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
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.
4. MatÃ© A traditional warm beverage made by steeping dried yerba matÃ© leaves. In the afternoons, Argentines gather on balconies and lawn sipping shared cups of matÃ© 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 carnecerÃa 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.