Well well well….
To collect all the culinary experiences from our trip in South America… its impossible. There is no point anyway. Better if i just try to show u some crazy shit. First of all i have to say- we all agree that it was much more smoother than we expected. I had a kindof small “food poisoning” once before Machu Picchu (i guess it was more the altitude sickness and being very tired and exhausted). Gabor had one bad night fighting with air and explosion after a suspecious “ajo de gallina” in Arequipa. Finally Gigi… on the last morning she went to the toilet 3 times instead of one – but having no pain or anything.
We all expected something worse – like in Asia a year ago. I did try almost everything it was possible – and the guys have developed a lot as well since last year: i was very proud of them.
South American gastronomy… lot of traditional food and all the countries are claiming the main dishes for themself. We visited Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru and the eating itself is very similar ceremony in each one of them. Lets jump in it.
ASADO IN ARGENTINA
I dont say that it is better then anywhere else. I say only that i had the very best steak in my life in Buenos Aires. A pure bloody medium rare sirloin rump steak (bife de chorizo) with salsa chimichurri. Oh, and a medium quality Malbec of course.
The meat is good without doubt. If u read after a bit u gonna see that in Argentina the population eats unbelievable amount of meat in a year.
“... June 6, 2008 Argentine annual consumption of beef has averaged 100 kg (220 lbs) per capita, approaching 180 kg (396 lbs) per capita during the 19th century; consumption averaged 67.7 kg (149 lbs) in 2007.”
I would never congratulate for this cause of health-reasons but this is what it is. People eat meat every day – normally more times in one day. “A la parilla” means basically “grill” – for lunch and for dinner. Walking on the streets u see “homemade” BBQ made of a barrel in every corner and as the sun goes down the fires appear with the smell of pure joy. In lots of places there is no “stuff food” – they just get the BBQ on in the street and chuck some ribs and sausages on the fire – we saw many times.
Usually the argentinian people like their meat well done – well cooked – maybe a bit chewy – maybe a bit dried out. If its freshly hopped off the grill to your plate – no problem. But if u are just like me (loving blood) ask for different stuff : “al jugo” means keeping it juicy. Better if u ask for a different cut as well – not all is “edible” medium rare.
footnote: we were walking in a street in an outside “dangerous district” in Buenos Aires when we saw a BBQ happening in front of a garage. Workers saw us (me taking pictures of the ·parilla·) and we could not leave without trying their lunch after all. Delicioussssssssssss…..
But not much more to know. If u dont wanna get some bad looks and kick in your ass – dont ask for mustard, ketchup or anything sh*t like this. They serve your pure protein only with chimichurri which is a white wine vinegar based sauce using lots of herbs (mainly oregano) and garlic. Get a nice bottle of argentinian red and u can die happily ever after.
EMPANADAS – BEST BACKPACKER FOOD
Empanadas are everywhere. Literally everywhere. From our first day in Buenos Aires to the last airport in Lima this pastry is following us thru Bolivia and Chile. However in this case i have to admit – the empanadas are different in each countries. And they are the very best option to “cheap travellers” like us. It costs almost nothing, does fill your stomach for a while and very easy to eat in every circumstances. It can be owen baked or deep fried. The pastry can be puffed or a simply yeast-less bread dough usually depending on the stuffing itself. This can be seen of the form of the empanadas mainly – officially there is a proper form for chicken, cheese, vegetable, beef&onion etc etc…
But all are yummy. Hard to find the best one we tried during the journey (we could eat approx 70 empanadas altogether) – some of them had great pastry, some of them had amazing stuffing, sometimes to dry, sometimes too wet or too much pastry / not enough pastry… huh… i think i ve got 2 favourites, one is from Bolivia called “pino” which is one of the very basic stuff coming with a juicy stew of beef, onion, olives and hard egg. The other good is from Argentina and it was stuffed with spinach and cheese in a perfect balance. Good stuff – easy to make and easy to take.
HUMANITA & TAMALE
Both are amazing streetfoods and “best option for backpackers”. Basically its a bag of food ready to take away – its like a starchy polenta-like dough (just much more tastier) wrapped in corn or banana leaves and then cooked or steamed. It can be sweet – using vanilla, raisins and sugar – or filled with sour stuffing like fresh cheese, chicken or whatever. I try the cheesy one (most popular in La Paz) which has been cooked in the owen. Look for old ladies with covered baskets sitting on the sidewalk – selling them.
The existence of this drink is still just a mythos – however hard i was trying to find it during the trip – it never happened. Its a homemade maize-based beer basically which is special cause of the fermentation proccess (old times having women chew the corn then spit it out in water and left to brew for a few weeks).
What i did find finally is a non-alcoholic version. Its like a sangria full of fruits and sugar – the color is coming from the special purple corn which is widely available around the Andes.
This was one of the most interesting thing for me during the journey. If u are not keen on food that much its not a big deal… but the chuno is something what every chef wants to experience once in their lifetime i guess.
Its freeze-dried potato. Unique reserveing technic all over the world. The high altitude and differences of temperature in the mountains makes it possible to freeze the potatoes during the night when its really cold then getting them dried during the day when the sun shines very strongly. For this preservation only small potatoes can be used perfectly – small size is helping the proccess being done in 5 days. After this u can have “white” (washed off the skin) or “black” dried potatoes.
To prepair is pretty easy – u just need to dehydrate again in water then do whatever u feel. Such a cool stuff.