Argentina is a country in which meat plays a very important role. The portion of meat in a dish is therefore relatively big compared to European standards. It is usual to eat a warm meal twice a day, and dinner is more important than lunch. Argentineans eat mostly pasta or rice for lunch and a piece (or several pieces) of meat for dinner.
There are several very popular dishes in Argentina. The most popular one is “asado”, which is like a barbecue with large amounts of meat. It is typically a men’s job to make “asado”. Everyone has its own way and tricks for making it. It takes a long time to prepare because the meat is cooked very slowly. For Argentineans making “asado” is seen as an art. The main ingredients are beef, chicken and/or pork meat. Argentineans usually eat “asado” accompanied by salads and bread. Empanadas are also typical Argentinean; they are stuffed pastries with for example meat, ham, cheese or spinach. Because empanadas are to be found in many different Latin countries, the way of making them differs from country to country, and even from area to area within a country. As a result the taste can differ as well. Empanadas are prepared by frying or baking in a pan. In restaurants, empanadas are often eaten as a starter, but at home Argentineans eat them as a whole meal. “Milanesas” is a kind of schnitzels made from chicken or beef; these are also eaten fried or baked. A variation of the “Milanesa” is “Milanesas a la Napolitana”, which have a topping of ham, cheese and tomatoes. “Milanesas” are normally eaten with mashed potatoes as a side dish.
By far the most popular Argentinean drink is “mate”. This drink can also be found in Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and the south of Brazil. “Mate” comes from the herb “Yerba Mate” and it is drunk with hot water. The water has to be hot but must not cook. The reason behind this is because the water will burn the herb which can change the taste of the drink drastically. “Mate” is served in a hollow calabash gourd with a straw. This straw, which is called “bombilla”, is usually made from stainless steel, silver or wood. In meetings, “mate” will go around and the straw will be used by everyone without cleaning it. It would not be smart to clean the straw because cleaning the straw is seen as an insult. Saying “gracias”, which means “thank you”, after receiving mate, implies that this person does not want to have another round. Mate is drunk with or without sugar (dulce or amargo; sweet or bitter). While walking down the streets of Argentina, it is quite normal to come across stands where “choripanes” are sold. “Choripanes” are a kind of grilled sausage, also known as “chorizo”, served like hamburgers, served with crispy bread and different kinds of sauces. “Choripanes” are easy to prepare and very popular. Another thing people may come across when walking down the street is “chipá”, also called “chipás” or “chipacitos”. These are cheese breads which are very small and can be eaten either warm or cold.