By Claire & Rosemary of Authentic Food Quest
Unusual South American Foods You Should Try
South America, the world’s fourth largest continent offers plenty to see and do for any type of traveller. With almost 60 UNESCO Heritage sites, your travels may include visiting the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina, or Machu Picchu, Peru or maybe the Atacama Desert, Chile.
As you travel through South America, we invite you to also explore the continent through its unusual food specialties.
We are Rosemary and Claire, co-founders of Authentic Food Quest. Our goal is to inspire travelers to have deeper connections and experiences on their travels through authentic food. In 2015, we spent six months traveling through South America, discovering the authentic dishes of the region.
On our quest, we came across many unusual foods, you may not know about. If your travels take you there, here are five unusual foods you should explore in South America.
1. Indulge in Edible Sea Snails or Locos from Chile
Native to the coasts of Chile are large edible sea snails called locos or Chilean Abalone.
Locos are a popular specialty in Chile though highly regulated. Chile banned the fishing of locos in 1989, after the population had dropped dramatically. Today, the only legal way for Chilean fishermen to catch locos is to have a permit. The summertime, which is December through April, is the best time to eat fresh locos.
One of the most popular ways of preparing locos is with mayonnaise. Called Locos con Mayo, this is a salad served at room temperature with lettuce and tomatoes.
The texture of the locos is surprisingly crunchy and firm. You will need a steak knife to cut it up. The taste is mild and similar to a calamari steak and maybe even scallops. While the visual appearance of the locos may not be appetizing, what they lack in looks, they make up for in taste. After your first bite you will understand why they are a “delicacy” worth trying.
2. Grilled Beef Hearts or Anticuchos in Peru
If you have never tried beef hearts before, you cannot miss them in Peru. The first thing you will notice as the sun begins to set, are little carts with a sign “Anticuchos” at virtually every corner.
What is Anticuchos? Quite literally, this is meat on a stick served with a boiled potato on the end. The most traditional are the Anticuchos de Corazon, which are pieces of grilled beef heart served on a stick. They are served with a boiled potato at the end of a skewer and aji, or hot sauce.
The skewers are lined up and stacked with pieces of beef heart. They are cooked on order for about 5-7 minutes with sauce being applied regularly. The first bite of anticuchos is like biting into a piece of beef. However, the difference is in the texture. Beef heart is slippery and tastes like biting into muscle fiber. It is tender, but chewy.
In Peru, don’t miss out on this unusual specialty. If you really can’t stomach the idea of eating beef heart, you can get chicken or regular beef instead.
3. Sweet Blood Sausages or Morcilla Dulce in Uruguay
While you may already be familiar with blood sausages or morcilla, in Uruguay, morcilla dulce is a local specialty you don’t want to miss. These are blood sausages made with sugar, raisins and ground nutmeg, which give them their sweet taste.
The taste is really surprising. In Uruguay, these sausages are usually grilled over open fire on a parilla. When cooked, the sugar caramelizes on the sausages and combined with the raisins and nutmeg, makes them almost as sweet as a dessert. If your travels take you to Uruguay, be sure to have your first “dessert blood sausage” experience.
4. Try Llama Meat instead of Beef in Argentina
Llamas are domesticated animals that have been used for transporting goods for thousands of years by the people from the Andes region. Although llamas are popular for their wool, their meat is eaten in several regional dishes in the north of Argentina.
Llama meat is high in protein and low in fat making it a healthy meat. One of the popular specialties you will find in this region is the Cazuela de Llama or llama casserole.
The Cazuela de Llama is a slowly cooked stew filled with chopped up llama meat with carrots and papas andinas (native potatoes). Incredibly delicious, llama meat is full of flavor.
If you’ve never had llama meat before, consider trying the Cazuela de Llama especially if your travels take you to the north of Argentina. You will not be disappointed!
5. Guinea Pig Or Cuy For A Unique Experience in Cusco, Peru
On your way to Machu Picchu, a stop in Cusco is unavoidable. Just as you will be awed by the majestic nature of the 7 Wonders of World, allow yourself to be in awe of the local food specialties.
Cuy or Guinea Pig is a specialty of Cusco, Peru. In the West, guinea pigs are a popular household pet however, in Cusco, cuy is an important food source in the indigenous culture. The native Peruvians supplemented their diet with guinea pig and this custom still exists today.
In Cusco, cuy is typically prepared in two ways. Fried cuy called cuy chactado or baked cuy known as cuy al horno. Presented whole, that means with head, feet and teeth, we tried the cuy chactado.
After you get past the presentation, your first bite will be crunchy. This is the skin that is well seasoned. When you get underneath the skin, there is not much meat. The bones are thin and brittle and best eaten with your hands. Eating cuy is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one you should not miss in Cusco.
Have you tried any of these specialties from South America? In the comments below, tell us which one of these unusual specialties you would explore?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Claire and Rosemary are co-founders of Authentic Food Quest. They aim to inspire people to travel through authentic food. To follow their adventures find them on Twitter and Instagram.