While every nation in South America has a distinct culinary tradition, shaped by local crops and waves of immigration, there is one element that unites them all: a serious sweet tooth. Here are 18 South American desserts you should know.
'South America' on Serious Eats
Uchuva, lulo, guanabana and more: these are the exotic fruits of Cartagena, Colombia, where fruit stands act as community centers and tropical fruits taste like candy.
While still waiting for the long gestating Taco Bamba, chef Victor Albisu (formerly of BLT Steak) has opened up his South American inspired temple to all things grilled, Del Campo, in PS7's former space. With Del Campo, Albisu went back to his Peruvian heritage to create a menu where almost everything has touched the grill (including the cocktails). Even the bread is served with smoked olive oil.
The chance to visit Chile—a long, narrow, and exquisitely beautiful country full of mountains, valleys, beaches, and amazingly warm people—was not one that I could pass up. And since I was visiting my sister, a temporary Chilean resident and a permanent Serious Eater, a lot of my trip was spent eating.
Visit Ecuador's major cities and you'll discover easy access to a hamburger. If you want to make your fast food burger experience a cultural experience, you can check out the local flag bearer in the fast food burger game: TropiBurger. While their burger isn't any better—and may be worse—than the clown-and-king burgers of the world, they deliver their so-thin-it's-almost-not-there patties with a few South American twists.
Pão de queijo, Portuguese for cheese bread, are tiny cheese puffs made with yuca (not to be confused with yucca) flour and a slightly sour, tangy fresh cheese. They smell awesome when they're hot.
Pork and beans go together like, well pork and beans. Enough so that pretty much every bean-and-pork-eating culture in the world has figured out some way to put them together. Lentilles aux lardons, garbanzos con chorizo, sweet Okinawan pork belly cooked with beans, cassoulet, Boston baked beans, even good old beanie-wienies. Like all good pork and bean dishes, feijoada is a dish of economy, intended to offer complete nutrition and great flavor with a minimal amount of expensive protein. Indeed, it's made with all the parts of the pig or cow that most people don't eat.
Note: For best results, use as many different salted pork parts as available, though you can always make it with just a few. Straight up salt pork and slab bacon with some good sausage will be quite delicious. Farofa is...
Wandering through the Colombian/Peruvian Amazon, my wife and I discovered what the locals called uvas. It translates literally as "grapes," but these were nothing like normal grapes. Though similar to mangosteens, they're better in pretty much every way—better packaging, single-serving size, easy to peel, very similar flavor, and at least deep in the Amazon, a fraction of the cost. Of course, now the big problem is they're probably not available anywhere near where you live (whomp).
American hot dogs are steeped in tradition, served at landmark restaurants and stands that have been doing it the same way for generations. But the frankfurter adapts easily to any cuisine, and lately, some of the wildest hot dogs have been coming out of Central and South America.
Colombia is nothing if not diverse. While in the mountains around Bogotá hearty, rib-sticking stews and soup dominate the cuisine, just 90 kilometers east, at the start of the Llanos—the vast plains that sweep across the south-eastern half of the country—barbecue reigns supreme.
Have you ever tried to eat 30 different fruits in one sitting? Don't. Your stomach will thank you. Trust me, it's not nearly as fun as it sounds. All in the line of duty, I suppose. South America's tropical fruit, however, are fantastic. Get to know 30 different kinds—from anón to zapote.
After a recent trip to Chicago, a friend of mine brought back a beautiful red bag of coffee. If a tingling sensation did not just shoot through your neck, you may not be familiar with the coffee roasted Chicago-based Intelligentsia. It's an incredibly passionate and forward-thinking company, but when it comes down to it, the result of all the thoughtful hard work is discovered in the cup. This red bag contained an organic coffee called "Anjilanaka, Bolivia; San Juan Ocho Estrellas"—a long name for one bag of beans. Anjilanaka means "angels" in Bolivia's native language, and this coffee was named after the inception of Intelligentsia's big expansion into the Los Angeles market.
From fast-food chains to street vendors, El Completo is Chile's hugely popular take on the hot dog. It starts with a wiener (known in Chile as "Vienesa") on a toasted roll with sauerkraut, then is buried under a thick layer of mashed avocado, chopped tomatoes, and an insane amount of mayo.
According to Terrence Henry of The Atlantic Food Channel, Buenos Aires leaves much to be desired in terms of food and flavor. He notes that most restaurants use wood-fired grills, which he thinks blanket all foods with similar flavors. He also comments on the lack of variety in the street food available, saying that it is limited to empanadas. Henry writes: A great food city is a place that caters to all manner of the food-obsessed: vibrant street food, affordable ethnic and traditional dining, and highly acclaimed (and more important, highly respected by their peers) destination restaurants. It should have a connection to its seasons and soil (or sea, as the case may be). It should be a place...
mattbites.com Matt Armendariz of Matt Bites visited Argentina recently. While there he came across salsa golf, a mixture of ketchup and mayo that he found everywhere. Intrigued by this condiment, he set up a blind taste test of different brands of salsa Ggolf. He tested Hellman's, Danica's, and Fanacoa's versions, as well as the house blend from Home Hotel, where he was staying. After a thorough tasting, he and his companions determined Home Hotel's version to be the best....
Clicking in to the AHT inbox today, we've got this plea for help to find a good burger in the beef-loving land of Argentina. --The Mgmt. A telling name for frozen burger patties in Argentina? Photograph from shell belle on...
Photograph from Baptiste Pons on Flickr Layne Mosler gets her rides and her food tips from the same place: her cabbies. The Californian, who moved to Buenos Aires in 2005, is a writer for South American Explorer and Time Out Buenos Aires and started a blog called Taxi Gourmet in 2007. For each post, she randomly hops into a cab and lets the driver point her to locro (stew with hominy, peppers and meat parts), lechón (suckling pig), or chinchulín (cow intestines). "I initially thought maybe I want to pick older guys or guys with a potbelly or guys who look like they know how to eat, but you never really know," she told the Washington Post. A cab driver...
From April 13 to 19, I traveled around Chile with two other American food journalists on a culinary media trip. Here's another snapshot from that week. —Robyn Lee While I was delayed at Newark Airport on my way to Chile (curse American Airlines...curse), I killed some time by calling my friend Diana and asking what she'd like for me to bring back for her and her Chilean boyfriend, Ian. "Negritas! Get Negritas! They're really good!" "Get a what?" "It's a type of biscuit. Ian's mom just brought a few bags back from Chile. ...And we ate a bag." I wrote down the name in my notebook and made it my major goal of the trip to return back to America...