the slightly chewy dulce center. Each one is a small moment of peace, so have a cup of tea handy. Buy a few from the bakery on the corner of Santa Fe and Oro.

Mate gourd.

4. Maté A traditional warm beverage made by steeping dried yerba maté leaves. In the afternoons, Argentines gather on balconies and lawn sipping shared cups of maté through bombillas (straws with filters on the ends). I found it bitter and grassy, but soldiered on anyway. Mate is the national drink, and these are the things tourists must do. We are also duty-bound to attend an overwrought tango shows wearing white sneakers, but I digress.

5. Chorizo Stop at every corner carnecería and ask for a bit chorizo. Every butcher has a different take on this deep red pork sausage colored with peppers. For breakfast, fry it with some cubed potato, or add it to an omelet. You’ll find yourself reconsidering your blind allegiance to bacon. If you don’t have a stove, or the inclination to cook for yourself while you’re on vacation, the house chorizo at Don Julio is excellent.

6. Chimichurri This sauce is usually served alongside steak. It’s a mixture of parsley, oregano, garlic, peppers, and vinegar, and is best if prepared fresh. However, many restaurants simply add oil to a dried spice mix. Should you encounter the latter, politely scrape it from your tongue with the side of a fork.

7. Steak As you may already know, the cows in Argentina are grass fed, and their flesh is rich with the happiness of grazing on open hillsides. The steak here is so savory that it connects with the base of your brain, releasing a hormone that makes you instantly indifferent to the plight of cows. Argentine steak is the very best reason to have teeth.

28 thoughts on “7 Things to Taste in Argentina

  1. Jules

    It all sounds fantastic! I should not have read this post after drinks and before going to bed, though. I’ll never sleep and will likely at some point lament the fact that there’s no matambre in my refrigerator. Surely if nothing else I’ll dream of dulce de leche!
    House of Jules

  2. Meg

    my husband lived in B.A. for several years and I read him the bit about Argentine steak and his eyes glazed over and he began to drool…I think he agrees. He says it doesn’t even need seasoning.

  3. Kim

    I must agree. I recently came back from there and Argentine steak is the best. Grass-fed is key. It has ruined me for US beef forever. I might as well go vegetarian now. :)

  4. charlotte

    Wow. Your description of the dulce de leche makes me want to book a plane ticket to Buenos Aires NOW!

    And mate tea? Oh yes. Here in California, we love it.

  5. amanda

    Number 7 is why I keep coming back here. When you hit it, man do you hit square on. I think, though it won’t be Argentinian, we’ll be having steak tonight.

  6. laura

    oh, i don’t even think bacon can be considered a delicious breakfast side. i’m mexican and my grandma always makes our breakfasts with chorizo. chorizo mixed with scrambled eggs, chorizo with over easy eggs and potatoes, chorizo and over easy eggs all in a freshly made tortilla.

    don’t save the chorizo for a vacation! i suggest going to pick some up and frying it up NOW. or, for the no cooking types, order it at a mexican restaurant. i think it’s time to call up my grandma…

  7. Meegan

    Delicious post. I want to hear MORE about BA! More, more, more! Please? (That’s just how my daughter “asks nicely”.)

  8. Karan

    Here’s the “traditional” recipe I learned for Dulce de leche. Take an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk and boil it in water for 8 hours. No, it won’t blow up as long as you don’t let the water boil away. Let it cool, open the can and eat it out of the can, all in one sitting with a spoon for each guest.

  9. Annie

    If you ever visit Mexico, any part, make a note to try “cajeta” crapes, or flan with cajeta, or plain – out of the jar. It’s like dulce de leche but made with goat milk.

    BTW- don’t mention the word cajeta in Argentina, I think its a bad word.

    Hmmm huevos con chorizo! I know what im having for breakfast tomorrow!

  10. karoline

    You’re foodie descriptions are spot on! I’m headed back down to BA in less than a week for a five week stay and am superexcited to re-experience all of the delicious food. I haven’t yet tried the matambre, so that’s topping my “foods to try” list. Thank you for this post!

  11. Jennifer/The Word Cellar

    I must make sure my husband never ever finds this post. Otherwise, he will lose all inhibitions about traveling and moving to a foreign country and pack us up in the middle of the night and head to this land of magical beef. On second thought, maybe I should print out this post and give it to him tonight. I’ll send you a postcard….

  12. Mareshia

    I just tried the matambre the other day. Dee-Licious. Chorizo with eggs and potatoes for breakfast didn’t hurt either. I can’t wait until I can spend some time eating my way through Argentina!

  13. Sue

    My parents are from Buenos Aires and these are all things that I could not live without (ok I could do without the chorizo & mate). My Mom makes the most kick ass matambre ever. I will need to have her show me one of these days. Were you amazed at the amount of eggs and mayonnaise in everything? That threw me off the last time I visited in ’94. May I also suggest a couple more items for your list – milanesa, croquettas, empanadas y ensalada rusa. Thanks for sharing – now I’m hungry…

  14. Sue

    Also – you can make dulce de leche using the recipe Karen states above but you can get away with boiling it for 4 hours and it will come out with a soft margarine consistency.

  15. MarkDM

    Chorizo is one of my favorite foods, and the steak sounds delicious, so nice post.

    But: Your headline says “Eight Things to Taste in Argentina,” and then you list seven. Am I missing something?

  16. bridget

    oh how exciting! We are going to Argentina in October so my husband can kill birds for fun. I know you took hank, how kid friendly was the country? i’m working with 4-9 yr old here. Leave them home or not???

  17. Adrienne

    Okay, every time I see the word “panqueque,” I can’t help but think to myself “what the HELL is a ‘bread what what?'” Seriously… there’s not a South American Spanish word for pancake?

  18. Annie

    Panqueque! Funny word. I thought they were like muffins. I dont know why.
    Dont laugh, but in Mexico we call pancakes “hotcakes”, obviously with a completely different pronunciation.

  19. Maggeh Post author

    Don’t leave the kids home, you can work it out. If you’re renting a place, you can ask them help you find a sitter while the kids are asleep so you can go out too. Argentines love kids, and Buenos Aires has a zoo, parks, bakeries, and best of all you don’t have to worry about them drinking the tap water and ending up sick the whole trip. It won’t be like home, of course, but your kids will be fine.

  20. Carla Ecland

    We just got home yesterday from Argentina and we did our best to try as many Argentina and Uruguay wines and cheeses as we could. Oh my I miss it already

  21. JP

    Funny that food will bring me out of hiding to leave a comment.

    Let’s just say that the Churros Relleno from Mexico City visit me in my dreams. That and the tortas. Your pictures just made me hungry.

    It’s just not the same here.

  22. heather (errantdreams)

    Dulce de leche is one of my all-time favorite foods. Given the background of diabetes in my family I have to near-physically restrain myself from making it every time I stumble across the ingredients, because I’d just eat it straight from the bowl, put it on biscuits, dip all kinds of fruit in it, stir it into my coffee, and anything else I could conceivably pair it with!

  23. Shannon B

    I just watched the Motorcycle Diaries the other day and out of nowhere decided I need to go to Argentina someday. Your post made me jealous and anxious to go!

  24. Nicole

    I’ll second the milanesa and malbec recommendations. Also, Bridget, are you going more towards Cordoba than BA? I know we met quite a few bird (pigeon, I think?) hunters at the Cordoba airport last June. Cordoba is very different from BA, but the people still like kids and the weather should be nice in October. There are lots of things to see/do!

  25. argenteens

    We’re living in B.Aires right now and loving the food and friends. A few years ago an Argentine friend of ours convinced us to put a big (HUGE) dollop of dulce de leche in our little cup of expresso (or cortado) and – though I don’t know if it is a dessert or a drink – it is fantastic. Since dulce de leche is simply milk ‘n sugar – but better – it’s perfect.

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