If you only learn one thing in Spanish, you should learn to politely say yes when you inevitably get asked, “do you want to come and eat with my family?” The idea of your mother inviting a complete stranger to the house for dinner might make you want to curl up in a ball and die, but in South America it’s pretty normal. And, trust me, it isn’t an offer you want to turn down.
South American food is normally delicious but when it has been home-cooked for you by a Peruvian mami, it is going to blow you away. On top of that, sampling the local cuisine is a great way to get an idea of what life is like in that destination. Eat like a local and see the world from their eyes. Buenprovecho!
Alpaca – Peru
If you don’t eat meat you’re going to have a tough time in South America. If you do, then make sure you sink your teeth into an alpaca steak while you’re in Peru. Alpaca contains much less fat than beef and (in my opinion) is even tastier than regular cow-meat. It’s also really cheap – win-win! You’ll find it served up in all manner of different forms, including stir-fried, in pasta sauce and on a kebab skewer.
Bandeja Paisa – Colombia
This is about as close to a fry-up as you will get in South America. Pure gluttony at its finest, this dish is the ultimate hangover cure and will keep you full for the whole day. So, what can you expect to find on your plate? Probably more food than you can eat in a single sitting is the answer. This dish consists of eggs, beans, rice, sausages, chicharron (pork rind), carne molida (minced meat), an arepa and an avocado slice to top it off. It is a meal fit for a king and once you’ve had one, you’ll be hooked.
Going for dinner with friends will get a whole lot better once you have chorillana in your life. It might make you feel ashamed of yourself afterwards, but it is well worth every greasy bite you take. Picture this: a pile of delicious chips or wedges – lightly seasoned and cooked to perfection – topped with succulent pulled beef, caramelised onions, cheese and two fried eggs. That, my friends, is chorillana.
Salteñas – Bolivia
If you’re looking for a snack to tide you over until dinner, look no further than your local salteña vendor. Just like a Cornish pasty or an empanada, these little beauties are pockets of silky pastry filled with meat, vegetables, olives and spicy sauce. Sometimes they have cheese or don’t have meat – try a few different kinds and see which one goes down best with you. Enjoy!
Arepas – Venezuela
There is a lot of competition between Venezuela and Colombia over who has the bestarepas. I tried both and I have to say Venezuela was victorious in my opinion. The arepas in Venezuela are large dough pockets made of maize or flour that are stuffed with a variety of delicious toppings. Crispy beef, cheese, avocado, sour cream, and beans is a personal favourite, but chicken, pulled pork and veggie options can all be found as well. In fact, often you’ll find an arepa vendor has an array of toppings and you can just point to all the ones you want.