Travel Tales of Argentina
If there is anything that Argentina is known for world-wide, it’s their meat. Sure, there are other popular Argentine cuisines like empanadas, pizza, and milanesas. But, nothing compares to the meat. The beef competes for the best in the world, along with chicken, pork, and lamb also in the running for world domination. I lovingly call Argentines carnivores- there is no wrong time to eat meat, nor is there ever too much meat in a meal. This is no more evident than at an asado, many times incorrectly translated into English as a “barbecue”or a “cookout.” To me, an asado cannot be translated, it is simply an “asado.” Asados are a favorite national pastime, bringing friends, families, neighbors, and coworkers together to indulge in the mouthwatering perfection of the Argentine steak.
For newcomers to the world of asados, have no fear! Asados are a time to relax, stuff your stomach, and drink too much wine. I’m going to break down a typical asado into 5 essential parts, to make sure you enjoy the best an asado has to offer.
Known in Spanish as entradas, the before-meal meal of an asado can be dangerous. Plates of picada (cold cuts of deli meats and cheeses), loaves of baguettes, empanadas, pickled eggplant, and provoleta (mind-blowing, melted cheese balls) are just a few of the varieties to be served before the meat is even done cooking. Just watch out that you don’t over eat and become too full for the main course!
Although beer and other alcoholic beverages are often served at an asado, I would say stick to the wine, at least for your first few asados. Argentina is known for its exceptional wines that seem to have been made for the sole purpose of complementing their meat. Red wines, such as the popular Malbec, complement the rich flavor of the meat perfectly. If you are worried about drinking too much wine, mix some soda, or sparkling water, into the wine for a less intense, bubbly red wine.
No asado is complete without Argentine “sausages”- chorizo and morcilla. Chorizo is a small, Italian style mild sausage (both beef and pork varieties), usually served with baguette and a garlicky herb oil called chimichurri. Morcilla is blood sausage that may not have the most pleasant appearance, but definitely a mouthwatering taste. Next comes the achuras, or innards. Now is the time to step out of your comfort zone and try what many call the best part of the asado. Different parts of the cow cooked on the parrilla include kidney, intestine, tripe, and sweetbread. Try them all once, see what you like (or don’t), and enjoy ALL that the animal has to offer.
Take a whiff and inhale deeply… yes, that is the smell of heaven. Meat galore, slow roasting on an open coal flame for hours. The time has come for the main course, although we have thoroughly enjoyed the journey along the way. Beef reigns king, although many asados will have chicken or pork options, as well. Take a bite of your first bife de chorizo (sirloin) and your mouth will thank you. Other beef highlights include bife de lomo (tenderloin), asado de tira (short ribs), entraña (skirt steak), and vacío (flank steak). I dare you to pick a favorite.
The parrilla is the Argentine barbeque, at times a large contraption with adjustable racks and wood pit, other times a single oven rack over coals in the street. As long as it cooks, its a parrilla. The parrilla covered in meat is a sight to behold. Perfectly organized over the orange coals, each piece of food has the opportunity to crisp on the outside and slow cook on the inside. The asador is the (usually) man in charge of it all. From prepping the meat, slaving over the coals for hours, and serving the guests, he has his work cut out for him. It takes a special skill and loving touch to be able to pull off a great asado, the talent of which does not go unnoticed by the guests. An obligatory applause is summoned after guests have been served. Un aplauso para el asador!
My number one piece of advice is to never say no to an invitation to an asado. Each one is different, with its own charm, entertainment, and cooking style. It’s the perfect glimpse into authentic Argentina, while enjoying an unforgettable meal. Buen provecho!
For more ideas of things to do in Buenos Aires and Argentina, check out sayhueque.com.
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