A (fussy) vegetarian in Argentina
Argentinian cuisine uses a lot of red meat and cheese. They’re renowned for their steaks and asado, a South American style of barbecue, which is every meat eater’s dream. Not a vegetarian’s, though. Here are a few hard learned tips to getting by.
Chicken is vegetarian – Knowing how much the Hispanics like their food bloody, I made sure to book a veggie meal for our outbound flight online. It was to be my last supper, one final safe, but probably a bit cardboardy, dinner to see me off on my three week South American adventure. That’s what I thought anyway. But when they bought our meals, mine was a silvery tub of steaming chicken. ‘That is vegetarian,’ barked the Iberia hostess, penciled-on eyebrows warning me that resistance was futile. It was very much a mark of things to come.
Ham is vegetarian – I love travel and when I plan a trip I’ve already accepted that enjoying food is off the cards. It’s my own fault I’m so fussy. That being said, there are times I want to bang my face on the floor. The average Argentinian menu offers three potential veggie options: chips, salad or omelette, all, at times, contain ham. Green salad for example, was really more of a green and pink salad. It’s not usually mentioned on the menu.
Other options include: pizza is fairly easy to get from street vendors but watch out for ground beef hidden under the cheese,. There are also empanadas, a sort of latino Cornish pasty that are sometimes offered with a cheese filling. It’s not so easy to order them though. On our first day we ordered “dos con queso'”and ended up with four with some sort of red meat. Now, I don’t know if said red meat was considered vegetarian also, but it certainly put me off for a while.
Vegetarian restaurants: there are a few in Buenos Aires. They have a good reputation, but I didn’t visit any – I was traveling with a group of devout carnivores and somehow it seemed to keep slipping off the agenda. Outside BA though, there are very few. I would suggest that you save a few pennies and eat in if you have cooking facilities. There are mini-markets everywhere.
My favourite BA dining experience: the secret or closed-door restaurants, the puertas cerradas. We knew which street we had to go to, then followed instructions to ‘find a mirrored window and knock’. It was very much a meat restaurant, but so welcoming and so very Argentinian (there were no tourists there) that I couldn’t help but enjoy the meal. The steaks, I was assured, were out of this world, and I can confirm that their bread and chips where very nice too.