Christmas Foods in Argentina

When most people think about Christmas they think about cold climates and warm food but should you find yourself in Argentina during the holiday season you will experience a much different atmosphere.

As you probably already know when it is winter for us here in the Northern Hemisphere it is summer for those in South America and their winter cuisine reflects that fact.  The Argentines have a very unique tradition when it comes to Christmas meals.  They do not eat roasted turkey and ham like we do in the states.

Vitel Thone

Sitting around the dinner table for an Argentine Christmas meal, you are sure to see slices of meat topped with a whitish cream being consumed.  Vitel Thone is one of the most popular and traditional dishes for Christmas Eve in Argentina and it is a dish that is very unique.

First of all it has its roots in Italy.  As you also probably already know Argentina has a very strong German and Italian influence and Vitel Thone definitely comes from the old country.  Essentially it is a dish composed of sliced veal and topped with a sauce made of mayonnaise, anchovies and tuna.

The veal is roasted in a large ceramic pot and thrown in with quarters of onions and large slices of carrots.  Water is also added for steaming.  You cook this mixture for about three hours and then the veal is ready to be sliced.

The sauce is a mixture of onion, anchovies, milk cream and lots of mayonnaise. Tuna is traditionally added to the sauce but some leave it out depending on individual tastes.  Once you have the veal cooked and sliced and the sauce whisked, preparation is relatively simple.  Just arrange the slices on a plate and evenly spread the sauce over the flanks of meat and enjoy.

Christmas Foods In Argentina

Christmas Foods In Argentina

Christmas Foods in Argentina  –  Cool Foods for a Hot Climate

This is where Christmas foods in Argentina really start to differ from what we perceive to be typical of holiday foods.  Since it is so hot during Christmas in Argentina, Argentine Christmas foods include plenty of cold served dishes for the sake of refreshment.

Waldorf salad which is essentially a mixture of walnuts, apples, celery and peanuts in mayonnaise and served atop lettuce leaves is a common site for Argentine Christmas meals.  It is also common to see cold sandwiches served as part of the complete Argentine Christmas meal.

Drinks

What holiday gathering would be complete without a drink?  In Argentina the libation of choice for Christmas is Anana Fizz which is a sparkling mixture of cider and pineapple juice.  Of course Argentina makes some of the finest wines in the world so expect to see the vino flowing around the dinner table as well.

Sweets

The Argentine Christmas meal is topped off with a variety of sweets that include pan dulce or sweet bread that is baked with dried fruit.  Nougat is also popular in the hot Argentine climate and is shared during the holiday season.  Perhaps the most popular brand of nougat candy in Argentina is Mantecol so you can find it in any Argentine grocery store.

It seems that grilling is an year-round thing in Argentina so don’t be surprised if you see the parrillada, or grill all fired up and topped with meats like pig and chicken.  You can read a whole lot more about South American Christmas foods here.  Eat, read and enjoy!

Enjoying Tereré in Paraguay

I dream of enjoying tereré in Paraguay… In many parts of South America, drinking tea is a much more social and culturally relevant practice than it is here in the United States.

For example, how often do you meet a friend or colleague at Starbucks for a drink? Probably pretty often.  But how often do you sit in a circle at Starbucks, prepare the coffee yourself and share the same customized cup?  Probably never.  But this is how the people of Paraguay enjoy their tea.

Drinking tereré in Paraguay is a lot like drinking Yerba Mate in Uruguay and Brazil. In fact tereré is also a tea that uses mate leaves but there is one crucial difference in the preparation that goes down in Paraguay; instead of being served hot, tereré is drank with cold water and some people even add ice cubes.

This is not a difference just for the sake of being different.  There is a very practical reason why Paraguayans drink the mate tea cold: it is hot all year round in Paraguay.

Enjoying Tereré in Paraguay – The Social Drink

So what is tereré?  In essence there is very little difference between tereré and yerba mate.  One important similarity is that that drinking of both yerba mate  and tereré is a very social event.

Groups of friends, coworkers and students can be seen all over Paraguay gathering in a circle and preparing their tereré gear which consist of the guampa (the vessel from which the tereré is drank, similar to the hollowed out gourd used in the mate ceremony) the bombilla (the filtered straw used to drink the tereré) and the termo (basically a thermos).

Once the tereré is prepared, all participants remain in a circle and pass the guampa around and drink from the straw.  However, unlike the Uruguayan mate ceremony, in Paraguay, they replace the water after each person has their share.  In other words, no one actually drinks the same tereré.

Enjoying Terere in Paraguay

Enjoying Terere in Paraguay

Another difference between the two drinks is that it is pretty common for Paraguayans to add additional herbs or even fruit juices to the cold drink although, purists look down on the whole fruit juice thing.  Termos and Guampas are often customized by their owner to express their personal style, support for a sports team or simply emblazoned with the owner’s name.

The history of tereré stretches back to the indigenous tribe of the Guaraní who invented the drink and like in modern times drank it in a ceremony style for communion and socialization.

The Social Aspect of Enjoying Tereré in Paraguay

Drinking tereré is considered a normal part of daily life in Paraguay.  It is also an important aspect of socialization and bonding among friends and family.  At its purest, drinking tereré is supposed to symbolize trust and community.  People gather, share the tereré and talk to one another just as you would talk to your friend at Starbucks. Of course, the process of drinking tereré in Paraguay is much more ceremonial than the manner in which we have coffee with a friend here in the States.

The Essence of Tereré

Of course, on the surface people drink tereré because of the mate leave’s natural antioxidant and energizing effects but the true essence of tereré drinking is to feel a close bond with the people you care about.  Not much about the ritual has changed over the centuries which speaks to the primal function of this tradition and the basic, human need that it fills.

Traditional Breakfast Foods in Bolivia

While lunch may be the most important meal in your typical Bolivian’s day that is not to say that breakfast has not taken on a life and style of its own in this unique South American country.

Western breakfast traditions like milk and cereal are slowly seeping into the Bolivian culture but there are traditional breakfast foods in Bolivia that can still be tasted today.

Should you find yourself in Bolivia at any time of the year, you will begin to hear the calls of local street vendors at around seven in the morning.  This is the best time to sample some of the delicious traditional breakfast foods of Bolivia.

Traditional Breakfast Foods in Bolivia

Café con Leche

Of course, no Bolivian’s breakfast is complete without café con leche or as Anglos know it, coffee. Bolivian breakfast drinks are very important to a traditional Bolivian breakfast and coffee is just one of the beverages that you will see on the menu of a Bolivian café.

Bolivia makes some of the richest and sweetest coffee in the world and while many in the country drink it very strong and without milk, you can get traditional Bolivian coffee as thick and sweet as you can handle it.  If you are not a coffee person, fear not. Bolivian breakfast vendors will usually have a ready supply of tea or mate drink to stimulate your morning.

If you are really looking for a traditional experience, you can sample the Api that is said to have been created and passed down from the Incas so many centuries ago.

Api is a corn based drink and is spiced with cloves, orange rind and cinnamon.  The first thing you will notice is that it has a very thick consistency and depending on whether you try Api Morado or Api Blanco, it will have a purple or light tan coloring.  It is a sweet drink that often accompanies sweet Bolivian breakfast pastries.

Empanadas

Bread based foods make up most of traditional breakfast foods in Bolivia and empanadas reign supreme as the staple of the first meal of the day.

You may have tried an Empanada here in the states and it was probably sweetened and maybe even filled with some kind of meat. While this style of empanada is not unheard of in Bolivia, for breakfast they have a simpler version.  They eat an empanada which is essentially fried dough and sometimes puffed up to enormous proportions.

Traditional Breakfast Foods in Bolivia

Traditional Breakfast Foods in Bolivia

Other Bolivian Breakfast Foods

Something called buñuelos are also commonly served up for breakfast.  Buñuelos in Bolivia are somewhat different from Colombian buñuelos.

In Bolivia buñuelos are simple fried balls of dough and are sometimes topped with honey.  Buñuelos do not always come in ball-form.  In fact you can get them to look more like their American counterparts, donuts with just a bit of searching.

In case you haven’t noticed by now, Bolivian food (particularly Bolivian breakfast foods) are usually fried, carb-heavy dishes that can be sweetened to accompany your cup of coffee or preferred breakfast drink.  This is the signature of Bolivian breakfast and is demonstrated in the final breakfast food I will speak of here: Pan con queso.  Literally translated, this dish is bread with cheese and it is as simple as that.  A hearty roll of bread stuffed with a delightful piece of homemade cheese.

Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina

Have you heard of the Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina?  Argentina plays host to some of the most exciting and eclectic festivals in the world.

The German influence in Argentina has spawned the Oktoberfest Argentinians celebrate every year. People come from all over the world to take part in the festivities that Argentina has become so well-known for.   One of the biggest, brashest and most raucous is the Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina.

Background of the Grape Harvest Festival en Mendoza Argentina

The Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina is essentially a wine grape harvest and has its roots in more religious rites of the past.

Wine was mainly used in religious sacraments in olden days so it was very important for Argentines of old to bless the wine and offer fruit to the patron saint of Mendoza’s vineyards. Even then however, when the work was done, it was time to celebrate.

The Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina is as much a reward for the hard work that is put in all year long into cultivating these prized wine grapes, as it is a cultural manifestation as important as any to the nation.

If you are planning on Visiting Mendoza Argentina and want to catch the Mendoza wine harvest festival, you will want to aim for early to mid-March.  While preparations for the both the harvest and the festival begin as early as January, Early to mid-March is when things are kicked into high gear.

Mendoza itself is a Northern town in Argentina and is generally pretty quiet for the rest of the year. The Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina however is when the town is shook wide awake and brought to life.  Wine lovers, industry authorities and merry-makers from all over the world swamp the town during the festival which has much to offer even if you don’t particularly like wine.

Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina

Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina

The Queen of Vendimia

If you are not an appreciator of fine wine, maybe you will be more enticed by the Argentinian beauties that compete from the 18 provinces of Mendoza for the title of Queen of Vendimia.  This annual beauty pageant is held in the Frank Romero Day Amphitheater which gives the whole ordeal a vintage, Greek vibe.

The Argentine sirens parade through the downtown streets in the days leading up to the pageant and local vintners are eager to offer visitors and locals alike free samples of their wine.

Even if you are not a wine person, if you are in Mendoza during the grape harvest festival, keep in mind that Argentina produces some of the finest and most coveted wines in the world.

The 2016 Harvest

The Grape Harvest Festival is entering its 80th year and there is much on the agenda in 2016.  Absorb some Argentine culture by seeing the Carousel of Vendimia; a parade that features Gauchos in traditional outfits.

The central act is not to be missed as it is essentially the culmination of the entire celebration. It is a recitation of authentic Argentinian folklore tales by over 1,000 players. Finally, the Queen of Vendimia is crowned and the ceremony is lively, exciting and climaxes with an amazing fireworks display.

Of course, the streets flow with wine during the festival and there is no shortage of music, great cuisine and of course, delicious reds and whites to sample. There are only three rules when attending the Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina: eat, drink and be merry.

What Are Arepas Colombianas

Many people ask me what are arepas Colombianas?  If you are Colombian, the word “arepa” was probably one that you grew up hearing in your home.  In short, an arepa is one of the most popular of Colombian foods.

There are many different versions of arepas all throughout South America but let’s take a little time to talk about arepas Colombianas.

First, a bit of history on this Colombian staple food.  One of the most abundant food sources in South America is corn. Arepas have their roots in the days of the indigenous people of South America.  The Timito-cuicas Indians can be credited with creating what we know today as arepas.  They used corn and Yucca to make it.

Then the Spanish came along and they took this food from the Venezuelan Andes and helped to introduce it to the rest of South America.  When the Spanish arrived, so too did ingredients not typical in indigenous South America which we will get into later.

What Are Arepas Colombianas Made Of

Arepas

Arepas Colombianas

The great thing about Colombian arepas is that there is such a wide variety of them but the basic formula remains the same.

Arepas can be considered a bread food but sort of like a Pita pocket, they are stuffed with all kinds of delicious ingredients. The bread itself is usually made of corn and one of the most common ingredients placed inside an arepa is egg.  The Colombian Arepa is usually topped with cheese, butter or even condensed milk.

Arepas Colombianas can be fried or grilled.  They are usually eaten for breakfast but like Mexican tortillas, are usually included in one capacity or another throughout the meals of the day.

Other varieties include the arepa rellena which can include ham, grilled chicken shrimp and more, the arepa de arroz which is made with rice as opposed to some type of corn product and the arepa Antioqueña like the one we eat with the famous Bandeja Paisa which is made without salt and tends to be smaller for the purpose of being eaten with Colombian soups.

Arepas Recipe

Your basic arepas Colobianas can be cooked using pre-made cornmeal, some flour, sugar and Colombian cheese.

1-You will have to knead the cornmeal, flour, sugar and butter with milk for about 3 minutes until the whole deal is malleable and blended well.

2-Round the mixture into about a dozen balls and place the balls between 2 sheets of butcher paper and flatten them with your hands.

3-Place the cheese between to flattened pieces of dough that you have created and use your hands to gently seal the fringes.

4-Now it’s time to grill your arepas.  You will want to use a non-stick pan, butter and place the arepas over medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side.  There should be a light crust that forms and the resulting color should be a golden brown.

How You Can Enjoy Arepas

There is really no one way to enjoy arepas.  The great thing about this food is that it can be made custom which is why the recipe will vary from Colombian home to Colombian home.

In our home we eat arepas for breakfast with cheese and chocolate, at lunch with soups and at dinner time with meats and even tuna.  They are so versatile and tasty that there are special restaurants throughout Colombia that serve “Arepas con Todo” or arepas with everything like “J & C Delicias”.

You can enjoy them for breakfast with hot chocolate; you can make a meal of them by filling them with your favorite meats and vegetables or keep it basic and use it as a bread to sop up the flavors of other great Colombian foods.  Keep an open mind and enjoy!

Authentic Peruvian Ceviche

One of the fondest images I can recall in my mind is sitting on a deck or in the patio area of my favorite restaurant on a sunny day, lounging to the fullest and enjoying a cool authentic Peruvian ceviche.  The fresh ingredients and splashes of lime and doses of cilantro still play on my tongue and evoke loving memories.

I have been fortunate to have sampled many delicious ceviche recipes from all over South America and for me to distinguish one as my all-time favorite would be an absolute fallacy but there is no harm in discussing a particular recipe for the sake of enjoyment, is there?  I didn’t think so either.

Ceviche Peruano is a unique ceviche recipe so why not talk about it?  If you were born and raised in the states you probably have a good handle on what ceviche is at its core.  The basic ingredients are the same across the board.

Nine time out of ten, with all ceviche you are fortunate enough to try you will taste tomatoes, onions and probably some form or another of seafood.  Authentic Peruvian ceviche puts a few interesting twists on this time tested formula however.

Authentic Peruvian Ceviche

Authentic Peruvian Ceviche

Authentic Peruvian Ceviche Recipe

You don’t have to travel to Peru to enjoy authentic Peruvian ceviche.  The recipe is simple enough and you can easily find the ingredients in your local grocery store but of course, when it comes to the fish, try to find the freshest source near you.

You will need garlic cloves (smashed), red onion, chopped cilantro, limes (freshly squeezed and separated from pulp to the best of your ability), sweet potatoes (steamed), habanero peppers (chopped and de-seeded), and your favorite firm, white fish like fluke or flounder (cubed).  Chunks of corn on the cob are also added to authentic Peruvian ceviche recipes but I tend to omit this ingredient due to personal tastes.

Once you have all of your ingredients prepped you are going to mix them all together and let them marinate the fish you have selected. You can let them marinate in the fridge for an hour or two and while the authentic preparation entails serving the ceviche at room temperature, there is nothing better in my mind to enjoy on a hot summer day than some chilled ceviche.

If you want it keep it as authentic as possible simply take the ceviche out well before you want to eat it and let it get to room temperature.

After that you are pretty much ready to feast. There are a lot of different ways to eat Peruvian ceviche and when it comes to the matters of the stomach, one can hardly be blamed from breaking from tradition.

Again, if you are determined to taste authentic Peruvian ceviche how it was intended you will do well by eating the ceviche on its own on a small plate. If you are like me however and prefer your ceviche to be accompanied by a salty hint, you can enjoy the ceviche on top of a tostada or lightly salted, preferably panadería fresh, tortilla chips.

Make Sure to Enjoy

No matter how you intend to make this simple recipe your own, the most important thing is to make sure you enjoy in a lovely setting, surrounded by your best people.

Peruvian ceviche should always be enjoyed in the light of a glorious day, savoring the light of the sun just as you savor every delectable morsel of this amazing dish.  For more information on Peruvian delicacies, check out this article on The Food Festival of Mistura.

Typical Venezuelan Breakfast

If you are looking for a light breakfast, a typical Venezuelan breakfast may not be the best choice for you. If however you are looking for a hearty start to your day (and perhaps a great meal for soaking up the previous night’s festivities) you will have all of your needs, wants and desires met by a typical Venezuelan breakfast.

A Brief History of Venezuelan Cuisine

Before we dig into the main course we should temper ourselves with a bit of background on the nation’s culinary influences.

Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the conquistadores from Spain, Venezuela was inhabited by an indigenous people closely related to the South American Indians (Incas, Mayas).  This was the first amalgamation of cuisines that the nation saw.

When the Spaniards arrived, they brought with them staple Spanish foods that were integrated into native entrees.

As time went on and due to the proximity of the nation to the Caribbean, more exotic spices and flavors were added to the palette. Today, Venezuelan cuisine has tapped ethnic roots from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean to become one of the most unique and delectable types of cuisine on the world.

For Breakfast

You cannot mention a typical Venezuelan breakfast without talking about Venezuelan Arepa.  Arepa is not only one of the most prominent and famous Venezuelan foods, but is commonplace in typical Venezuelan breakfast.

The arepa uses possibly the most abundant foodstuff in South America: corn.  It is made of corn and is essentially a pancake stuffed with all kinds of mouth-watering ingredients.  However, arepa was not always stuffed.  In its humble beginning, Arepa use to be a basic bread that was meant to simply accompany main dishes.

Today however, it is stuffed, or filled if you will (think of a pita bread only thicker and made of corn) cheese, butter, chorizo, pretty much any kind of meat you can think of, avocados and eggs.

Arepas can be grilled or fried and they are typically used in place of bread.  Now you see what we meant when we mentioned a hearty breakfast.

Typical Venezuelan Breakfast

Arepas

Typical Foods in Venezuela

Another dish that you will likely see in a typical Venezuelan breakfast is something called Cachapa.  In a nutshell, a Cachapa is a thick pancake that is folded over with some cheese in the crease.  Of course, since we are talking about a South American country, corn is used as the main component of this fat pancake.

Mandoca is a sweet little treat for Venezuelan breakfasts as well.  You can consider it the Venezuelan incarnation of a donut but it is made of, you guessed it, cornmeal.  Like the donuts we know here in the states, Mandoca is deep fried, seasoned with plenty of sugar and served topped with bananas or plantains.

Perico is another name that you will hear when sitting down to Venezuelan breakfast.  It is a scrambled egg dish that features onions and tomatoes.  You will see Perico commonly inside of your arepa but sometimes unbound by the cornmeal bread as well.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention in this Latino corner of cyberspace the existence of Hallaca in Venezuelan cuisine.

The Hallaca is an extremely important dish in Venezuela because it is the pride of every family. Arguments are not uncommonly roused as to who’s family makes the best Hallaca.

Hallaca is made during the holiday season and is a family affair.  Production lines of sorts are formed by family members to stuff cornmeal (the same used for arepas) with beef, olives, raisins and other ingredients and then to wrap the whole deal in a banana leaf.   To find out even more about Venezuelan culture and cuisine, check out the Legend of El Silbón.

German Chilean Food

German Chilean food history is a study in harmony. Our world is so rife with conflict and confrontation that it can be easy to forget the things that all humans can bond over no matter where they are from. These bonding points include music, sport and of course food.

Whenever I think about the history of Chilean food, I am immediately warmed by the thought that the simple things in life are what truly make us human and of the same ilk.

Germany is located essentially on the other side of the planet from Chile but that did not matter when the first German settlers immigrated to Chile in the late 19th and early 20th century. These Germans brought with them the recipes of the father land and embraced the culinary practices of their adopted country.

A Bit of History of German Chilean Food

The history of Chilean food is inexorably tied to German culture. As I have already stated, the first German immigrants arrived on the shores of Chile between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. These European settlers made their communities in the Southern and as of yet un-established area of Chile.

The Germans thrived here and among their number were all kinds of tradesman, scientists, beer-brewers and of course chefs. Soon, the German community began to mingle and assimilate to the native Chileans and this is where the love affair between German and Chilean cuisine took place.

Today, a visit to Chile will undoubtedly include delving into the cooking practices of both Germany and Chile. You can sit down at a shcoperia (essentially a beer house) in Santiago and be treated to popular Chilean beer that was crafted by German brewmasters. You will also be treated to a menu that you may not expect to find in South America- menus that include German brats, hotdogs and sandwiches.

After all the influence the Germans had on Chilean dishes however, what can be easily eaten throughout Chile has a definite retention of Latin flare. In the end, German Chilean food is a perfect melding of the two styles and an altogether unique branch of cuisine that is a must for any exploratory diner.

The Food

Thankfully, pairing of German and Chilean foods has been refined over the centuries to a masterpiece medley of tasty entrees. For example, you will commonly find sauerkraut paired as a side to more traditional Chilean dishes like Pernil which is essentially a pork hock veiled in a fatty skin that hides a succulent and tender meat underneath.

German Chilean Food

German Chilean Food

Resembling something that Americans would recognize as meatloaf is German Roast or Asado Aleman. In Chilean restaurants, you will find this dish in menus that may be otherwise devoid of German-influenced dishes but it is well-worth a taste. It usually includes hardboiled egg and sometimes included within the actual loaf which is made of ground beef, you will find cooked carrots.

If you thought you had to travel to Germany for a unique Oktoberfest celebration think again. Many Chilean cities due to the large German community therein celebrate this German festival.  Should you happen to be in Chile during Oktoberfest, you can enjoy a Chilean dish that has been very Germanly dubbed Escalopa Kaiser. This dish is a breaded and fried sandwich with sliced beef, cheddar, ham and topped with another slice of beef.

Over the years, German-influenced dishes have been popularized in many South American countries including Brazil, adding to the extended palette of flavors that can be found throughout the Latin world. Chile and all of Latin America offer some of the most sought after dishes in the world and if you would like to learn more about them check out the article Latin Food.