A Culinary Tour of the Southern Cone – Part I

Everybody loves food, and even better to write about food is to show it! Now in Bolivia, we have completed our tour of the southern cone (which to me means Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay – but we visited Paraguay as well, so I’m just going to include it here). Given the length of time we spent and the variety of delicious foods, Argentina will just have to occupy its own forthcoming post (which will do little to diminish their ever-present vanity for all things Argentine).

Thus, a sampling of what we ate in Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay:

Chile

Pino empanadas – beef, a hard boiled egg, and an olive. A Chilean classic!

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The most famous of the famous Chilean sandwiches, the Chacarero. Along with half a jar of mayonnaise, the base is thinly sliced beef, fresh green beans, and spicy peppers. Best paired with aji, a delicious and salty Chilean hot sauce. It usually as big as your head, unless you have a really big head. We shared this one at supposedly the best chacarero place in Chile, Fuente Alemana

02-IMG_2086-001Another famous Chilean speciality – the completo! A hot dog, or in this case two hot dogs, smothered in yet more mayonnaise, cheese, vegetables, and various other toppings. This was purchased from the also famous Sibaritico in Vina del Mar, where Anthony Bourdain even got one once. They also make their own mayonnaise there, so Hellman’s lost some business on that one.

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Cuddly guanacos, a llama cousin, make for great photo opportunities, but also fit nicely on a plate.

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Curanto is a seafood medley encompassing clams, mussels and multiple varieties of fish, in addition to various meats and potatoes, all cooked in a hole in the ground. The tinfoil did not taste as good as the rest.

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Churros! Need I say more?

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Uruguay

Confusingly, the Southern Cone at one point ran out of food words, and starting using the same phrases in different countries to describe completely different things. Thus while Lomito refers to pork in Chile, in Uruguay it serves as the national beef-based sandwich, competing with the Argentine Milanesa and Chilean Chacarerro alike. Simple but with tender meat, Uruguay in our opinion takes home a well-deserved second place in the regional sandwich game (but don’t tell the third place Argentines that!)

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While in Chile a large hot dog with everything you could imagine on it is a completo, in Uruguay it’s a pancho – both ertain the ratio of a kilo of mayonnaise per hot dog.

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Uruguay also does up its Sunday bbqs – in this case we got a pizza chicken, or literally cheese and sauce atop a grilled piece of chicken.
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Paraguay

Poor Paraguay is often overlooked, but it does has some specialties of its own commonly found on the street, such as a food drink salad and chipa guasu (i.e. Paraguay cornbread).

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If you ever find yourself lost in the chaos of the markets of Ciudad del Este, take a deep breath, walk west, and don’t stop until you hit a Quiero Fruta. While juices are found everywhere in all four countries, this stand has it going on.

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Meat is just often so much better when grilled on the side of the street. Throw in some yuca too for girth.

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And of course, don’t forget that you can get an entire chicken meal for a few bucks!

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Nothing to See, But Don’t Keep Moving!

A Guest Post by Christine Ribeiro 

When talking to other backpackers or looking at travel itineraries through South America, two countries tend to get left out of the routes: Uruguay and Paraguay. While we certainly enjoyed the sites we saw in Chile and Argentina, we were excited to head off the beaten path and explore places most did not. Thus, expectations were high when we took the boat from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay, the only site in Uruguay to make it into the top sites in South America in our travel guide.

Colonia is an old colony town that was well preserved and supposedly very picturesque. We got in at night and walked around the more modern part of town, saving the historic section for the next day. We got there and walked every street of the 5 block by 5 block old section in under an hour. While certainly nice, it was not what was expected from something on the same list as Macchu Pichu and the Galapagos. I am pretty sure they were just trying to throw Uruguay a bone, so they had at least something on the list.

Suspiro street  - all 100 meters of it

Suspiro street – all 100 meters of it

From there we headed to Montevideo, where we walked the old part of town (often used in place of Havana, Cuba in films) in under two hours and there was little left to see. We did a lot more walking and saw basically every park and beach view possible, but again, nothing remarkable.

Viejo Montevideo

Viejo Montevideo

As we made our way north to Tacuarembo, gaucho/cowboy country, the scenery was picturesque and the town quaint, but little more to see.

Gaucho land

Gaucho land

Finally we ended in Salto, just over the border from Argentina, where this supposedly wonderful thermal bath/springs were. We arrived and it was basically a bunch of hot public swimming pools.

The thermal baths/public pools

The thermal baths/public pools

While there is nothing remarkable that we can point to from our time in Uruguay, we both loved it. It had this laid back relaxed feeling across the country. Even in Montevideo, the largest city, no one was in a rush. Every day after work, the beach fronts were full of people sitting at benches drinking their maté (local loose leaf tea that you drink through a metal straw with a filter and is shared with friends) and watching the sunset. It is a vibe that I only felt once before, in Laos. Maybe it is something about being between two large economic powers in the region (Laos between Thailand and Vietnam and Uruguay between Argentina and Brazil) that makes things just a little bit less rushed. Maybe it is their liberal politics that legalized gay marriage and marijuana (only for residents, don’t get any ideas). Maybe it was the tone set by their last president, who after his term ended went back to a simple life on his ranch, instead of continuing to play a political role. Whatever it is, there is something special about Uruguay. While there may not be anything specific to see, it is worth going just for the vibe. Or perhaps, even moving there!

Mate on the beach

Mate on the beach – the good life