Going to a new country means discovering a new world, culture and of course, trying different flavors. Indeed food is one of most import cultural inheritances of a nation and can tell a lot about their history. Dive into the cuisine of South America, for example, and you will find dishes that reflect the traditions of a multitude of cultures, including indigenous, African and colonizers, mainly from Spain and Portugal.
The relation with food is more than pleasure. Inca civilization used to offer some of their traditional dishes to their gods in religious rituals. The same happens for African descendanta. So it’s possible that the same food you order in a restaurant is also used in religious ceremonies.
It’s also interesting to notice that a relationship with animals, which we see as pets, can be completely different. The guinea pig, for example, is a traditional dish in Peru. Being cute is not enough for some of these animals.
But in some situations, is better to not overthink what you are eating. Like, don't think about the roasted ants in Colombia, the fried tarantulas in Venezuela, or the goat’s stomach in Brazil.
If you can’t judge the book by its cover, you shouldn’t also judge the food by some odd ingredients. One of the best parts of traveling is being open-minded to have new experiences - including in gastronomy. You can be positively surprised.
20 BUCHADA DE BODE, A TYPICAL DISH FROM THE BRAZILIAN NORTHEAST
One of the typical dishes in the Brazilian Northeast is called “Buchada de Bode.” The word comes from the word “bucho,” that in Portuguese means stomach, and is a reference to its main ingredient. The cook stuffs a goat’s stomach with other organs from the animal. The stomach is then sewed up and cooked for a few hours. It’s served with rice and you can also add lemon and pepper while eating it.
There are also variations of the dish, which can be prepared with cow or lamb’s stomach. However, they are less frequent.
19 CORACAO DE FRANGO, YOU MIGHT BE MISSING THE BEST OF THE CHICKEN
If you ever visit Brazil, someone will take you to a barbecue rodizio (all you can eat). But there is something that is outstanding among so many options: coração de frango.
It's a stick fulfilled with seasoned chicken’s heart and is one of the most popular choices in barbecues.
According to the Brazilian meat industry, their inhabitants eat 5 billion chicken hearts per year.
In case you are curious, the dish can be quickly prepared: add rock salt or you can also marinate it with your favorite seasoning. Put it on a skewer and cook for five minutes on each side.
18 HORMIGAS CULONAS, A COLOMBIAN DELICACY
If you are ever walking in Santander, Colombia, there are high chances you will find street vendors selling something in a bag that looks like popcorn ( spoiler alert: it isn’t popcorn).
Probably, they are selling hormiga culonas (big-bottomed ants), especially during the spring, when they are easily found. Although the idea of eating ants sounds awkward at first, they have high levels of protein and almost no saturated fat.
Hormigas culonas are commonly served fried and toast with salt, they cost approximately $3. But in some restaurants you can find a gourmet version of the dish.
17 CHUÑOS, A NEW WAY TO EAT POTATOES
Chuños is a common ingredient in dishes in Bolivia and Peru. It means “frozen potatoes” in the Quechua language and is dated back from the 13th Century, during the Inca Empire.
Preparing the chuños takes five days. They use a frost-resistant type of potato and expose it to the low temperatures of the Andean Altiplano, with exposure to intense sunlight.
They become black or white if they are washed. The chuños can be stored for a very long time - some people say even decades.
It’s an essential ingredient to prepare many dishes, but the most famous is chairo; a soup made with vegetable, meat, and chuños.
16 ALPACA, ONE OF THE HEALTHIEST MEATS ON EARTH
Alpaca is a camelid, originally from South America, and are often mistaken with the llama. There are dozens of them walking in Cusco and Machu Picchu and tourists love taking pictures with them! But they are also very popular in restaurants in Peru since their tender meat is considered an exotic delicacy and rich in proteins, low in fat and has the lowest level of cholesterol compared to any other type of meat.
In Cusco and Aguas Calientes, it’s easy to find restaurants that serve the dishes with alpaca meat, generally served with rice, potatoes, and vegetables. But there are also hamburgers and other varieties.
15 CURANTO DE HOY, PUTTING EVERYTHING TOGETHER
Curanto de Hoyo, a traditional dish in the Chiloé Archipelago, in Chile, but can be found in the South of Chile and also Argentina. The recipe is a mix of seafood, meat, potatoes, and vegetables and, although the ingredients are quite common, the preparations is what makes the dish special.
After putting all the parts together, they cook it in the ground. People dig a meter and a half hole and cover it with super hot stones.
It's the most traditional - and tasty way- to prepare it. However, it’s also possible to use a stew pot over a bonfire or even a regular oven, that is known as "curanto en olla" or "pulmay" but the taste is not the same.
14 MORCILLA DULCE, THE SOUTH AMERICAN VERSION OF BLACK PUDDING
It resembles the black pudding, the traditional delicacy in Great Britain. The morcilla dulce is a black sausage prepared with sugar, raisins, chocolate, nutmeg and a special ingredient. It’s popular at barbecues in Uruguay and it’s somehow a desert, and you can find it most restaurants in Uruguay - and they are very proud of it. Spanish colonizers introduced the dish, but in every place, the receipt is a little different.
According to the Institute of Food Research, the morcilla is an excellent source of protein, but it also has up to 20% of fat and has high levels of sodium. That means that it's fine to eat it once in a while, like during a holiday in Uruguay, but it shouldn’t be part of your routine.
13 SOPA DE MONDONGO, A SOUP WITH A DIFFERENT INGREDIENT
Sopa de Mondongo is one of the most popular dishes in Colombia, and you can find it in almost every city. It’s part of the menu of most restaurants in the South American country.
It’s made with diced tripes (intestines of a cow or pig), with sausage and vegetables and cooked for approximately 45 minutes, served with coriander on top.
It doesn’t look bad and people serve it with rice, banana, avocado and lemon juice.
The truth is, there is so much food on the table that the tripes can almost go unnoticed if you don’t overthink it.
12 VACA ENTERA, THE PROOF THAT ARGENTINA TAKES BBQ TO ANOTHER LEVEL
Argentinian people love meat, and they have the reputation of having one of the best barbecues in the world. And they take it seriously. In some places, they cook the whole cow at once. The process is not easy, since the animal can weigh 500 kg and can take up to 24 hours to cook.
The work starts hours before since people involved in the process have to clean it and “hang” it in a sort of giant grill. Just the last part takes about an hour and involves a lot of people. The most famous chef doing it is Dante Ferrero, who now brought the tradition to Mexico.
11 ACARAJÉ, A DISH PREPARED FOR GODS
It’s the most famous dish from Bahia, in Brazil. People prepare it with smashed peeled white beans that are fried on dendê oil. After that, you can add different typical sauces on it. Although it can be found almost everywhere in Brazil, the best ones are in Salvador, Bahia. People sell it in tents in the streets or restaurants.
The original recipe comes from Africa, and it people also use it on religious ceremonies. Acarajé is the favorite food of Iansã, an African religions goddess, so it’s common that people serve it in rituals involving Iansã.
10 POM, COMBINING THREE CULTURES IN ONE DISH
Although the dish doesn’t look exotic, you need to understand its origins of the most festive meal from Suriname. Pom was responsible for putting three different cultures together: Creole, Jewish, and Surinamese. That alone makes the dish unique and is one of the favorites among people in the country.
Jewish people first introduced it, but there was a lack of ingredients in the region so the indigenous used pomtajer, the root of a tropical plant. Later the creole also replaced the chicken for salt pork. Although it uses just three ingredients (chicken/pork, citrus juice, and pomtajer), it takes almost four hours to prepare a Pom.
9 SEA SNAILS, ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR DISHES IN CHILE
In Chile is common to eat Loco (that means "crazy" in Spanish) or Chilean Abalone, a type of edible sea snail that lives in the coast of Chile and Peru. Those snails have just one shell covering its body and lives attached on rock surfaces where they feed on the algae around.
There is some variation of Loco, but the most common dish is “Locos con Mayo’, where the meal is prepared with mayonnaise and served with potatoes or other vegetables. The texture is a little bit hard and you can find it in almost any restaurant.
8 CHANGUA, THE COLOMBIAN WAY TO START THE DAY
If you are visiting Colombia, your hotel will probably serve more than toast and eggs for breakfast. It is common that Colombians start the day with Changua, a hot soup that is a combination of milk, eggs, potatoes, coriander, and bread.
It’s quite easy and fast to prepare it. The cook mixes an equal amount of water and milk, that is slighted heated with a pinch of salt, then they add chopped potatoes. When it starts to boil, the cook then cracks an egg on top and leaves it for about five minutes. You can put the bread inside and put some coriander over it.
7 ANTICUCHOS DE CORAZON, IF YOU THOUGHT THE CHICKEN HEART WAS TOO MUCH…
The heart is something crucial in the Peruvian gastronomy. Literally. The Anticuchos de Corazon is one of the most important dishes in Peru, and it’s grilled beef heart. They are marinated for hours in a mix of vinegar, garlic, oregano, chile pepper, cumin and served with boiled potatoes or bread.
It’s an effortless and cheap dish. You can find it in street carts in many cities in Peru. They are especially popular during the procession of Señor de Los Milagros, a religious festivity. Although the anticuchos can be prepared with all kinds of meat, nothing come closes in popularity to beef heart.
6 CAZUELA DE LLAMA, A DELICIOUS STEW IN ARGENTINA
Argentinean cuisine is much more than just empanadas and barbecue. If you travel to the North of the country, for example, you will find out that llamas are famous not only for their wool, but that their meat is used in different regional dishes.
The most popular of them is the Cazuela de Llama or Llama casserole, a stew prepared with chopped meat that is slowed cooked with carrots and potatoes. It’s a delicious dish, but also high in protein and low in fat. As long as you forget that you are eating one of the cutest animals in South America, you will have a great meal.
5 GUINEA PIG IS NOT JUST A PET IN PERU
Some animals can be a pet in some cultures, but in others, they can be an exotic delicacy. It happens to dogs in China and also to guinea pigs in Peru. It’s not difficult to find a restaurant that sells “cuy”, where the guinea pig is served fried ( including the head), with some salad or potatoes.
Although it doesn’t look attractive at all when it arrives on your table, it’s not bad taste-wise. The meat texture is similar to pork, but the taste resembles the rabbit. It has high levels of protein, low levels of cholesterol and it’s easily digested - something essential if you are in high altitudes, like in Cusco, Peru.
4 COW UDDER, BUT NOT MILK THIS TIME
In Chile, a cow udder is not only useful for producing milk. The ubre asada, translated to chargrilled udder, is served with garlic potatoes. It has a spongy and crispy texture, and it’s the type of dish that people eith love or hate.
Before cooking it, people make sure to remove any milk that is still in the udder and grill it on an open fire. In fact, it doesn’t resemble an ubre when it’s in your plate, and you could easily think it’s pork.
Ubre is not a delicacy only in Chile. In some parts of Asia people also eat it.
3 CORN BEER, AN UNUSUAL WAY TO PREPARE THE BEVERAGE
When traveling in Peru, Bolivia, and Peru, you will try many different dishes and drinks along the way. The corn beer is one of them and is prepared with corn that is fermented with, wait for it, saliva. Chicha makers prepare the beverage, and they are responsible for chewing the corn, spitting it out and leaving it to dry. The kernels are left to ferment for a few months. After that period they are ready to be consumed. While this practice was very common, nowadays malted barley can substituted for the saliva process.
In Peru, corn beer also has a spiritual meaning, since the corn was considered a sacred crop for Incas and offered to gods after the harvest period. Would you dare to drink it?
2 GOLIATH BIRDEATER, WHEN PREDATOR BECOMES SNACK
Goliath Birdeater is the largest spider in the world - it can become as big as a dinner plate and, as the name suggests, it’s enough to eat a bird. However, the animal is also an exotic dish in Venezuela, where it’s toasted and served as a snack.
After collecting the spiders, people preparing the dish remove the rear and the hair. They season the tarantula with salt and chili. It’s served as an appetizer, and people use toothpicks to eat it. The indigenous in Venezuela appreciate the delicacy and specialists believe that is the reason why its population is decreasing. So even you are a fan of exotic dishes, think twice before trying this one.
1 1.BOLINHO DE FEIJOADA, THE LEFTOVERS THAT BECAME A DELICIOUS SNACK
If you are visiting a traditional boteco in Rio de Janeiro, you should ask for Bolinho de Feijoada, one of the favorite snacks in the city. It’s made from the leftovers of Feijoada, the most famous Brazilian dish: a savory stew of black beans and pork. It's uncertain where the Feijoada comes from. While some people believe it came from the African slaves, other studies believe it’s a variation of a Portuguese dish.
In case there is some feijoada left, people just put it on a blender and make some balls, filled with fried cabbage and other ingredients. They cook it on hot oil and serve it as a snack in Rio. It’s just like french fries, but even better.