There is much more to South American food than guacamole and tacos. South American food is spicy, delicious and becoming increasingly popular in Europe as a snack food. This article looks at five examples of excellent South American snack foods.
Empanadas are delectable little pasties stuffed with meat and are a very popular street food throughout South America and particularly in Argentina. In a country as culturally diverse as Argentina, empanadas are seen as a unifying food, enjoyed by virtually everyone. They are similar in appearance to Cornish pasties, although they trace their provenance from Spain and Portugal where they are known as 'pastels'. Empanadas can also be filled with vegetable and fruit mixtures, but they are always oven-baked and not deep-fried, making them one of South America's healthier options!
Sopaipillas are little pockets of pastry that are deep-fried in oil. They are found all over South America. In New Mexico, you can find them served with a dish of honey, to dip them in or they can be eaten as an accompaniment, to mop up sauces. The word 'sopaipilla' means little pillow, and they do look like little pillows after they have been fried. The ingredients are almost exactly identical to tortillas; it is just the cooking method that is different. Try them with chocolate sauce as a nice after-dinner treat or add some Chilean flavour by working some boiled squash flesh into the dough.
Anticuchos are cubes of diced meat, often marinaded in spices and oils and served on skewers; they are the South American version of shish kebabs. They originate from Peru and have been popular there since colonial times. They can also be found in several other Andean countries. In Peru, the meat used to make anticuchos is usually beef heart, but you could use cubes of steak or pork if you don't fancy dealing with an ox heart!
The origins of the taco are lost in the mists of time, but it seems likely that they originated in the 18th century amongst the Mexican silver mining community. Professor Jeremy M Pilcher thinks so; he has written about how the word 'taco' first referred to little charges that were used to excavate the silver ore. As tacos are often served with a ferociously hot filling, he thinks that is where the name came from. One of the first written references to tacos describes them as 'tacos de mineros' or miners tacos. Today, the little corn or wheat flatbreads are ubiquitous throughout the world as a tasty street food. Try a chicken taco with a hot sauce for a taste explosion, and reminisce about Mexican silver miners!
Mate is a caffeine-rich drink that is popular throughout South America, and a key part of South American culture - indeed, it is the Argentineans' national drink. It is prepared using the leaves of the yerba- mate plant which are dried and then infused in boiling water as you would prepare tea. In South America, mate is traditionally drunk through a large silver straw. Some people like to add sugar or honey to sweeten the beverage. Yerba-Mate is now available in a few UK health food shops, or you could order some online.
South American cuisine is becoming increasingly influential on global tastes, and these days, with the advent of the Internet, it has never been easier to source recipes from around the world. Of course if you’re lucky enough to be off on a South America holiday then there’s a world of taste that awaits.
This article was produced by leading tour operator Veloso Tours.