Its succulent beef; its legendary asados; its robust Malbec wines. Argentina’s prize-winning cuisine has earned renown around the globe. There are also the alfajores (sandwich cookies filled with dulce de leche), medialunas (Argentina’s version of a croissant), dulce de leche, helado (Argentine gelato introduced by Italian immigrants), and empanadas—all of which visitors to Argentina are known to obsess over. Getting used to drinking mate (a local infusion) however may be more of an acquired taste.
Beyond the staples, though, there’s a treasure trove of culinary delights your clients will want to savor. And many of the country’s different regions have their own specialties. Different provinces also have their own version of those world-famous empanadas. Following is a gastronomic tour through some of Argentina’s different regions:
Buenos Aires—Global Capital
Argentina’s vibrant and cosmopolitan capital is home to an endless array of culinary options—from fine dining, to traditional bodegones, historic cafes, carritos along the riverfront for street food classics, and a growing food truck scene serving creative fare. The country’s capital also offers a wide variety of cuisines from around the world inspired by the numerous waves of immigrants that have been shaping Argentine identity since the late-19th century—from Italian and Spanish, to Lebanese and Armenian, Korean and Japanese to Peruvian and Venezuelan. There are vegan and vegetarian options as well, and those who like to take their tastebuds off the beaten path will want to know that young chefs are creating updated versions of Jewish immigrant cuisine.
Visitors to Buenos Aires will find that beyond the classic grilled meat and empanadas, the most popular foods favored by Porteños (as residents of Buenos Aires are called) are Argentine adaptations of Italian classics such as pizza—a national obsession!—fresh pasta dishes, and veal and chicken cutlets alla Milanese.
Atlantic Coast—Seafood Heaven
Mar del Plata, about 250 miles south of Buenos Aires on the Atlantic coast, is a popular resort town and the heart of Argentina’s fishing industry. Aside from all of the classic Argentine fare that is found here, Mar del Plata and the popular neighboring beach resort towns is also where your clients can savor a wide variety of fish and seafood dishes. Calamari, octopus, shrimp, scallops, mussels, seafood stews and sea bream are some of the must-tries here. Many Argentines also believe that the best medialunas in the country are found in Mar del Plata and some of the top brands of alfajores also originated here.
Argentina’s northwest region—Salta and Jujuy are the most commonly visited provinces—is a land of stunning landscapes and rich indigenous history. The Qhapaq Ñan, the ancient Inca road network, passed through this region. Indigenous and criollo (creole) heritage have left traces on the cuisine, music, dance and handicrafts of the region and the unique flavors of its cuisine set it apart from the rest of the country. Empanadas are king here and every province has its own variety. Recommend clients try locro and carbonada (hearty stews with squash, corn and a variety of meats and sausages), as well as tamales and humitas served in corn husks (humitas are filled with corn paste and cheese). More adventurous eaters can also try exotic meats like llama and ñandú. This region also produces some robust high-altitude red wines as well as fresh and aromatic Torrontes, Argentina’s signature white wine.
The rich bounty of Patagonia’s lakes, rivers and forests as well as the cultural influences of the different immigrant groups that settled here—mostly from Alpine countries (Swiss, Austrians, Germans, and Northern Italians)—have influenced this region’s cuisine. Lamb reigns here, but don’t discount game meats such as wild boar and venison, which are also very popular. When it comes to the local catch, musts are trout and freshwater salmon, which can be washed down with locally brewed craft beers. And smoked food items are at the top of the must-have list. For a taste of local indigenous cooking traditions, tell clients to try curanto, a centuries-old cooking technique where meat, fish, shellfish, and vegetables are cooked over hot stones deep underground.
Patagonia is also well known for its wild berries and rosehip jams. And San Carlos de Bariloche is a chocolate lover’s paradise with artisanal chocolate shops sprinkled throughout town.
Farther south, in Tierra del Fuego, the frigid waters of the South Atlantic and the Beagle Channel provide a bounty of Southern king crab, prawns, and large mussels.