Food Culture of Buenos Aires

July 8th, 2019

Buenos Aires is a city of culture and mystique as tourists from around the world are eager to experience the history, feel the pulse of tango, and indulge in the fascinating gastronomy. The food culture of Argentina is famous for steak and wine but the authentic cuisine of Buenos Aires embodies a rich heritage combining Italian ingredients such as pasta and decadent sauces with ingredients like choclo, a type of corn native to South America from indigenous communities. The cuisine also highlights other influences from descendants of African slaves or immigrant chefs from France, Spain, and other European countries, as well as attracting many chefs from Asia such as China, South Korea, and Japan. The latter-most inspired a rise in the popularity of sushi across the city.

The culinary experience in Buenos Aires steps beyond the flavors of the food by establishing a treasured ambiance for diners in cafes, restaurants, local bars, and bakeries which setup seats along the sidewalk and under shady trees where patrons can watch the population of the city passes by. Modern-day Argentina erupts with life with many of the central components of the day revolving around food and basking in the enticing flavors of the city, from the simple pleasures of a sweet treat to the creativity of the remarkable small theater scene, the generous portions of a captivating steak asado to the tranquil grounds of the verdant Rosedal rose garden in Palermo. Each neighborhood in Buenos Aires is famous for its own personality telling a unique story about the character of the streets and its peoples but the gastronomy of Buenos Aires speaks to the greater nature of the city capturing the splendor, ingenuity, and delights that have brought the city’s culinary scene onto the world stage.
 

Asado

When a Porteño mentions asado they could be speaking of both gathering around a barbecue with friends and family or the method of grilling itself. The marvels of a Buenos Aires asado stems from the multi-step the grilling process that can last hours resulting in various types of meats on offer such as beef sweetbreads and blood sausage on top of the typical cuts of sirloin and rib-eye steaks while a Patagonian-style restaurant may include lamb or pork. An asado slowly cooks the meat until ready and is topped with a sensational chimichurri sauce. When listed on a menu inside a restaurant, asado refers to the rib cut of beef. Despite this, the asado style of cooking embodies the spirit of Buenos Aires and the whole of Argentina by bringing people together through food.

You can find incredible asado in any steakhouse across Buenos Aires, whether searching for a hidden gem known only to locals or dining in a famous restaurant inviting visitors onto the terrace during a customized parrilla tour of the city.
 

Alfajores

Alfajores is the plural for the cookie “alfajor” and in Buenos Aires, the cookie speaks as much to the sweet way of life for Porteños as to the culinary traditions locals hold dear. The emblematic cookie creates a sandwich with the outer layers similar to shortbread stuffed with dulce de leche and often dusted on the outside with coconut flakes. The interior c nalos include jam or mousse. Multiple brands of alfajores decorate the shelves of kiosks and attract passersby in the window displays of quiet bakeries. The recipe dates back to the Spanish Moors, which influenced Spanish culture, and traveled to Buenos Aires by the mid-16th century. They are customarily eaten for breakfast, dessert, or as a snack often accompanied by a coffee.

While you can easily find an alfajor in any store across Buenos Aires, basking in the combination of flavors brings a new understanding of their popularity especially when biting into an alfajor from one of the famous cafes and bakeries like Los Galgos, El Aljibe’s, or at The Coffee Store. 
 

Bondiola

The delicacy of bondiola is in fact one of Buenos Aires’s most popular street foods stemming from a mixture of working-class roots and the Italian cucina povera. The dish is typically found at a mobile grill cart or kiosk where the chef fills flaky, soft bread with slow-cooked pork shoulder. Then ordering the dish completo a caballo, the sandwich boasts ham, cheese, and a fried egg. The marinated pork shoulder could have revelatory seasoning consisting of honey, garlic, white wine, and herbs accentuating the natural flavor of the meat while also adding moisture.

When visiting Buenos Aires, the best destinations for indulging in the distinctive culinary treasure of a bondiola is at restaurants like El Litoral or at Parrilla Los Hermanitos on the Costanera Sur.
 

Chocotorta

The overly satisfying and decadent tastes of the chocotorta exemplify the best ideas of a chocolate cake with simple but stunning flavor steeped in every bite. The cake is not baked and instead chilled in a thin pan consisting of chocolinas cookies soaked in coffee, however, chefs and home cooks often use Kahlua, as well. The bottom layer of soaked cookies are then topped with dulce de leche and a cream consisting of cream cheese and sour cream interchanging layers of cookie, dulce de leche and queso crema until forming a proper, delicious, indulgent cake.

Whether wandering along the cobbled lanes of San Telmo looking for antique market, watching the spirited movements of tango dancers on the corner of La Boca, or peering through the boutique shops on Calle Florida, you can sample the fantastic chocotorta from cafes, restaurants, and bakeries like La Crespo, PL Deli Café, Scarlett LadoBueno, or at Ñam ice cream shop, which has a chocotorta flavor.
 

Empanadas

Empanadas are a staple across many countries in South America but Argentina, and specifically Buenos Aires, have their own twist on the doughy pocket stuffed with a variety of different ingredients. Empanadas can be baked or fried and are often stuffed with traditional flavors such as beef, spicy beef, or onion and cheese but can also host more exotic combinations like tomato with mozzarella and basil, stuffed with Roquefort cheese, or bacon, mozzarella, and plum.

Empanadas across Buenos Aires are ubiquitous filling many of the streets with familiar aromas of crust, flaky dough and spiced beef but when searching for some of the best empanadas in the city, you can find delicious and unique flavors at restaurants and cafes like La Querencia, La Morada, and Antigua Carpinacci.
 

Choripan

The traditional dish of choripan in Buenos Aires consists of a chorizo made from pork or boar and remains the city’s most popular street food. Whether enjoying the slightly spicy sandwich before a soccer game or simply biting into a choripan in the park, the most common choripan concoction consists of the chorizo sausage, caramelized onions, pickled eggplant, and green peppers. The bread is often flavored with the simple but delicious chimichurri spread for a perfect addition to the combined flavors as a trinity of juicy sausage, fresh roll with a slight crunch, and the slight heat of the chimichurri sauce creating an unofficial national dish.

Choripan is not the most sophisticated dish in Buenos Aires but the simplicity and accessibility make its one of the most popular with restaurants, carts, cafes, and hidden street-food corners attracting locals eager to sink their teeth into the familiar, yet satisfying flavors found at destinations such as Lo de Freddy and Chori.
 

Provoleta

The proveleta in Buenos Aires consists of a slice of pungent, sharp cheese seasoned with oregano and chili flakes before cooking on the grill. The cow’s milk melts easily on the heat quickly becoming crispy when drizzled with olive oil, which helps accentuate the natural oil as well as absorb the flavors from the olive oil. The cheese normally cooks until the outer layer hardens into a crispy shell filled with a hot, molten interior. It is also known as “bubbling cheese” or a typical “Argentine grilled cheese,” often made from provolone.

Cheese lovers and vegetarians will never forget their experience with provoleta in Buenos Aires with certain restaurants specializing in the dish showcasing the splendid layers of flavor in the cheese and coaxed out of the cooking process when sampled at La Carnicería and El Ferroviario.