Traveling Through Food Discovering Argentina and its Empanadas
Have you ever considered traveling to Argentina?
Have you ever dreamed about visiting the Iguazu Falls?
Have you ever wanted to learn Tango in Buenos Aires?
But the real question is have you ever thought of traveling through food?
Here is our suggestion: travel your way around Argentina through its empanadas!!!
One of the best ways to travel is through food. It is a way to discover the culture, to connect with the locals and be surprised by the food. Yes, visiting cultural sites, relaxing on the beaches or hiking beautiful mountains is all very enjoyable. But sometime we might be missing a deeper connection, a way to learn new things and to be surprised. Through food, you get to connect deeper with people, you get to discover more, you get to be surprised by new taste, and awaken your tastebuds to new flavors.
We are Rosemary and Claire, a couple, who are on a quest to discover and highlight authentic food from around the world. Our goal is to inspire travelers to have a deeper connection and experience in their travels through food. We invite you to join us on our journey through Argentina on our quest for the best and authentic empanadas.
Empanadas in Buenos Aires
We landed in Buenos Aires last August and it was here where we discovered the famous Empanadas. In case you don’t know what is an empanada we will attempt to describe it Argentina style. An empanada is a small pie with a “croissant” shape. It consists of a dough filled with different fillings which are mostly savory. In Argentina, the best empanadas are usually baked. All empanadas have a special fold or seal which usually indicates the flavor. This technique is called repulgue and comes in handy when looking to distinguishing the various types of empanadas.
The most common empanada is the “carne” or meat. This one is generally stuffed with meat, onions, vegetables, and in some cases eggs or potatoes. There are different types of empanadas and the ones from Buenos Aires are not exactly the same as the ones in the rest of the country. In fact, each province has its own special touch.Our favorite place that we discovered for empanadas in Buenos Aires was a restaurant in the Recoleta neighborhood. We were not staying in this area, but made the 20 minute trip by metro over from Montserrat (our neighborhood) to try Cumana Restaurant which was highly recommended by locals. Once we got settled in, we looked over their menu and went for the specialties; lomo picante (spicy, chopped tenderloin), jamon y queso (ham and cheese) and Roquefort cheese empanada. I don’t know if it is due to our love for cheese, but we fell in love! All the empanadas were excellent, but the cheese empanada was at a different heavenly level! So good, melting in the mouth with the strong roquefort cheese flavor warmed by the hot empanada dough. Wow. Simply delicious!
The nice thing about empanadas is that you can eat them at any time. They are great as an appetizer to start off any meal. They can also be eaten as a full meal by the dozen (usually cheaper) for lunch or dinner or you can buy just a few of them at a panaderia (bakery) as a snack.
When it comes to finding the best empanadas in Argentina, almost all of the porteños (locals from Buenos Aires) we met advised us to try out the ones in Salta and Tucuman and then make up our minds.
So, we made the trek, not only for the empanadas but to discover the local and authentic dishes around Argentina. So, we set off to Salta and Tucuman for the battle of the empanadas!
Salta vs.Tucuman Empanadas
When we made it to Salta, we discovered that the empanadas Salteñas were much smaller than the ones in Buenos Aires, making it less of an excuse to buy them by the dozen.
That’s what happen to us at La Tacita, arguably the best empanadas joint in Salta. We started by ordering 2 empanadas, then added 4 more and then 2 more. By the time we left we had eaten 8 of them. When we came back the next day, we decided to just go ahead and order a dozen! These are some of the best empanadas we’ve had. They are a bit tiny therefore easy to hold in your hand and small enough to eat them in two bites. They were really tasty and the carne (beef) were our favorite. They are well prepared with green onion, and potatoes which fill them up a little more.Please note that they take a while to serve them because they cook them in their clay oven per order. They are really hot when they come out, so let them cool down and enjoy them with a red salsa sauce that accompanies them. Amazing. Un régal!
Another place that was recommended to us in Salta was El Patio De La Empanada. El Patio De La Empanada offers over 14 different types of empanadas. We tried different types and particularly enjoyed the empanadas Arabes. These empanadas have a unique triangular shape and the beef is cooked with lemon, onions, red peppers, tomatoes, olives with salt and pepper. Absolutely delicious with a Middle East flavor. We highly recommend these empanadas and the outdoor patio as well. If you do make it to Salta, this location should not be missed.
Empanadas in Tucuman
On our way back to Buenos Aires, we made a stop in Tucuman and the main reason for stopping in Tucuman was to try the famous empanadas. We had heard people say that the best empanadas come from Tucuman. Indeed, it is in this province where they have events dedicated to the Empanadas. They have a touristic Ruta De La Empanada (an empanada circuit) with participation from over 50 restaurants in the surrounding area. Tucuman also hosts the National Festival of Empanadas in September. Given this hype, we were excited at trying these empanadas.
One of the most authentic flavor or empanada filling in Tucuman is the mondongo. So on our quest to discover the authentic Tucuman empanadas we found ourselves at El Portal, a local restaurant on the Ruta with a great patio and known for its empanadas. We looked at the menu and decided to order every single empanada on the menu including empanada de mondongo. We didn’t even bother asking what was mondongo. Although we had the vague idea having seen this word at the carniceria (butcher) in Buenos Aires. Well…we tasted it and let me tell you, it was far from being our favorite. And guess what, mondongo means tripe. This empanada was not for us!! But, we ate the famous empanada and drank quite a bit of Salta beer to cover up the taste The empanadas in Tucuman and Salta are indeed different. In Salta the empanadas usually have potatoes and hard boiled eggs, green onion and red pepper. They are also are accompanied with a spicy picante sauce. In Tucuman, the empanadas do not have potatoes and the meat is chopped and cooked with green onions, cumin, red and white pepper, paprika and garlic.After having experienced empanadas in both Salta and Tucuman, we prefer the Salteñas. We like their small and dense size. The potatoes in the empanadas are delicious and the spicy sauce adds a nice bite.
How To Eat Empanadas Like An Argentinian
In our quest to understand authentic food from Argentina, we met with Francis Mallmann, Argentina’s top chef. In our discussion we discovered that there is in fact a technique to eating empanadas. So, if you would like to eat empanadas like an Argentinian, apply these 3 tips shared by Francis Mallmann.
- First, you do not want to use for and knife. It is a “sacrilegious”. An empanada is to be eaten with your hands to appreciate it to its fullest.
- Second, when you bite your empanada, you don’t want to let anything fall on your plate. You want to show that you really enjoy the empanada which means nothing is to be omitted. However, that presents a dilemma. The empanadas that come from the horno (clay oven) are hot and you are almost sure to burn yourself. It takes skill, delicacy and patience to apply this particular tip.
- Third, you want to get your empanada cooked in the horno de barro (clay oven). These are said to be the best. To make sure that the empanadas were cooked in an horno de barro, you will notice that the dough of the empanada “bubbles” up at the surface. This is a signature of a “real” empanada.
What we learned
are a national symbol and the preparation in each province is taken very seriously. Even though empanadas are widely available, it’s important to appreciate their roots and cooking techniques as much as the flavors. We enjoyed getting to know Argentina through its empanadas and appreciate the national heritage and pride of these delectable treats even more. By traveling through food, our experience was even more meaningful. The wonderful sensorial experiences left deeply embedded memories in us. On your next trip, consider planning your travels through food. Awaken your tastebuds to new flavors and senses. You will be surprised at how much fun you will have!
Savor the Adventure!
Cumana, Rodríguez Peña 1149, Recoleta, Buenos Aires.
La Tacita, Caseros 396, Salta.
El Patio de La Empanada, Av San Martin esq. Esteco, Salta.
El Portal, av. 24 de Septiembre 351, San Miguel de Tucumán.
Claire and Rosemary are co-founders of Authentic Food Quest www.authenticfoodquest.com. They aim to inspire travelers through the discovery and knowledge of authentic foods. Sign up here to follow their adventure!