When thinking about South American food, you would probably think about Peruvian ceviche, which has become very popular across the globe. And with good reason! They have dishes that leave your palate wanting more, like the famous ceviche.
But, have you ever thought about what other types of dishes exist in other South American countries? Food in this continent is an exquisite fusion of flavors due to its multiculturalism and location. You can find mouthwatering foods such as dulce de leche (sweet milk), fresh cheese, yuca (yucca), white rice, black beans, and more delights.
Today’s blog will list nine unique and popular South American dishes that every traveler should try during their backpacking adventure.
In addition, you will understand the names of nine dishes and their meanings, which sometimes include indigenous words. You will learn what ingredients are included in the dishes and in which country you can try each delicacy. Finally, you will get a list of nine useful phrases that will help you order food in Spanish at any Hispanic restaurant.
Are you a foodie like me? You will get hungry after reading about these delicious South American traditional dishes.
Flavors Of South America
1. Carbonada Criolla: Argentina
Argentina is famous for its flank steak and Chimichurri, which is garlic with parsley sauce, however, the Carbonada Criolla (creole), a baked recipe, is one of the most worth trying South American foods. It originated in Patagonia, in the south of Argentina, consisting of a giant pumpkin filled with meat stew. It is served with bread, and salad, including potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and dried fruits. The stuffed pumpkin goes into the oven to be served during the cold winter.
2. Phisara De Quinua: Bolivia
Phisara will transport you to ancient times when the Incas and other Andean civilizations used to treat this cereal as sacred. Even though white rice is usually the most used ingredient in South American cuisine, people of the Andes eat ‘Quinua’ almost every day. It is now considered a superfood with the potential to fight worldwide hunger. In addition, people in Bolivia have immense respect for this food.
‘Phisara’ is a Quechua word that means ‘lightly roasted and granulated quinoa grain.’ You can try ‘Phisara de Quinoa’ in the city of ‘La Paz,’ traditionally served along with roasted beef, cheese, beans, peas, and green onions.
With high nutritional value and flavor, this is a traditional dish that you can’t miss during your trip.
3. Churrasco Gaucho: Brazil
One of the most mouth-watering foods I have ever tried was at an authentic Brazilian restaurant. Travel to the South of Brazil, in a state that borders Uruguay. This place is famous for being the best meat production in the entire country and for having the most delicious Brazilian dishes. You will find the Churrasco gaucho, a national dish that has become internationally popular.
Churrasco’s key ingredient is ‘picanha’, the Portuguese word for ‘picaña’, meaning beef tenderloin. The grilled meat is seasoned with coarse salt and various spices. Enjoyed by both the gauchos (Brazilian cowboys) and the tourists who visit Brazil. Without a doubt, a dish that you cannot miss!
If you have ever been to the Philippines, the cooking process for this dish is somewhat similar to that of the Pinoy BBQ and Adobo. While you are in Brazil, don’t forget to try the Feijoada as well, a hearty stew made of black beans, pork, and beef.
4. Empanada De Pino: Chile
I have loved the taste of ’empanada de pino’ since the first moment I tried it more than 10 years ago. You can try similar dishes anywhere, and you may think that it is not a unique dish. But you will change your mind when you try an authentic, juicy, and savory filling Chilean empanada. They are large empanadas that contain meat, onions, olives, spices, raisins, and hard-boiled eggs. Even though they are big, you will not have enough once you try one!
Empanada (pasty) de Pino gets its name from the Mapuche indigenous word ‘pinu,’ meaning ‘trozos de carne cocida’ (pieces of cooked meat). While you travel in Latin America, this is one of the dishes that must be on your list. In fact, I suggest you try an authentic homemade Empanada de Pino as an afternoon snack during what Chileans call ‘la once’ (coffee or tea time).
5. Cazuela de Mariscos: Colombia
Colombia has a wide variety of foods, including the Bandeja Paisa, including arepa, black pudding, plantains, chorizo, red beans with pork, rice, chicharron, fried egg, avocado, and lemon. However, the country’s coast also offers diverse seafood options for those who prefer those kinds of flavors.
‘Cazuela de Mariscos’ literally translates to ‘Seafood Casserole.’ This is a popular seafood dish that you can find on the Colombian islands situated in the Caribbean Sea. If you love seafood, this is the typical meal you have to try in Colombia. It has squid, oysters, shrimp, and octopus cooked in coconut milk, resulting in one of the most delicious soups you will ever try. In addition, you can accompany the Cazuela with fried plantains and a nice cold beer to drink. Such a delight!
6. Fanesca: Ecuador
Besides Encebollado, a very popular fish soup with a mix called sofrito, that people eat for curing hangovers, Ecuador also has ‘Fanesca‘ among its traditional dishes that deserve attention.
Fanesca is a typical dish in Ecuador that people eat only during one specific week of the year, ‘Semana Santa’ (Holy Week). This means that you will have to visit the country between March and April if you want to taste this ethnic fusion of flavors.
People can only eat grains, vegetables, and fish during this Catholic festivity. That is why the tradition of eating Fanesca, a meatless dish, began. Its Quechua name is ‘Ushucuta,’ which means tender grains cooked with herbs and chili.
This is a giant soup full of all the types of grains that you could ever imagine. Local ingredients such as beans, peas, lentils, and many more. The cooking process is usually an important family tradition and activity. The grains are prepared and cooked in fresh fish broth since the previous day, and it is served with small fried flour balls and empanadas, plantain, hard-boiled egg, and cod, as some people prefer.
No matter how full you are, once you try your first serve of Fanesca during lunch, you will be asking for a second round! Lucky for you, Ecuadorean people always offer you more!
7. Borí Borí (Vorí Vorí): Paraguay
The term ‘Borí Borí’ or ‘vorí vorí’ comes from the Guaraní language and means ‘bolita bolita’ (ball ball). As the name says, these are balls made of corn flour served in a vegetable with chicken stew. This is a favorite dish in Paraguay for being rich in protein and calories, and has, in fact, many variations in Latin America.
8. Causa Limeña: Peru
Since you most likely already know about the famous ceviche prepared with raw fish and lemon juice, I will introduce you to the Causa Limeña. This Peruvian dish, which can be served as an appetizer, is made with yellow potatoes, a touch of lemon, and yellow chili. It can be accompanied by chicken, fish, shrimp, boiled egg, black olives, and other ingredients. In addition to being exquisite, it is a dish with digestive properties that eliminate toxins from the body.
9. Chivito: Uruguay
Why eat only a fried egg when you can have a whole sandwich for breakfast or lunch? Chivito is probably the most delicious sandwich that you will ever try in South America. Don’t miss out on your trip to Uruguay! This dish is typically served during lunch. It contains beef, bacon, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, ham, lettuce, and fried egg. I know it sounds like a bomb! But a bomb full of savor that you need to try.
A fun fact about this dish is that the word ‘chivito’ means ‘goat’, but the meat used is not actual goat meat. According to what the locals believe, a chef called Antonio Carbonaro invented the dish by accident. He was trying to improvise what to serve to a woman who wanted goat meat when he didn’t have any. So, he created an impressive sandwich with all the meat that he had at that moment. And then, it became one of the most famous national dishes.
10. Pan De Jamón: Venezuela
Venezuela has many tasty dishes, such as Arepas, Patacones (fried plantain), and Hayacas (meat tamales), but this dish is one of the most delicious that I’ve tried in Venezuelan cuisine.
Pan de Jamón, meaning ‘Ham Bread,’ is a soft and sweet bread that Venezuelan people eat during the Christmas holidays. All the ingredients, such as the slices of ham, olives, and raisins, are added to the dough to roll and bake it. A perfect mix of flavors for the season!
¿Se te hizo agua la boca? (Did It Make Your Mouth Water?)
This list of South American food, indeed made you want to travel to all these countries asap. Now that you know the names of these typical dishes, you can easily order them when you are on your backpacking tour in Hispanic countries. You even learned some indigenous words as well!
So, you don’t know how to order food yet? It’s simple! Continue reading for some phrases that will be useful to you at the restaurants, coffee shops, or street vendors.
12 Simple Spanish Phrases To Order Food At Restaurants In South America
- Buenas tardes. Una mesa para cuatro personas, por favor. (Good afternoon. A table for four people, please)
- ¿Podría ver el menú, por favor? (Could I please see the menu?)
- ¿Qué nos puede recomendar? (What do you recommend us?)
- ¿Tiene algún platillo especial? (Do you have any specials?)
- ¿Qué ingredientes trae este platillo? (What ingredients does this dish include?)
- ¿Qué tan grande es este platillo? (How big is this dish?)
- Yo pediré este plato. (I will order this dish)
- Quisiera pedir un postre. (I would like to order a dessert)
- Me gustaría pedir comida sudamericana. (I would like to order South American Food)
- Una Cazuela de Mariscos, por favor. (One Seafood casserole, please)
- Me puede traer una taza de café, por favor. (Can I have a cup of coffee, please)
- ¿Me puede traer la cuenta, por favor? (Can you get me the bill, please?)
Try to memorize these phrases before your trip, and better yet, practice them with your Latin American friends to begin getting familiar with the language.
Remember that every Latin American country has its dialect and even different names for their variations of the same dish. But that won’t be any problem if you speak neutral Spanish. People will surely understand, so don’t be afraid of ordering food en español!
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