Argentine Spice

(Photo by MacMANU)

Argentine cuisine is not particularly known for its spices, however, and despite the mild flavoring, there are some spices that are guaranteed to be present in the pantry of any an Argentine maiden or man. How else would the locals have come up with that delicious chimichurri?

Below are the five key spices of Argentine Cuisine:

Cayenne pepper: This red-hot spice is actually very typical and grows in the northern regions. It is used as one of the bases of chimichurri, and also added to meat empanadas, and other typical  dishes including locro.

Paprika: This Spanish pepper is always present in beef or chicken empanadas, locro, pot roasts and chicken stews (estofados) and other bodegon specials.

Oregano: Given the history of Italian immigration to the country it should come as no surprise that this savory herb be a part of the local cuisine. It is used for pizza of course, sprinkled on top of a halved tomato (a typical side dish) and more importantly for chimichurri.

Bay Leaf: Again the Mediterranean influence makes itself evident in the use of bay leaf in tomato sauces, slow cook stews and in chimichurri.

Nutmeg: Although less typical, this curious spice is ever present in the typical salsa blanca (white sauce) that accompanies corn and spinach dishes such as humita empanadas for example. It is also commonly used in pasta dishes, especially with ricotta fillings.

Top 5 “Bodegones” in Buenos Aires

(Photo by Tanoka)

A bodegon, as it is called in Argentina, is a typical neighborhood restaurant with certain common characteristics. The menu for example usually features what has become the local cuisine; a mix of European flavors mainly from Spain and Italy with a unique Argie twist. Then there’s the waiters, who are generally all men, in their forties, fifties and up, often clad in spick and span white uniforms. Finally these places are all full of history and character, which makes them one of a kind. Below are our top five.

Roticería Miramar: In the heart of the traditional tango barrio of Boedo, this charming traditional “rotisería” offers typical Spanish influenced Argentine food. A good wine selection completes their tasty menu. We recommend you try their oysters, cheese and cold cuts, amazing boquerones, and rabbit amongst other delicacies. San Juan 1999, Boedo, 4304-4261.

Spiagge di Napoli: Obviously Italian (as the name suggests), this well-known bodegon from the twenties is famous for its homemade pasta, specially its fusilli. Av. Independencia 3527, Boedo.

El Obrero: This mythical restaurant in La Boca neighborhood is a classic for visitors looking to taste typical Argentine dishes and great asado!  Decorated with football paraphernalia and antique wooden furniture, the cozy local vibe and great food make El Obrero is well worth the visit, although preferably during the day as the area is a little dodgy at night. Caffarena 64, La Boca, 4362-9912.

Albamonte: This traditional restaurant in Chacarita was founded by a group of restaurant workers who after losing their job in the late fifties decided to open up a place of their own. Today they are still going strong and serving some of the best local cuisine in town. Av. Corrientes 6735, 4553-2400.

El Preferido de Palermo: This typical bodegon that has been in Palermo since the 50’s has maintained its traditional style despite the areas modern boom.  The restaurant’s specialty are their potato tortillas, and other Spanish influenced dishes. Borges 2108, Palermo. 4774-6585.