Ten Iconic Dishes From South America
I love everything about South America. It is my favorite continent. The food is very diverse, influenced by the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors, indigenous people and African slaves, Here are some of my favorites.
Peruvian ceviche is a meal you wont be forgetting anytime soon. It is raw fresh seafood that has been marinated in lemon and lime juice, chili and varied spices.
In Lima (where I had it for the first time) it is served with a spoon so you always get the juice with each bite. Ceviche is the most popular food in Peru. All the food in Peru is innovative and delicious – except cuya. I can not eat a guinea pig.
Brazil has many region specific dishes but the one that can be called the national dish is feijoada.The name stems from the word feijão (bean), the key ingredient of feijoada – which is essentially a bean stew mixed with beef and pork. Feijoada is typically eaten at the weekend with family or a group of friends over an extended lunch period. It’s considered a comfort food and is often called “food for the soul.” I had it for the first time in the Santa Therese neighborhood of Rio and walked around and looked at the cute stores and galleries after,
Uruguay is not a country for vegetarians. The chivito is Uruguay’s classic sandwich. Chivo means “goat” in Spanish so it means baby goat but the sandwich is made with steak, ham, cheese, and sometimes other ingredients, like lettuce, tomato, and fried egg. Walk past any small eatery in Montevideo you’ll see two, three, even four people sharing a single sandwich. We had the scaled down version.
Sancocho Stew, Colombia
Ask anyone from South America what their favorite soup from childhood is, and you will get Sancocho as the answer. The first time I had it was in Panama (their national dish) and I can see why. The main ingredients are chicken (also can be meat) vegetables, corn and cilantro.I was so happy to find it again in Bogota. In Colombia, they use plantains, yuca and serve onions, lime, rice and avocado on the side.
An asado in Argentina is every carnivore’s dream. Gather your friends, drink wine and coca cola and stuff yourself with meat. There is never a wrong time in Argentina to eat meat. I did a winery tour through Salta and Jujuy in the mountains of Argentina. Every day we stopped at another beautiful vineyard for special wines and asado. A traditional asado includes sausages, and different parts of the cow cooked on the parrilla (barbecue) including, kidney, intestine, brains and tripe. This is followed by meat. Never say no to an invitation to an asado. Each one is different, with its own charm, entertainment, and cooking style.
Curanto, Chiloe Island, Chile
If you happen to be on Chiloe Island, in Chile (and I was) you must try a Curanto. Curanto is a traditional Chilean technique of cooking meat and seafood. In order to prepare it, chicken, pork, sausages, seafood (clams, mussels, chapales (potato bread), potatoes, and various vegetables are placed in a pit that’s lined with curanto (hot stones). Each layer of the ingredients is topped with large nalca (Chilean rhubarb) leaves that keep the steam trapped inside. Once cooked, the meat and seafood are usually served with pebre (hot sauce), and milcao (potato pancakes). We had it at Tierra Chiloe, our beautiful hotel on the island.
Picarones were invented by the Spaniards who came over to Peru and wanted to make bunelos (fried dough with sugar). However they used the local ingredients instead which was squash and sweet potatoes. They created something new- crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and served with sweet, spiced chancaca syrup (cinnamon, cloves, cane sugar). If you know me, you know that I love doughnuts and if you live with me, you know I love sweet potatoes. They are Peruvian street food. I found them near my hotel in the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima on my first day in Peru. I was looking for the Starbucks to get a Peru mug for my collection. I still do not have one.
Calentado is a traditional Colombian breakfast consisting of last night’s leftovers that are simply reheated. It stems from the past, when much of the Colombian population lived in poverty and nothing was wasted. This hearty breakfast usually includes rice, beans, plantains, steak, fried eggs, and arepas. Arepas are one of my favorite things to eat. They are corn cakes similar to tortillas and can be eaten with everything.
After a Colombian breakfast you are ready to pick coffee beans in Perreira as I did, or for a day of serious Bogota sightseeing.
Bobó De Camarão, Bahia, Brazil
I was torn between writing about Bobo or Moqueca (seafood stew). They are similar. I loved the flavors of the food in Bahia. Bobo is a stew made from pureed cassava (bobo),fresh shrimp, coconut milk and dende palm oil. The word bobó comes from the Ewe people who were brought to Brazil as slaves. It is often served with rice and farofa (toasted manioc/ cassava flour). We have some in a restaurant near our hotel in Pelourhinio and head to Baile Folklorico.
Dulce De Leche ,Argentina (also Uruguay)
Dulce De Leche is a popular sweet made from caramelized milk, sugar and vanilla. Both Argentina and Uruguay have tried to claim it as their national dish. It is kind of like vegemite to Australians but so much better. The first time I ate it was in Buenos Aires. The thick caramel spread was served for breakfast with toast.
Many desserts are made with dulce de leche. The most popular cookies in Argentina are the alfajores. They are a sandwich cookie filled with dulce de leche. Everyone brings them back from a trip to Argentina.
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