In Latin America, many countries have their own culinary traditions. Some of the recipes date back from the Pre-Columbian era, while others were brought to the New Continent by the colonizers, immigrants and slaves that arrived to populate these lands. That is why the dishes are so diverse and have different flavors in different regions.
Corn, cacao, tomato, coconut, banana and bell pepper are just a few of the many ingredients that the indigenous people contributed to the current dishes.
The Spaniards, on their part, contributed with some special forms of preparing food, such as soup and meat broth. Moreover, they provided Latin American food with pastries, such as “churros” (fried-dough pastry) and “alfajores” among others.
The mixture of ingredients from such distant and diverse cultures is the base on which the Latin American food is formed. The dishes combine the best of different worlds. If variety is the spice of life, than the Latin American dishes are full of vitality and provide foreigners with flavors that they won’t find anywhere else.
To give you an idea of what I am talking about, I will introduce you some of the most famous and delicious dishes of Latin America. As you read, lean away from the keyboard, because you will be drooling for a while... Enjoy!
The Peruvian food is one of the best of Latin America. In 2006, Lima, the capital of Peru, was declared the Gastronomic Capital of the Americas in the International Gastronomy Summit Madridfusion. And, they really deserve it! The climate and lands of Peru offer the perfect conditions for farming different vegetables and cereals. One of their most famous dishes is the Peruvian Cebiche. It is prepared with raw fresh fish or seafood, lemon, onion, pepper, and cilantro. It is said to be an aphrodisiacal dish, so when you try, be prepared to be delighted with its properties. Cebiche is sometimes also spelled “ceviche” or “seviche”.
Mote con huesillo (Chile)
Mote con huesillo is a non-alcoholic drink from Chile. It is prepared with “mote” (boiled wheat grains), cinnamon, “huesillo” (dried peaches), all of which are boiled in sugared water. It is usually sold in street stands, which are very successful in the summer when the temperature reaches over 30°C degrees. Chilean people even have a saying about this drink: for all the things that are typically Chilean, they say “es más chileno/a que el mote con huesillo” (literally, it is more Chilean than the mote con huesillos). If you ever see a stand on the street on a hot summer day in Santiago de Chile, I am sure you will be looking forward to drinking this delicious sweet beverage.
Bandeja paisa (Colombia)
This is a traditional dish from Medellín, Colombia, whose people are known as “paisas”. This is a traditional food that includes so many ingredients that a plate is not big enough to serve it on! That is why Colombian people serve it on bigger plates, similar to trays (“bandejas” in Spanish). It includes rice, smashed beef meat, fried eggs, pork rind, “patacón” (fried sliced plantain), “arepa” (ground corn dough), beans, and hogao (tomato sauce, onion, garlic, salt and pepper) … as you can see it has many ingredients! It is impossible not to be full after eating this dish (I always save half for later). Yum!
Bife a la criolla
Argentina’s gastronomy is greatly influenced by European food, especially from Italy and Spain, and not as much by indigenous food as found in other countries within the Americas. Argentina is one of the highest producers of beef around the world. So, as you may have guessed, the dish I am going to talk about includes meat. “Bife a la criolla” is prepared with veal fillet steak, potato, onion, tomato, olive oil, and oregano. Two words that describe this dish: just delicious! It’s a must-try!
This dish has a Pre-Columbian origin, the indigenous people of Mexico used to call it “quauhtaqualli”. But as the Spaniards could not pronounce the whole word, they just said the end of what they heard: “taqualli”, which later on became the well-known word “taco”. It is usually prepared with wheat tortilla, beef/pork meat, tomato, onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili pepper, and cilantro. Just like many other Mexican traditional dishes, it is very spicy. It is now prepared in many countries with softer versions, but the original Mexican taco always “burns twice”.
Now that you have an idea of what the Latin American food is like, I hope you can visit this continent and give your palate a flavor “fiesta”. If you speak Spanish, besides enjoying this delicious food, you will also have a good time with Latin Americans. We enjoy talking while having some good food. I am sure you will have a good time with the gastronomy and good taste of the New Continent ¡Buen provecho! (Enjoy your meal!)