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Top 5 Cities for South American Foodies

Updated: Feb 15

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Some of South America's greatest food, tamales

South American natives from days past had a knack for growing food. As a result, vegetables were some of the continent's first food staples. As other nationalities settled into South America, food became diversified and began to blend. Perhaps one of the biggest influences came from the Europeans, who introduced livestock such as cows and chickens. Now a result of many factors, South American food would be impossible to sum up with a single article. Some of the highlights, though, lie in the continent's most food-centric cities - ones that South American foodies will be dying to visit.

Lima, Peru

Ceviche is an amazing choice for South American foodies

Lima is the biggest food city in South America, and by many accounts, the world. This Peruvian capital is scattered with Michelin-star restaurants, several of which combine the flavors of Spanish, Asian, and African cuisines. Historically, Peruvian natives worked with guinea pig, alpaca, and various seafoods and vegetables to create their dishes. In time, Spanish influence shifted Lima's cuisines, making way for modern ingredients such as beef, pork, chicken, and cheese.

Top Cuisines

  1. Ceviche. A must-have for South American food lovers seeking authenticity, Ceviche has been named the National Food of Peru. The dish begins with raw fish that's been soaked in chili pepper and either lemon or lime juice. After preparation, it's served with chili, red onions, and sweet potatoes.

  2. Causa Rellena. Typically served as an appetizer, Causa Rellena is essentially a potato casserole. The potatoes are sliced to create somewhat of a sandwich bread, and chicken or tuna salad acts as the stuffing.

  3. Anticuchos. This is a marinated cow-heart dish that's usually served on a skewer and accompanied with corn and potatoes.

Notable Restaurants

  1. Maido. Earning a spot on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list, Maido combines Peruvian ingredients with Japanese influence to serve various seafood- and beef-centric meals.

  2. Central. As well as traditional Peruvian aspects, Central incorporates ingredients from the nearby Amazon rainforest and Andes Mountain Range.

  3. Astrid & Gastón. This restaurant offers the expected meat and seafood tastes and an extensive, top-notch cocktail list.

Santiago, Chile

Baker rolls an empanada, a popular South American food

Chile's location lends itself to an extensive supply of seafood. In the beginnings, sustenance was provided by quinoa, potatoes, and other local crops. Spanish invasion and European immigration opened the gastronomic doors in Chile — the former bringing pigs, cattle, and sheep with the latter responsible for pork and sausage. The country today is an amazing choice for South American foodies, producing several fruits, vegetables, and of course, fish.

Top Cuisines

  1. Empanadas. This versatile cuisine can be stuffed with virtually anything, but in Chile, the most common types are beef and cheese. Beef empanadas, or Empanadas de Pino, consist of beef, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and onions. Empanadas de Queso are loaded with cheese and served with rice.

  2. Asado. Made barbecue-style over an open grill, Asado is a slow-roasted meat, mainly pork, chicken, or beef.

  3. Pastel de Choclo. Similar to a Shepherd's Pie, this dish is a mix of sweet corn, ground beef, black olives, onions, chicken, and hard-boiled eggs. Because it's a casserole-style meal, the sweet corn is blended into a paste with cream.

Notable Restaurants

  1. Ambrosia. Known for its Wagyu beef, southern toothfish, and blue cheese mashed potatoes, this family-owned establishment brings a mix of Chilean and French cuisine.

  2. Chipe Libre. The name Chipe is derived from Peru and Chile, both of which it pulls inspiration from. It's highly noted for its Pisco, a popular Chilean alcoholic beverage made of fermented grape juice.

  3. Boragó. A great place to try authentic Chilean food, Boragó calls on local producers to fuel its menu. Its vegetables are grown just 30 minutes away, and its water is collected from Patagonian rainfall.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

South American Alfajores

Argentina is a prominent producer of beef, tomatoes, potatoes, and beans. Meat was (and is) a reliable source of food in the area, and like Chileans, Argentineans often barbecue their meats over an open fire or on a grill. In Buenos Aires, meal times are more about gathering and sharing food with loved ones than the food itself.

Top Cuisines

  1. Choripán. Using baguette-style bread, Choripán is a sandwich topped with chorizo and flavored with chimichurri sauce. To add additional flare, other frequented ingredients include tomatoes, red onions, and capsicum.

  2. Alfajor(es). These cookie-like sweets are made of flour, almonds, hazelnuts, honey, and dulce de leche, or caramelized milk. This variety of the treat has been a mainstay since the 19th century.

  3. Matambre. This grilled flank steak is filled with carrots, hard-boiled eggs, pepper, and sometimes cilantro and olive oil. Afterwards, it's cut into small slices for serving.

Notable Restaurants

  1. Don Julio. Drawing from the area's large beef supply, Don Julio is regarded for its impressive steak collection. Additionally a "50 World's Best" placement holder, it's home to a considerable wine list that pairs well with its red meat offerings.

  2. Aramburu. This classic spot only has 12 tables, and each of them provide a look into the kitchen. Not afraid to step outside the box, Aramburu offers experimental, seasonal menus with Argentinian flair.

  3. Gran Dabbang. Both Argentinian and Indian, this restaurant has a short menu of family-style meals. Because the food is designed to share, it plays into traditions that are so loved by locals.

Bogota, Colombia

Pitahaya is an authentic choice for South American foodies

Natives of Bogota are known to smoke and wood-grill their foods, fashioning meats and soups that are big in flavor but small in spice. The typical Columbian menu is drawn from the country's six regions, the Pacific, Caribbean, Amazon, Andean, Insular, and Orinoco. Along with proteins such as chicken and pork, common Colombian ingredients include legumes, rice, and potatoes. Its also known for its coffee and cacao.

Top Cuisines

  1. Bandeja Paisa. From the Andean region, this platter comes with white rice, pork with red beans, fried egg, chorizo, ground meat, a plantain, Chicharrón (fried pork belly), an avocado, and an arepa.

  2. Ajiaco. Highly popular in Bogota, Ajiaco is a thick soup with potatoes, chicken, corn, and seasonings.

  3. Arepas. Made with corn flour, this savory cake can be enjoyed plain or stuffed with meat, cheese, and any other desired component.

Notable Restaurants

  1. El Chato. With the help of local South American food suppliers, El Chato provides an experience that's both native and creative. It makes use of the more obscure Colombian ingredients, serving delicacies such as chicken hearts.

  2. Leo. Celebrating each of the six regions, Leo's cuisine takes you on a tour of Colombia, equipped with a tasting menu that details where each aspect originates.

  3. Mesa Franca. A Colombian eatery with Creole flavors, Mesa Franca offers sharable plates served in a renovated mansion.

São Paulo, Brazil

Feijoada - a popular South American food

Brazil is one of the top countries for meat production, so its dishes are often centered around beef, lamb, pork, or chicken. Furthermore, it's a major hub for mangos, pineapples, oranges, and other fruits. Beans and rice are considered essential, as well as coffee — the country's national beverage.

Top Cuisines

  1. Feijoada. Simple yet beloved, Feijoada is a beef, pork, and bean stew topped with farofa, or toasted yuca flour.

  2. Brigadeiro. This round, rich dessert is made of cocoa powder, butter, sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate sprinkles.

  3. Picadinho. Also a stew, this dish contains beef and various vegetables, the former of which can be substituted for chicken or pork.

Notable Restaurants

  1. Charco. Focused on grilled cuisines, Charco offers a wide range of Brazilian flavors. The restaurant has a small, simple, and laidback atmosphere.

  2. Mani. Along with Brazilian ingredients, this restaurant incorporates flavors from Europe and Asia. Guests are able to order from a wine-paired tasting menu or an a la carte menu.

  3. Mocoto. This restaurant serves up unique dishes such as beef tongue, Romeu e Juliette pie, and pirarucu fish.

With 12 countries, South American foodies have a lot to choose from. Though these five cities seem to sit atop the list, there are tons of hidden culinary gems and unique flavors that aren't quite the same anywhere else.

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