Asado: A barbecue is to the USA as an asado is to Argentina. It’s the social event of the evening, and no weekend is complete without it. Beef is what’s for dinner and lots of it, paired with sizzling chorizo, wafting smoke and copas de Malbec.
Alfajor: What you have in savory foods you must make up for in sweets. This would be dulce de leche sandwiched between two cookies and coated in chocolate. Just like heaven.
Milanesa: Like many other dishes in Argentina, these were brought over by the Italians. It’s basically just breaded chicken or beef, covered in bread crumbs and fried in oil. As a lover of chicken fingers, I ask myself why I don’t eat more of these.
Choripán: Chorizo + pan = choripán! That’s the marriage of sausage + bread to make a glorified hotdog. Many times chimichurri sauce is in the mix, and now I know what I want for dinner.
Mate: If you don’t drink mate, you won’t fit in with the locals here. I’m kidding, but also kind of not. It’s so popular that you should probably learn to like this caffeine-infused tea.
Italiano: The Italians are obviously known for their cuisine, so it’s no surprise that various countries have adopted their customs. This is a Chilean style hot dog, served with tomato, mashed avocado and mayo: all the colors of the Italian flag.
Aguita Perra: Literally translated to “bitch water,” this harmless herbal tea is perfect for enjoying after a meal.
Calzones rotos: Mmmm doughnuts. But if you’re fluent enough to know this translates to “torn underwear,” then perhaps it’s not so enticing. Either way, this is a popular treat for the locals during wintertime.
Terremoto: How seismic is Chile? Enough that when I was in Santiago for a long layover, I was startled awake by the quake underneath me. Terremoto means earthquake, and this drink is made with sweet wine, pineapple sherbet and fernet or rum.
Pisco Sour: The national drink of both Chile and Peru. Oh well, the more the merrier in my opinion. We’ll let them duke it out.
Arepa: This flatbread turned corn cake can go with anything inside for added ingredients – cheese, meats, vegetables, you name it. They make me want to go behind the counter and high-five the chefs every time.
Tinto: Don’t be confused by the Spanish word for red wine. This time it’s a type of strong coffee, as Colombia is the coffee capital of Latin America.
Aguardiente: The national drink of Colombia tastes strongly of anise, typically done in shots. Colombians know how to party.
Lomo Saltado: An asian fusion dish that combines sirloin strips, rice, onions and tomatoes. At times, it comes with french fries, which I absolutely appreciate.
Carapulcra: One of the oldest dishes on the continent is a stew prepared with hot rocks. To Spanish speakers, the name sounds like a spa treatement. Ahhhhhh.
Causa: This is a delicious cold appetizer of seasoned potato puree layered with chicken, crab, or tuna and garnishes. Totally mouth-watering.
Inca Kola: A source of national pride and patriotism, this yellow, unusually sweet soda is an acquired taste by many. Inca Kola outsells Coke, dominating the soft drink market in Peru. You just can’t compete with country pride.
Mate de coca: Coca leaves have long been used to cure headaches, fatigue, thirst and most importantly for tourists, altitude sickness. Upon landing in Cusco last year, I was handed a cup of this immediately by my driver, obviously having ‘foreigner’ plastered on my forehead.
Ceviche: Healthy, tasty and local all make this dish a no-brainer when in Ecuador and nearby countries. It’s a seafood dish made from fresh raw fish cured in citric juices, and I lived on it while in the Galapagos Islands. Mmmmmmm!
Cuy: So I won’t say “mmmm” to this dish as it’s known to the locals as guinea pig, and quite possibly your live-in pet. If so, don’t blame the Ecuadorians for this delicacy. It’s a cultural thing and to each their own, I guess.
Maduro: One thing I love most about living in Buenos Aires is reaping the benefits of close, imported bananas from Ecuador. Maybe I should just move to Ecuador. First off, they are massive. Secondly, a maduro, or fried plantain, accompanies a large amount of Ecuadorian dishes on the regular, which is just fine by me.
Empanadas de viento: These puff pastries with cheese look like they could fly away, hence the name literally meaning “wind empanadas.”
Feijoada: Taking its name from the Portuguese word for beans, this dish is usually composed of black beans, several types of meat, rice and collard greens.
Brigadeiros: Made of chocolate and condensed milk, this oh-so-healthy treat is one of Brazil’s most popular sweets.
Beijinhos: If you can speak Portuguese, this word means “little kisses” or “coconut candies.” If you’re lucky, you’ll get both when in the country.
Caipirinha: Disclaimer: This traditional Brazilian drink will have you bedridden for 24 hours upon drinking more than one. A Brazilian brandy known as Cachaça is paired with sugar, lime, and more sugar. It’s hurts so good.
Acai: Not only is this native Brazilian berry tasty, but it’s incredibly high in antioxidants, low in sugar, and basically the best thing mother nature has ever come up with, especially since they’re known to have positive effects on ailments associated with heart disease and cancer.