A small country in South America where food is on every corner and where all the family gatherings are centered around food. Despite being a coastal country, it’s very rare to include fish in Uruguayan diets.
Even though there are some exceptions, the menus in the country center around its two most typical products: wine and beef. That is probably the most peculiar aspect of the country’s cuisine.
Now imagine being able to order this food in Spanish. Not only will you feel proud but also you will receive a warm smile from the locals.
So let me introduce you to Uruguayan food and how it may change your idea about the country.
The star of the country. Simply grilled beef in what is called a “Parrilla”. What makes it different is that it is grilled with wood which gives it a smokey flavor. No need for artificial additives. Just wood and meat, like in the old days. Uruguayan beef is well known all over the world for its tenderness and for the fact that it is grass-fed; something not very common in the way that cows are being bred nowadays.
Also, another unique aspect of this way of cooking is the environment that comes with it. People gather around the fire where countless stories and anecdotes occur. During the asado you will eat different types of beef cuts, chicken and “achuras”, some kind of beef starters which include chorizos, “chinchulines”(cow intestines. WHAT?!. Trust me, they are very good), sweetbreads and more. As Anthony Bourdain said on his visit to Montevideo “I swear that in this city I ate more meat than I’ve ever eaten in my life. In the parrillada they served us an enormous brazier with five pounds of meat—with sausages, blood sausage, sweetbreads, lamb, asado—and didn’t stop until I finished it all. In Uruguay, they have the best blood sausage, better than the
French and whatever other I have tasted, particularly the sweet.
Fun fact: when people love the asado, they will say “un aplauso para el asador” which means “a clap for the griller” and it’s the perfect occasion to pay tribute to the person that spent long hours next to the fire.
El Mate is an infusion, made from dried leaves of “Yerba” which are then filled with boiling water. Similar to tea.
But the main difference is that this starts conversations, brings people together, creates friendships, breaks the ice on a first date, keeps you awake on those long university nights, accompanies you on countless road trips, and lets you connect with your thoughts.
Very popular through America, but Uruguay wins on this one: 8 kilograms of mate is consumed per person each year.
If you are at a local’s home and they say “¿querés un mate?”, you know that a good conversation moment is about to start.
Dulce de leche
Probably the most well-known food in Uruguay. It’s very similar to milk caramel but dulce de leche has a thicker consistency. If ever you have the opportunity to visit an Uruguayan supermarket you will see that almost every pastry has dulce de leche, the most famous one is “Alfajor”: two chocolate biscuits filled with dulce de leche and covered with more chocolate. Hope you have a sweet tooth!
There are many theories regarding its origin, but the most well-known one is that it was created after a cook left milk cooking for hours and then it caramelized turning into that typical brown color. The main two ingredients are milk and sugar which, after long hours of cooking, transform into a thick caramel which can be then used for spreading or as a filling for cakes or cookies.
Rainy and cold day. What is your plan? What about eating some “Tortas fritas”? Fried dough coated with sugar. Simple, right? What makes them special is that they are fried on lard so the texture is very soft.
You might be asking yourself what this fried dough has to do with rainy days. Well, originally they were made with rain water, giving them a unique flavor. Nowadays, they are eaten when the weather invites you to stay at home, next to the fireplace, and enjoy a “Mate”.
One aspect of Uruguayan food is that it involves socialization and long hours of cooking. “Juntarse a comer” or gather to eat, is a saying you will hear in every family. Despite Uruguay being a small and not very popular country, it can be definitely known for its food. On your next trip to the country, make sure to be a local and get involved in these antique and unique ways of cooking.
Click the pic below to meet Facundo!