11 Must-Try Foods Around South America
Over the past few months, I've taken you on a culinary journey of Europe, Asia, the US and Canada. Now, it's time to head south of the border and experience the fiery, flavoursome cuisine of South America. So strap those taste buds in for a wild ride across the Amazon and down through the wild, rugged mountains of Patagonia!
This Peruvian seafood favourite has made its way onto many an Aussie restaurant menu, but there's simply nothing better than the real deal. Made from raw, fresh fish that's been cured in lemon juice and spices, ceviche is hugely popular all along the east coast of Central and South America, but Peru has pretty much claimed it as their national dish, serving it up with corn, onion, and sweet potato. Simply delish!
It seems every culture has it's own take on fried dough, from Hungary's lángos to Canada's BeaverTails. In Peru, it's all about picarones! These doughnut-like treats, made from squash and sweet potato and covered in a sweet syrup, originated over 200 years ago as a cheaper alternative to buñuelos (a type of sweet fried dough ball popular during the festive season). Root veggies might not sound like fantastic dessert ingredients, but don't knock it till you've tried it!
Australia has pies and sausage rolls, South America has empanadas. This delicious fried pastry is the snack of choice for people all over the continent and is often served during parties and festivals. The filling varies among countries, but common flavours include spiced chicken or beef, onion, ham, cheese and fish - there are even dessert varieties, featuring sweet fruit fillings!
If empanadas are to South America what meat pies are to Oz, the alfajor is their Tim Tam. These tasty round bikkies traditionally consist of dulce de leche (caramel made with milk) sandwiched between two crumbly, shortbread-like cookies, then rolled in powdered sugar, coconut, or covered in chocolate. Need we say more?
If you're as obsessed with chicken nuggets as I am, you're going to absolutely love coxhinas. These Brazilian snacks, roughly translating as "little [chicken] thigh", are made from chopped or shredded chicken, which is then covered in dough, formed into a chicken leg shape, then deep-fried. It's not exactly the healthiest thing in the world, but these delicious golden morsels are well worth the calories!
Three words: Chocolate fudge balls. The brigadeiro is a Brazilian icon, and rightfully so. These devilishly sweet truffles are traditionally made from condensed milk, cocoa powder, butter and chocolate, then covered in chocolate sprinkles. However, these days there are plenty of mouth-watering modern flavours, like strawberry, pistachio, Baileys, Nutella and more. Mmmm...
Having gotten this far, you're probably well aware that South America is a carb lover's heaven, and the arepa is no exception. This Venezuelan-Colombian dish dates back to before Columbus ever set foot on the continent in 1492. Made from corn flour and moulded into a flat, pancake-like bread, today's arepas are eaten with cheese, avocado, and even split in half to make sandwiches.Sound good? Sydney-siders can try it for themselves as part of a 14-dish Colombian feast at Aluna Restaurant in Neutral Bay from just $39! Check it out here.
Vegans and vegetarians, turn away now. Lechona, a central Colombian specialty, is a carnivore's dream. We're talking a roast pig stuffed with peas, green onion, rice and spices, slow-cooked in an outdoor brick oven for between 10 and 12 hours. The result is crispy-skinned, melt-in-your-mouth pork and perfectly-seasoned accompaniments. Sign me up!
These tasty, cheesy bread rolls were created by the indigenous Guaraní people in the 19th century, but nowadays, they're popular for brekkie and as a snack (particularly during religious festivals) and can be bought from street food vendors all over Paraguay and in Northeast Argentina. They're amazing on their own, but even better served warm with butter. Yum!
Love pork crackling? Just wait till you try chicharrones. Think pork ribs seasoned in garlic, lemon and oregano, boiled, then cooked in its own fat, often along with beer or chicha (an alcoholic drink made from corn). The result? Crispy, golden-brown, and oh-so-fatty morsels of happiness, served with hot sauce, salsa and corn. If you get the chance, be sure to try the chicken and fish variations, too!
Humita, a traditional Native American dish eaten all throughout the Andes, is probably the oldest food on our list, dating back hundreds of years. First, a dough is made from corn, butter or lard, onion, spices and occasionally cheese, which is then wrapped in corn husks and boiled. It might not sound particularly appetising, but one bite and you'll be a convert! Dessert humitas can also be made using sugar, cinnamon and raisins.