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Published: August 14th 2013
A trip to Argentina has to be high on the list of many travellers. From the frozen surface of the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier to the warm, cascading waters of the Iguazu Falls on the border with Brazil, Argentina has something for everyone. Especially steak lovers. Argentina is paradise for steak fans – order a salad and, more than likely, it will come with steak on the side. The Argentinians themselves are well-known for their love of food…forget the American processed meat market
– Argentina is the land of fresh and succulent steak. Their national kitchen possesses a huge variety of dishes, heavily influenced by Mediterranean culture. Family life embraces this influence further and the most important social gatherings take place around the dinner table.
The family dinner on Sunday is the most important meal of the week. In Argentina, a social meal stands as a type of special gathering – a symbol of friendship, warmth and caring. As mentioned above, beef reigns supreme. Argentinians consume 50%!m(MISSING)ore beef than the average American and the country is the world’s third largest exporter after Brazil and Australia. Domestic prices are kept reasonably low due to a 15%!t(MISSING)ax on beef exports. Argentinean steaks are famous everywhere, so no wonder annual beef consumption in the country is the highest in the world, standing at approximately 100 kg per capita. This may seem high, but in the 19th
Century, that figure was 180 kg per capita. A glass of wine is most welcome with a nice steak and this certainly shows in the tremendous amount consumed by Argentinians annually – an impressive 60 litres per head.
What makes this beef so special? Due to the country’s temperate climate, large, lush pastures filled with rich pampas grass are widespread. Cattle are primarily free-range, grazing on this grass for their entire lives. It is a more natural existence when compared to other countries like the United States, where most of the animals are kept enclosed in horrific factory conditions, sustained by poorly produced, industrial feeding products. Argentinian cattle remain calm, healthy and energetic, right up until the end of their lives. This results in great quality meat, considered by most to be the best on Earth.
The social act of barbecuing, along with the technique itself has a term in many South American countries, but especially Argentina – Asado. Locals will never call it a barbecue. An Asado consists of a grill, called a parrilla
, on which various meats including delicious Chorizo sausages, ribs, chicken, beef and other meats are cooked slowly, to the delight of the guests.
Away from the family Asado, restaurants offer tremendous steak. Some of the very best steakhouses can be found in Buenos Aires. The Argentinian capital is fascinating, like a run-down version of Paris. It is packed with atmosphere, colourful characters and superb food. The thickest, juiciest and most perfectly-cooked steaks in the world are found in this city – a complete nightmare for any vegetarians. Various cuts of tender steak fill the plate – Bife de Lomo, Bife de Chorozo, Bife de Costilla and Tira de Asado are the most sought after. All are delicious and ridiculously cheap. There are also slightly different variations like Matambre, an Italian style rolled flank steak, filled with vegetables and herbs, which is either boiled or roasted. There is a huge range of wine to choose from, some of the bottles come from Chile but most are local bottles from Argentina. The very best home-produced wine comes from the province of Mendoza.
Argentinian chefs cook the meat extremely carefully, in a ritual that imitates art. If you want to cook your steak in the same way, it’s important to do some research first. Fat should be removed to make the meat lighter. It should also be seasoned before the cooking process begins. Once it is brown on all sides, the meat should be removed from the pan, then added once again after you have introduced some sauce. It should be prepared with the beef’s natural juices in order to preserve flavour. Finally, if you are cooking the meat in the oven, be sure to seal it first in order to stop the flavour escaping.
Pizza and pasta are also quite common alternatives to the steak cult of Buenos Aires. This may satisfy vegetarians, but it is far better to experience Argentinian cuisine without them. Imagine sitting in an internationally acclaimed steakhouse where your glass of fruity red wine is sitting next to a massive steak, as thick as the final Harry Potter novel, its sides almost drooping over the plate. Even if it makes your vegetarian companion sick, you will jump for joy if you are a fan of steak, not just for the amazing taste, but especially when you look at the low price on the bill afterwards.
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