Buenos Aires Street Food… or Reasons Why I Cook Less Lately

I believe that if you want to know a city, you have to embrace the streets. In Buenos Aires, I walk between three and 12 miles each day, venturing to different corners of the city

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and using new routes all the time. And if Anthony Bourdain has taught me anything, it's that street food is often some of the best a city has to offer. I've been taking advantage of BA's cheap and delicious options, so I thought I'd share.

Argentina is well known for the parilla, the grill. There are many stands serving up asado, whether it's grilled flank steak, blood sausage, burgers or chorizo. The photo above is choripan, a chorizo sausage on bread. Chorizo here is a pretty plain sausage, not the spicy stuff from Spain or Mexico. But it's got smoke from the grill, classic chimichurri sauce and is enveloped in a perfect baguette. This 4-peso meal (just over $1 US) from Palermo is still one of the best I've had here.

Also at the portable parillas are hamburger patties that are otherwise unextraodinary until you realize how many topping options you have waiting for you. I dressed my burger with two varieties of chimichurri, mayo, a pepper and onion salsa of sorts, tomato, pickled cabbage, lettuce and fried shoestring potatoes. Six pesos in Puerto Madero.

When you're less in the mood for grilled meat, pans rellenos are a great option. People walk around craft markets selling these stuffed breads out large baskets. If you're lucky, yours will still be warm when you get it. Common fillings are ham and cheese or mozzarella, tomato and basil. I got this massive one filled with pumpkin, corn and cheese in San Telmo for 8 pesos yesterday, and I just finished the other half for lunch today.

There are many possibilities for dessert, too. The majority involve dulce de leche. These churros are filled with the heavenly stuff and are 1 peso each (about equal to a quarter) in Recoleta.

There's much more, but consider this an introduction.

Read Part Two here.

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Vegetable Soup with Chimichurri

With a big bunch of spinach wilting in the fridge, I went to Gourmet.com and sifted through a few pages of search results before I found this Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic Sauce. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

The first ingredient was fennel bulb, which is something I’ve been looking for a reason to buy lately since it is normally expensive in the States, but here I got a bulb for the equivalent of 33 cents. The next ingredient was pancetta, which usually indicates a recipe will be delicious, plus, I had some in the fridge. Carrots, cabbage, zuchinni, potatoes, onion? All things I already had. I picked up some fennel and white beans, and decided to skip or substitute anything else.

Instead of basil-garlic pistou, I used a version of chimichurri I had made the night before. Chimichurri is the It-sauce in the States right now, but it’s an Argentine classic made from chopped parsley, garlic, oil and a few other ingredients. Also making my soup a little more Argentine was the reggianito cheese I used in lieu of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The addition of garlic-herb sauce is what really takes this soup to incredible heights. The combination of vegetables and beans and pancetta is quite good, but the broth would be a little bland without the shot of adrenaline from the pistou or chimichurri. As a whole, it’s a hearty but not too heavy soup, perfect for these cool days in Buenos Aires before spring arrives. Or for the start of fall, if you’re in the opposite hemisphere.

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Empanadas with Eggs, Pancetta and Caramelized Onions

When I think fast food in Argentina, I think empanadas. Baked or fried dough filled with various combinations of meat, cheese and vegetables. What’s not to like?

There are endless options for buying traditional empanadas in Buenos Aires, and each one costs less than a dollar. I’d be silly to make my own at home. Instead, I wanted to create a version you can’t find on the streets here.

For some reason I couldn’t get the idea of eggs out of my head. Then when my friend Marissa told me about a frittata recipe with bacon and caramelized onions, I had a burst of inspiration. I would make a filling with similar flavors, and encase it in the wonder that is empanada dough.

I added caramelized onions, pancetta and reggianito (an Argentine cheese similar to Parmigiano) to scrambled eggs, which I cooked until just set, but softer than I normally eat them, knowing they’d keep cooking when I fried the empanadas.

It wasn’t until after I made them that I realized these were a glamourized version of American Hot Pockets. But fresh, no preservatives and a lot more flavor. I don’t even know the last time I ate a Hot Pocket, but I’ll tell you, I’d eat these again anytime.

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