Argentine Food: An American Review

Jessica Duska
August 16, 2017
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The first thing I will note about Argentine food is that the blogs are right. When they say people eat empanadas, asados (grilled meat, almost always cow), and dulce de leche, they are not joking around. My first day here I had all three... and my second day here I had all three again. 

Despite my crucial research on the food of Argentina prior to coming, I was not expecting what I came accross... 

  • The coffee is tiny

Don't get me wrong, the coffee here is far superior to the coffee in the US. I drink black coffee almost every morning (a tell tale sign of addiction), but I drink out of a mug the size of a large soup bowl. One of our program assistants told me black coffee does exist here... "café negra," she said. That is just a shot of espresso. If you want a cup larger than the size your doll would drink out of either go to a café with size choices or get some milk mixed in. If you're really lucky (and at a fancier place) they will bring you little cookies with your coffee, and who doesn't love free things!

 This was one of the largest coffees I had here and it was only because I ordered the wrong thing and they added twice as much milk. 

  • Empanadas really are everywhere

Every other store on any given street will have empanadas. This is not to say that they are all fresh and delicious... but I would equate them to tap water in the US, they are everywhere. Typically empanadas are filled with ground beef, onion, and egg but you can get them with chicken, cheese, ham, veggies, or whatever depending on where you go! Empanadas are the dumplings of Argentina - very fun, easy to make, and so so delicious when they are baked fresh. The first three days I was here I had more empanadas than people should eat in a lifetime, so pace yourself with these bad boys... you really can't miss them!

  • Mate, for those who really really love green tea

Picture you are taking a sip of really bitter green tea and then you get punched in the chest really fast! This stuff is strong. And not black coffee strong, because you all know now that I love black coffee. It is a bitter green tea, but the kicker is not the taste, its the strong feeling it sends through your whole body. Sugar deifnitely makes it sweeter but the power is still in the caffeine (or something) because sugar didn't help. It is definitely an acquired taste but people swear by the stuff. One of our professors even told us its a great laxative for those of us drinking it for the first time ;) I definitely recommend trying and if you happen to love it, it is definitely a cool social custom here.

  • Icecream, or what I like to call my worst nightmare (and not in the way you may think)

Everyone that knows me knows how much icecream I eat, even in the US. I do the 50 cent McDonald's cones and the $3 tubs of Breyers and I even go out for froyo when I'm feeling frisky. But the ice cream in Argentina is THE BEST I'VE EVER HAD. I don't take ice cream lightly, and I've been taking it upon myself to try all the different brands. Even the McFlurry's are just so rich, you really can't go wrong. My first week here I ate Freddo everyday. Don't let the pictures of food on the window fool you, I was skeptical too, but it is INCREDIBLE and if you ask to try, they will give you as many samples as you want! Please go. Please. You won't regret it (this coming from non-addicts as well).

This is one of probably 8 pictures I have of the same thing in differnet settings. My host mom told me I was going to be a "gordita" (little fatty) when I returned home for all the ice cream I eat here :)

  • I hope you like cow... or meat in general

Argentines love their meat. For dinner on a given night, there is at least one if not two types of protein on the table. Coming from a vegan/veggie household mostly, this was quite the shift, but like the ice cream the quality is superior to the states for sure. Cows are fed real grass (not corn) and are not injected with thousands of hormones so even the McDonald's hamburgers are something to rave about (or so I've heard ;)). I ate choripan (a sausage sandwich) from a random vendor on the side of the street and not only was it incredible but I didn't even get sick! That is the beauty of meat here. The steak even cuts with a spoon (don't worry we tried it out for you).

  • Pizza, pizza

As of now I have only had pizza once, which is shocking to my fellow American cohorts. The pizza here is also INCREDIBLE, likely because many of the people here come from Italian backgrounds and they load up on cheese. At 6am when you are done dancing (because you are a tired American and you don't have the stamina of these Argentina locals) you will hop on the bus home and see pizza shops full of customers! It is worth a bite, you wouldn't expect South American pizza to be amazing but it definitely rivals Italy ;)

  • Other weird food-related things to note:

They eat a TON of pumpkin here. Like so much pumpkin. Every other meal at home features "calabaza" (a good word to learn if you're coming). It is so delicious and now one of my favorites but I was not expecting the amount of pumpkin I would have in my life. You would think they were trying to turn me orange or something.

The food also is not heavily seasoned. This is not Mexico, you will find absolutely no spice. And when I say no spice I mean no spice. They do salt some things and put ketchup on others but otherwise get used to enjoying the simplicity of food. They put cheese on just about everything at my homestay - soup, pumpkin :), rice, everything! You really are getting back to basics here, don't even expect "mexican style food" to be spicy, it likely won't be. You'd think they could handle the spice in a saucy place like Argentina but they are all so chill and mild.

The most shocking realization to me when I arrived was probably how skinny people are. After watching them eat you will not believe it! My hosts brought me three times the amount of food I would normally eat for dinner on the first week until I convinced them mi estomago (my stomach) was más pequeño (much smaller) than theirs and that I literally couldn't fit it all in there. They eat dulce de leche for breakfast and there is a new cake shop around every corner you pass. But nevertheless, everyone here is skinny. Must be something in the water...

They do love repetition. Argentines stick to their major food groups: cow, ice cream (which comes from cow milk I'm assuming), dulce de leche (which also comes from cow milk), empanadas (which have cow in them), and pumpkin. Don't overload yourself with "typical Argentinian foods" the second you get here, there will be time for everything. Nice restaurants have all the essentials and cheap restaurants supply you with a cheaper version of the same, so take your time with the local food scene.