Argentine Cuisine, Beyond Asado

(Photo by guido_cc)

One of the most immediate associations people make with Argentina is mmm – meat! And although undoubtedly it is one of the pillars of Argentine cuisine, it is not the only delicacy on the local table. (This is not a post about dulce de leche either.)

Brazilian and Paraguayan influences are ever present in Misiones, a province to the north-east of the country (where the Iguazú Falls are). There, one of the most common ingredients used is cassava from which they bake bread, cakes and make meat stuffed rolls. Many desserts are also made from papaya.

Corn, peppers, quinoa and chayote (a fruit similar to squash) are all part of the cooking repertoire up in Salta and Tucuman, which are also the empanada epicenters of the country!

Further south in the Patagonia region, local specialties include trout, lamb, smoked boar and cheese, as well as delicious boysenberries and raspberries. There is also a typical indigenous dish called curanto in which the food is cooked by wrapping it in tinfoil (originally leaves) and burying it in the ground with hot embers and stones.

In Buenos Aires, many restaurants are aiming at incorporating some of these lesser-known local culinary traditions into the gourmet gastronomic scene. Casa Felix is a self-defined “supper house” that opens several months a year to offer unique Latin American dining experiences. El Baqueano specializes unusual and native meats including ñandú, chinchilla, yacare and more.  Hernán Gipponi also fuses Latin ingredients, such as quinoa and chayote, with Spanish cuisine. And to top it off, there are always great wines to match!

Top Alternative Argie Gifts for Christmas

(Photo by blfotografia)

Gift giving can be hard for some and tricky for others, thankfully, travelling is a great opportunity to purchase creative and unique presents. Typical gifts from Argentina include delicious dulce de leche, mates, tango music and wine, but there is a lot more! Below are our picks for this years Argie Christmas list and you can find more suggestions from last year’s Christmas here.

Gabriela Horvat jewelry: Those who are staying at the hotel have surely noticed the stunning designs by this contemporary Argentine jeweler that are displayed in the hotel lobby. The artistic combination of modern forms with typical materials such as silver and knits make these pieces ideal present candidates. Plus, you can purchase them at the hotel.

Dotta Filetes: Filete Porteño is an Argentine decorative painting style that is typical in the world of tango and nostagic Buenos Aires. Dotta Filetes has incorporated that style to make traditional mates decorated with artful flowers, as well as other objects including shoe shiner’s boxes,, platters, and more in this truly local decorative style. Find their products here.

Fluffy sheep skin slippers: for those who are returning to the northern hemisphere, these slippers will make winter all the cozier sans the cold toes. They are available at stores that sell regional products and probably at a discount price since they are out of season in Argentina.  You can also contact the people at Tacún who specialize in leather and sheep skin items. For those who will be staying in the hot weather, the fresh alternatives are alpargatas, which are comfy fresh shoes with jute soles (Paez has some colorful modern options.)

On the culinary front:

(Photo by AussieGold)

Traditional gifts regarding food and drink from Argentine would typically include dulce de leche, Havanna alfajores, and a good Malbec, all great choices, however don´t overlook these alternative picks:

Regional Alfajores from Cordoba filled with quince jam or Tucumán alfajores that are filled with meringue and cane sugar. (find our top pick of Argie alfajores with links to where to find them in BA here).

Torrontés wine is the typical white Argie counterpart to Malbec and is just as stellar a gift for cheery toasters.

Local gourmet olive oil is also gaining quite a reputation. Find the best brands of Argentine olive oil  here.

Membrillo

(Photo by jlastras)

Those who have taken a liking to the local pastries may have noticed that many come with a filling of Quince Jam (Membrillo). This fruit preserve, which was brought to Argentina by the Spaniards, is very popular in local sweets and deserts, including the aforementioned pastries, quince pies and combined with cheese for the typical “queso y dulce” desert. Allthough it is definitely not as popular as dulce de leche, the crimson sweet tart jam with a grainy texture is the favorite of those who prefer something less sugary and rich. We suggest you try it and if you like it you can take this recipe back home with you as a souvenir.

Quince Jam

Ingredients:

1 kilo/ 2 lbs of Quince

700 gr/  3 ½ cups of sugar

1- Boil the quince with the skin on for ten minutes.

2- Rinse and peel the quince, halve and discard the seeds.

3- Process the quince pulp in a food processor or blender.

4- Place the blended quince in a pot and add ¾ cups of sugar for every cup of quince.

5- Cook on very low heat whilst stirring with a wooden spoon for 30-45 minutes or until the quince pulls away from the pot.

6-  Pour the quince jam into a wet tube pan and cool.

7-  Remove jam from the pan and wrap in foil

8-  Serve a slice of quince jam with a slice of cheese or keep in the refrigerator.