Meat Cuts in Argentina

March 13, 2013 by · 4 Comments 

Cutting your way through Argentine beef lingo

Las Cabras
The Gran Bife at Las Cabras in Palermo Hollywood. The steak is a Bife de Chorizo. Yup, its awesome.

Meat. Carne. Mmmmm…

Argentina is renowned for its high-quality, juicy, gigantic and cheap steaks. Unlike the beef lexicon in the United States, which prescribes a name for the cut followed by “steak,” Argentine beef idioms have one name for most items. To the English eye, some names may appear to overlap, sound nothing alike, or generally confuse the non-bilingual.

Although I applaud the brave traveler whose willing to order anything on the parrilla, or steakhouse, menu – “Bring me meat!” – you may want to do some reading before making the blindfolded menu choice. It could be the difference between a rib-eye steak and a cow’s testicle – some places, like the famed parrilla La Brigada in San Telmo, serve the entire animal. Nothing goes to waste in Argentina! So take off the blindfold, put on the reading glasses and take notes.

Typical Meat Cuts in Argentina

Asado pic
A classic asado – BBQ with a group of friends, family – with lots of Bife de Lomo

Here is a list of the more common cuts of meat you’ll come across in the average Buenos Aires steakhouse:

  • Chorizo – Sausage. Unlike the word in the US, chorizo here is not spicy. In fact, almost no Argentine food is spicy. Chorizo only means awesome, juicy sausage – when the word is by itself.
  • Bife de Chorizo – Sirloin Steaks. Typical, mouth-watering Argentine steak. And confusingly, nothing to do with the sausage!
  • Ojo de Bife – classic Ribeye steak, found in every parrilla in the city.
  • Vacio – Flank Steak, but with more fat and flavor. It can be quite chewy.
  • Bife Angosto – Porterhouse or Striploin Steak.
  • Entraña – Skirt Steak. A favourite of the BuenosTours team. Ask your waiter to grill it “Jugoso” or juicy. Generally served in long strips.
  • Cuadril– Rump Steak. Commonly used in sandwiches.
  • Entraña gruesa – Hanger Steak, thicker than Skirt steak.
  • Bife de Costilla – T-Bone/Porterhouse Steaks.
  • Bife de lomo – Tenderloin. Less fat than bife de chorizo. Not so much about the flavor, but instead the tenderness. Some Buenos Aires parrillas make a show of cutting it with a spoon upon serving clients!
  • Chinchulines – Small intestine. For more adventurous carnivores.
  • Criadillas – Testicles. Good luck.
  • Morcilla – Blood Sausage. Although not easy to find in many parts of the world, Morcilla is served at almost every parrilla in Buenos Aires.

Some typical Argentine meat sandwiches, often sold at food carts and “hole in the wall” joints:

  • Choripan – Sausage served on a long bread roll.
  • Vaciopan – A flank steak sandwich. A superb carnivorous lunch on the go.
  • Milanesa – Usually a thin, breaded piece of beef fried and served on a roll with typical condiments.
  • Milanesa de pollo – Same sandwich, but with fried, breaded chicken.

And what life would be worth living without a little salsa?:

  • Salsa Provenzal – A garlic-parsley-olive oil mix that will leave you with happy taste buds and stinky breath. Works every time. You can cut to the chase and get the same salsa by just asking for Ajo (a-HO), which means garlic.
  • Salsa Criolla – A colorful, South American condiment. It generally consists of onions, peppers, and tomatoes soaked in olive oil and vinegar or lemon/lime juice. There are a variety of ways to make it, but here is one good recipe.
  • Chimichurri – An Argentine classic, staple condiment. A must! Whether eating chorizo, milanesa or bife de lomo, indulge in some chimichurri while in Buenos Aires. Here’s an interesting recipe for chimichurri.

Ordering Your Meat in Buenos Aires

At Argentine steakhouses and other restaurants/cafes, ordering food is said with direct language. For instance, it is not rude to say, “I want” (Yo quiero). Here are some examples on how to order a steak and to ask it to be cooked a certain way:

  • Formal: I would like a Sirloin Steak medium rare – Yo quisiera un bife de lomo jugoso (hoo-GO-so).
  • More common: I want a sirloin steak cooked well/medium well – Yo quiero un bife de lomo bien cocido. 
  • Other ways to have your steak cooked: a punto = medium (but most likely will come out medium-well, as in Argentina they tend to cook steak more than in the northern hemisphere); bien jugoso = rare; or for those who like their steak “blue”, just say vuelta y vuelta, which means very quickly cooked on each side.

Choripan pic
When traveling to the Ecological Reserve in Puerto Madero, stop outside the reserve at one of the many parrilla stands for a choripan. They have plenty of condiments and for a small amount of cash, you will be stuffed.

If you’re craving more meat literature, here are some recommended reads. Saltshaker provides a list of meat cuts and the best places in Buenos Aires to find each one. Asado Argentina offers a more comprehensive table of meat cuts, and Idle Words has a simply hilarious take on Argentine steak!

Enjoy your beef on your next visit to Buenos Aires! Buen Provecho!

Ordering Coffee in Buenos Aires

January 11, 2013 by · 5 Comments 

Enjoy a cup (or two) of the best café Buenos Aires has to offer

Cafe con Leche Buenos Aires

[Photo credit: WallyG’s Flickr Account/ /CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

True to Argentina’s celebrated Italian heritage, Buenos Aires boasts a rich cafe culture.  Meeting friends for coffee is an central part of social life, and it’s common to find porteños conversing for hours over one cup, in hip cafes and traditional bars alike.  You’ll be hard pressed to find drip coffee in BA (that’s right, forget bottomless refills!), but the espresso served here is strong enough to keep you buzzing all day long.

La Merienda: Argentine Tea Time

Ever wonder how Argentines manage to wait until 10 pm to eat dinner?  The secret may be in their fourth meal of the day: la merienda (mer-ee-end-ah).  Served between 4:30 and 8:30 pm, the merienda meal usually consists of toast (tostadas), cake (torta), or  croissants (medialunas) dipped in a coffee of choice.  Keep an eye out for special promotions, which often include two medialunas, cafe con leche, and fresh squeezed orange juice.

Coffee Ordering Guide

Though the coffee is delicious, it can be confusing to know which drink to order since the names may mean one thing in your country, something completely different in Buenos Aires.  Here’s a quick guide to ordering coffee like the locals: don’t forget to sit back, take your time, and relish every sip!

Merienda Time: A packed cafe in Buenos Aires

Coffee comes in three possible sizes: chico (chee-co) is usually one shot, un jarrito (har-reeto) about a shot and a half, and doble (doh-blay) the double shot size.  All drinks will come as chico unless otherwise noted, so be sure to add the size after ordering your drink. For example, if you want a medium espresso with just a touch of milk, order un cortado en jarrito.  If you want a big cup of black espresso, order un café doble.  For decalf version of any of the following, don’t forget to mention descafenado (dehs-cough-eh-nah-doh).

  • un café: (cah-fay) one shot of creamy espresso.  Plain and simple, a nice pick-me-up in the afternoon.
  • un café con crema: a shot of espresso with a spoonful of whipped cream.
  • un cortado: (core-tah-doh) espresso with a dash of steamed milk and foam. Cortado literally means cut, so the coffee is “cut” by the milk.
  • una lagrima: (la-greem-ah) steamed milk and foam with just a “tear-drop” (una lagrima) of coffee.
  • un macchiato: (mak-ee-ah-tow) an espresso with a dollop of foam, but no milk. This drink is less common than the rest.
  • un americano: (ah-mer-ee-cah-no) a fancy way of saying un café en jarrito. This is basically a shot and a half in a medium cup, in some cafes they will add a touch of water to make it liviano, or weak.
  • un café con leche: (cah-fey cone ley-che) a classic! Cafe con leche means coffee with milk, and is just that: half espresso, half milk with foam. This drink is similar to a cafe-au-lait or a latte, and automatically comes in a double cup.
  • un cappuccino: (cah-poo-cheen-oh) the cappuccino is the most visually stunning, as it comes in a tall thin glass, with clear layers of milk, coffee, and foam. It’s quite similar to a café-con-leche, but sometimes comes with cinnamon (canela) or chocolate. A cappuccino italiano will have whipped cream as well.
  • un submarino: (soob-mar-ee-no) not a coffee drink, but lots of fun! This is basically a deconstructed hot chocolate; the waiter will bring you a glass of warm milk and a chocolate bar, which you can plop into the milk and watch drop like a submarine.  Stir and enjoy!

Cafe con leche with crossants Buenos Aires

Order any of these delightful combinations at Cafe La Poesia in San Telmo, Cafe Margot in Boedo, or any of the thousands of intriguing cafes you find along your way.

For more information on Buenos Aires coffee culture, check out this Pocket Culture Guide, and for more on ordering coffee including some advanced hand gestures, check out Wander Argentine’s Cafe Culture — A Guide to Ordering.

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