South America is home to a wide variety of culinary delights, each using a distinctive combination of spices and fresh ingredients. Let’s explore the most popular dishes that visitors should not miss in this area.
Exotic fruits in the Amazon
The Amazon rainforest’s famous biodiversity applies as much to food as it does to wildlife. Travellers with a sense of culinary adventure will discover bizarre-looking fruits which, for a variety of reasons, never make it out of the Amazon. The Amazon officially falls within the territories of nine nations, but regardless of which part you happen to be visiting, the best place to find a wide range of exotic fruits will be the local street market.
Two of the most intriguing fruits are cupuaçú and bacurí. Cupuaçú look like a dinosaur eggs covered in suede; break one open and things get even weirder. The meaty yellow flesh has a sweet-sour pungency that combines notes of banana, pineapple and nail polish remover. Bacurí are about the size of a large tennis ball. Inside the shell are 3-5 creamy white sections of pulp with a sweet aroma that will have you swooning.
Meaty treats in Lima, Peru
Peru’s capital offers, arguably, the best dining scene of any city in South America. Blessed with an abundance of fantastic seafood, tropical fruits and other unique ingredients, Lima is home to some of the world’s top fine dining establishments as well as a host of street stalls and markets. And while the citrus-cured seafood dish of ceviche should be at the top of every visiting gourmand’s list, there are also some fantastic meaty dishes that should not be missed.
Afro-Brazilian cuisine in Salvador, Brazil
Salvador, the original capital of Brazil, was once a major hub of the transatlantic slave trade. Today the African influence can still be felt in many aspects of life – the music, religion and the food. Whether waiting at a bus stop or exploring the region’s colonial town squares, the pungent aroma of unrefined red palm oil is never far away.
Acarajé is a street-food dish made of mashed black-eyed peas, fried in dendê and stuffed with salted shrimp, a cashew-based sauce called vatapá, salad and chilli sauce. For a great intro to this dish, check out the no-nonsense local spot Acarajé da Cira on Rio Vermelho.
Moqueca is a rich stew of seafood, coconut milk, tomatoes, peppers and dendê. Served with rice, toasted cassava flour and a rich, fishy gravy called pirão, many consider this to be the most delicious of all Brazilian dishes. Grab a hearty helping at Restauarnte Paraíso Tropical
Pizza in Buenos Aires, Argentina
You could easily spend a whole week in Buenos Aires eating nothing but world-class steaks and empanadas, but Porteños (as the locals are known) are at least as passionate about their pizzerias as they are their parrillas. Pizza purists should approach BA pizzas with an open mind – there are several styles unique to the city and woe betide anyone who dares to suggest these are in any way substandard.
Seafood in Santiago, Chile
The Humboldt Current runs in a northerly direction along the length of Chile’s coastline, bringing with it rich nutrients which support a seafood-lovers dream. Fish markets and restaurants up and down the coast brim with the freshest seafood imaginable. Several varieties of shellfish stand out as extra special.
Picorocos are not for the faint of heart. These giant barnacles are sold alive and have a distinctly alien appearance as they move rather unsettlingly on the fish market stalls like those at Mercado Central. Once cooked in boiling water, they are removed from their casing and eaten whole. Caldillo de congrio, meanwhile, is a rich soup made with eel, tomatoes, white wine and cream. Many swear by its ability to cure a hangover. Try some at the corner hot spot Galindo
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