Buenos Aires has long been on my travel list for many reasons, but food wasn’t one of them – until now. This fabulous guest post by travel blogger Stephanie Yoder of Twenty-Something Travel.com gives us four great reasons to visit the capital of Argentina and they may surprise you!
Buenos Aires is a mega-popular tourist destination well known for it’s unique culture, beautiful buildings and really good food. Still, there’s a lot that people don’t realize about the food down here, there are a lot of misconceptions. After spending the last three months eating my way through the city I’m prepared to share the truth with you guys, and it’s about more than just steak and red wine.
1. The Mediterranean Influence is Strong
While Argentina may be technically part of South America, it’s true roots lie across the sea in Europe.
A major influx of immigrants in the 19th and 20th century means that the majority of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires trace their origins back to Italy, Spain and Germany among other places. Everything, from the architecture to the Spanish they speak (which they prefer to call Catalan) is closer in spirit to Europe than their closer neighbors.
You can see this in a lot of the typical foods. Pasta is a major staple and it’s common to find shops selling nothing but fresh pasta. Pizza is also very popular as are Spanish-style tortillas. The ever-present alfajores, small cookies with dulce de leche filling, can be traced back to arabian sweets. Everywhere you will find a predominance of olive oil, basil, olive and mozzarella cheese.
2. The Best Ice Cream in the World
I know, that’s a bold statement, but I’m prepared to fight for it. The ice cream in Buenos Aires is heavenly. It’s heavily influenced by the Italian immigrants mentioned above, but thicker than your typical gelato.
You can find an ice cream parlor every few blocks, each featuring a vast variety of flavors. There are usually a dozen variations on chocolate alone. The staple must-try is the dulce de leche. Real connoisseurs buy the stuff by the kilo.
3. It’s Not Spicy
Over and over again I’ve had to correct people who think that all Latin American food is spicy. While this may be true in certain places (mostly Central America), most Argentineans completely reject hot food, or really any spices whatsoever. It’s not that the food here is bland, they just prefer the natural flavors to shine through.
The biggest exception to the no-spice rule is salt. Salt is HUGE in Buenos Aires. It’s poured generously over fries, steak, I even once saw a woman dumping salt into her salad. The salt overdose is a major public health problem resulting in an increase in obesity and diabetes.. As a result you will rarely see salt on your table, you will need to specially ask the waiter for it, this is mandated by law.
4. Steak is Cheaper than Salad
On this count the stereotypes are absolutely true: Argentineans love their meat. And who can blame them? It’s incredible quality, absolutely delicious and it is cheap (at least compared to the same cuts at home). A visit to Buenos Aires is not complete without at least one heavy asado (grill), where you will be served a variety of delicious cow parts.
While that is seriously amazing, non-carnivores (or anyone who can’t subsist solely on steak, pizza and empanadas), may find themselves out of luck. Despite being a major international city, the food selection here is not terribly diverse. Aside from the odd chinese buffet or overpriced sushi restaurant, it is traditional argentinean food all the way. Vegetables are not a highlight of the menu. Even when you can find a salad that consists of more than lettuce, onions and tomatoes be prepared to pay handsomely for it.
So there you have it, a real look at what you can expect on your plate in Buenos Aires. There’s a good reason the food here is such an attraction, it is really great and unique. So when you come to visit, come hungry!