On the Argentine Table: Milanesas

(Photo by Los viajes del Cangrejo)

Many stories are told about the history of the Milanesa, a delicious Argentine staple made by frying breadcrumb-coated meat.

This savory meal, present in every local household, is believed to have originated in Germany (known there as the Weiner Schnitzel). Others argue that it actually came from Austria, and that it was a Baroque concoction seeking to simulate the gold covered furniture and decorations of the time. Yet another version says that the original Milanesa was from Milan.  This story states that in the 1800’s an Austrian marshal traveled to Italy and encountered the Italian version of the staple, claiming it to be the true original.  What many argue is that until the 1900’s the dish was called Viennese Scallops, even in Italy, and that it was replaced by the milanesa term afterwards.

Whichever its origins may be, one thing is certain, and that is that milanesas are delicious! They are also a very important part of Argentine cuisine, specially the Argentine Napolitana version (coated with ham, cheese and tomato). In fact, on an online poll in 2011 that sought to establish the Milanesa as the true Argentine food over the traditional asado, 72% voted in favor of the milanesa.

So, where to try one? A difficult question to answer. The best milanesas are always home made (find a recipe here). Especially in the last few years with the increase of meat prices, as many a trustworthy bodegon has resorted to cheaper thin slices of meat between thick coats of breading, when it should be the other way around. There are however a few spots where this savory meal can be enjoyed.

The best milanesas hands down are served on the corner of Medrano and Gorriti, in a nameless bodegón where the owners (who must be around 70 years old) serve food at midday.  Medrano and Gorriti, Palermo. 4862-9905.

Club del Progreso is another alterative that serves top quality milanesas. The elegant historic club, which dates back to 1852, serves traditional food in a stately antique setting. Sarmiento 1334, Downtown. 4372 3380.

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