Maeve O'Meara joins chef, Jorge Chacon, to learn about the particular flavors and ingredients that make South American food really special.
Argentinean baker Roberto Lagrange explains the subtle regional differences in empanadas, and Yvonne Cutro reveals her home-made recipe for this small savory pie that is enjoyed throughout the continent.
Chef Alejandro Saravia shows how to make Peru's national dish, ceviche—the tangy raw fish marinated in lime juice with onions, chilli and salt. Fabian Conca demonstrates a traditional South American barbeque, and Maeve learns the secrets to chorizo and the special asado cuts of beef from Chilean butcher Margarita Garcia and her son Ricardo.
Restaurateur Diana Pinon introduces Maeve to the intense herbal drink maté, and Carmen Almenara makes a rich caramel that is a favorite in South American biscuits and sweets.
Click here for the recipes featured in this episode.
About South America
South America is a continent that includes twelve countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Traditionally South America also includes some nearby islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Trinidad, and Tobago.
Other islands that are included with South America are the Galápagos islands that belong to Ecuador and Easter Island (in Oceania but belongs to Chile), Robinson Crusoe Island, Chiloé are also Chilean islands, while Tierra del Fuego is split between that country and Argentina. In the Atlantic Brazil owns Fernando de Noronha, Trindade and Martim Vaz, and the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago.
For this episode of Food Safari, we will concentrate primarily on Spanish-speaking Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Peru.
South America was joined with Africa from the late Paleozoic Era to the early Mesozoic Era, until the supercontinent Pangaea began to rift and break apart about 225 million years ago. Therefore, South America and Africa share similar fossils and rock layers.
South America is thought to have been first inhabited by humans when people were crossing the Bering Land Bridge (now the Bering Strait) at least 15,000 years ago from the territory that is present-day Russia. They migrated south through North America, and eventually reached South America through the Isthmus of Panama. However, some archaeological finds do not fit this theory and have led to an alternative theory of Pre-Siberian American Aborigines.
The rise of plant growing and the subsequent appearance of permanent human settlements allowed for the multiple and overlapping beginnings of civilizations in South America.
One of the earliest known South American civilizations the—Caral or Caral-Supe civilization—was at Norte Chico, on the central Peruvian coast. Though a pre-ceramic culture, the monumental architecture of Norte Chico is contemporaneous with the pyramids of Ancient Egypt. Norte Chico governing class established a trade network and developed agriculture then followed by Chavín by 900 BC, according to some estimates and archaeological finds. Artifacts were found at a site called Chavín de Huantar in modern Peru at an elevation of 3,177 meters. Chavín civilization spanned 900 BC to 300 BC.
In the central coast of Peru, around the beginning of the I millennium AD, Moche (100 BC–700 AD, at the northern coast of Peru), Paracas and Nazca (400 BC–800 AD, Peru) cultures flourished with centralized states with permanent militia improving agriculture through irrigation and new styles of ceramic art.
Around 7th century, both Tiahuanaco and Wari or Huari Empire (600–1200, central and northern Peru) expanded its influence to all the Andean region, imposing the Huari urbanism and tiahuanaco religious iconography.
The Muisca were the main indigenous civilization in what is now modern Colombia. They established a confederation of many clans, or cacicazgos, that had a free trade network among themselves. They were goldsmiths and farmers.
Other important Pre-Columbian cultures include: the Cañaris (in south central Ecuador), Chimu Empire (1300–1470, Peruvian northern coast), Chachapoyas (also called the "Warriors of the Clouds"; in the Amazon regions of Peru), and the Aymaran kingdoms (1000–1450, Bolivia and southern Peru).
Holding their capital at the great city of Cusco, the Inca civilization dominated the Andes region from 1438 to 1533. Known as Tawantin suyu, and "the land of the four regions," in Quechua, the Inca civilization was highly distinct and developed. Inca rule extended to nearly a hundred linguistic or ethnic communities, some 9 to 14 million people connected by a 25,000 kilometer road system. Cities were built with precise, unmatched stonework, constructed over many levels of mountain terrain. Terrace farming was a useful form of agriculture.
The Mapuche in Central Chile were known for defenses against European and later Chilean settlers in the first 300 years of the Columbian period.
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In 1494, Portugal and Spain, the two great maritime European powers of that time, on the expectation of new lands being discovered in the west, signed the Treaty of Tordesillas, by which they agreed, with the support of the Pope, that all the land outside Europe should be an exclusive duopoly between the two countries.
The word America was coined in 1507 by cartographers Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann, after Amerigo Vespucci, who was the first European to suggest that the lands newly discovered by Europeans were not India, but a New World unknown to Europeans.
Beginning in the 1530s, the people and natural resources of South America were repeatedly exploited by foreign conquistadors, first from Spain and later from Portugal. These competing colonial nations claimed the land and resources as their own and divided it into colonies.
European infectious diseases (smallpox, influenza, measles, and typhus)—to which the native populations had no immune resistance—and systems of forced labor, such as the haciendas and mining industry's mita, decimated the native population under Spanish control. After this, African slaves, who had developed immunities to these diseases, were quickly brought in to replace them.
The Spaniards were committed to convert their native subjects to Christianity and were quick to purge any native cultural practices that hindered this end; however, most initial attempts at this were only partially successful, as native groups simply blended Catholicism with traditional idolatry and their polytheistic beliefs. Furthermore, the Spaniards brought their language to the degree they did with their religion, although the Roman Catholic Church's evangelization in Quechua, Aymara, and Guaraní actually contributed to the continuous use of these native languages, albeit only in the oral form.
Eventually, the natives and the Spaniards interbred, forming a mestizo class. At the beginning, the mestizos of the Andean region were offspring of Amerindian mothers and Spanish fathers. After independence, most mestizos had native fathers and white or mestizo mothers.
Many native artworks were considered pagan idols and destroyed by Spanish explorers; this included many gold and silver sculptures and other artifacts found in South America, which were melted down before their transport to Spain or Portugal. Spaniards and Portuguese brought the western European architectural style to the continent, and helped to improve infrastructures like bridges, roads, and the sewer system of the cities they discovered, conquered or found. They also significantly increased economic and trade relations, not just between the old and new world but between the different South American regions and peoples. Finally, with the expansion of the Portuguese and Spanish languages, many cultures that were previously separated became united through that of Latin American.
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The South American possessions of the Spanish Crown won their independence at the end of 1823 in the Spanish American wars of independence. Simón Bolívar of Venezuela and José de San Martín of Argentina were the most important leaders of the independence struggles. Bolívar led a great uprising in northern South America, then led his army southward towards Lima, the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Meanwhile, San Martín led an army from the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata across the Andes Mountains, meeting up with General Bernardo O'Higgins in Chile, and then marched northward to gain the military support of various rebels from the Viceroyalty of Peru. The two armies finally met in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where they cornered the Royal Army of the Spanish Crown and forced its surrender.
In the Portuguese colony of Brazil, Dom Pedro I (also Pedro IV of Portugal), son of the Portuguese King Dom João VI, proclaimed the country's independence in 1822 and became Brazil's first Emperor. After some quarreling with Portuguese loyal garrisons in Bahia and Pará, this was diplomatically accepted by the crown in Portugal, on conditions of a high compensation paid by Brazil.
Although Bolivar attempted to keep the Spanish-speaking parts of the continent politically unified, they rapidly became independent of one another as well, and several further wars were fought, such as the War of the Triple Alliance and the War of the Pacific.
South America, like many other continents, became a battlefield for the superpowers during the Cold War in the late 20th century. In the 1960s and 1970s, some democratically elected governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay were overthrown or displaced by U.S.-aligned military dictatorships. To curtail opposition, their governments detained tens of thousands of political prisoners, many of whom were tortured and/or killed on inter-state collaboration. Economically, they began a transition to neoliberal economic policies. They placed their own actions within the U.S. Cold War doctrine of "National Security" against internal subversion.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Peru suffered from an internal conflict (see Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and Shining Path). Revolutionary movements and right-wing military dictatorships have been common, but starting in the 1980s a wave of democratization came through the continent, and democratic rule is now widespread. Allegations of corruption remain common, and several nations have seen crises which have forced the resignation of their presidents, although normal civilian succession has continued. International indebtedness became a notable problem, as most recently illustrated by Argentina's default in the early 21st century.
Argentina and Britain fought the Falklands war in 1982.
Colombia has had an ongoing, though diminished internal conflict, which started in 1964 with the creation of Marxist guerrillas (FARC-EP) and then involved several illegal armed groups of leftist leaning ideology as well as the private armies of powerful drug lords. Many of these are now defunct, and only a small portion of the ELN remains, along with the stronger, though also greatly reduced FARC. These leftist groups smuggle narcotics out of Colombia to fund their operations, while also using kidnapping, bombings, land mines and assassinations as weapons against both elected and non-elected citizens.
Revolutionary movements and right-wing military dictatorships became common after World War II, but since the 1980s a wave of democratization came through the continent, and democratic rule is widespread now. Nonetheless, allegations of corruption are still very common, and several countries have developed crises which have forced the resignation of their governments, although, in most occasions, regular civilian succession has continued this far.
International indebtedness turned into a severe problem in late 1980s, and some countries, despite having strong democracies, have not yet developed political institutions capable of handling such crises without recurring to unorthodox economical policies, as most recently illustrated by Argentina's default in the early 21st century. The last twenty years have seen an increased push towards regional integration, with the creation of uniquely South American institutions such as the Andean Community, Mercosur and Unasur.
Notably, starting with the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 1998, the region experienced what has been termed a pink tide—the election of several leftist and center-left administrations to most countries of the area, except for the Guianas, Peru and Colombia. Despite the move to the left, South America remains largely capitalist and is enjoying its best years of economic growth. The Brazilian GDP, for instance, is expected to grow 7.5% in 2010, second only to the People's Republic of China in the world.
In 2008, the Union of South American Nations (USAN) was founded, revealing South American ambition of economic integration, with plans for political integration in the European Union style. This was seen by American political commentators as a pivotal moment in the loss of U.S. hegemony in the region. According to Noam Chomsky, USAN represents that "for the first time since the European conquest, Latin America began to move towards integration".
As of early 2007, South America is experiencing great economic development, with Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru growing their economies by over 8% per annum. Brazil's economy, on the other hand, is expected to grow by a more sluggish pace during the year.
This significant economic growth can be seen in many of these countries with the construction of new skyscrapers like the Gran Costanera tower in Chile, and also transportation systems like the Bogota Metro. However, because of histories of high inflation in nearly all South American countries, interest rates remain high and investment remains low. Interest rates are usually twice that of the United States. The exception is Chile, which has been implementing free market economic policies since establishing military dictatorship in 1973 and has been increasing its social spending since the return of democratic rule in the early 1990s. This has led to economic stability and interest rates in the low single digits.
South America relies heavily on the exporting of goods and natural resources. Main products include: Coffee, soybeans, wheat, rice, corn, sugarcane, cocoa, citrus, beef, bananas and shrimp are also important agricultural products for many countries. On an exchange rate basis Brazil (the seventh largest economy in the world and the largest in South America) leads the way in total amount of exports at $204.8 billion dollars followed by Chile at 58.12 billion and Argentina with 46.46 billion.
Industries are also important to South America’s economy. Most South American factories produce food items, consumer goods, or building materials. More developed countries also produce cars, trucks, and airplanes. Some of these companies import all the parts and raw materials needed for manufacturing, which limits the amount of profits they can receive for the item. An important factor that is crucial to the success of industries is importing and exporting.
The biggest trade block in South America is Mercosur, comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Associate states include Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The second-biggest trade bloc is the Andean Community of Nations comprising Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and as of 2006 Chile. Mercosur helps to expand trade, improve transportation, and reduce tariffs among member countries. The Andean Community mimics such cooperation, but limits exist due to crucial road barriers. The Union of South American Nations is expected to merge both trade blocs.
The economic gap between the rich and poor in most South American nations is considered to be larger than in most other continents. In Venezuela, Paraguay, Bolivia and many other South American countries, the richest 20% may own over 60% of the nation's wealth, while the poorest 20% may own less than 5%. This wide gap can be seen in many large South American cities where makeshift shacks and slums lie adjacent to skyscrapers and upper-class luxury apartments.
South America has been estimated population of 382 million people living in twelve nations, contributes 6% of the world's population. South America ranks fourth in area (after Asia, Africa, and North America) and fifth in population (after Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America). The population of Argentina numbers 40.1 million, Chile's 17.2 million, Colombia's 45.9 million, and 29.5 million.
The distribution of ethnic groups by country is as follows:
Peru: 45% Amerindians, 37% Mestizos, 15% European, 2% Afro-Peruvians, 1% Asians and others. While the Jungle are the "heart" of the indigenous populations of Peru, White people are mostly found in the northern highlands.
Brazil is the most diverse country in South America and arguably the world, with large population of Whites, Mulattos, Mestizos, a significant population of Blacks, as well as a sizable community of Middle Easterners and East Asians.
An estimated 90% of South Americans are Christians (82% Roman Catholic, 9% other Christian denominations), accounting for roughly 19% of Christians worldwide. In lowland South America, as well as the Andes, animism and shamanism are common, as noted among the Urarina of Peruvian Amazonia.
The cultures of South America draw on diverse cultural traditions. These include the native cultures of the peoples that inhabited the continents prior to the arrival of the Europeans; European cultures, brought mainly by the Spanish, the Portuguese and the French; African cultures, whose presence derives from a long history of New World slavery; and the United States, particularly via mass culture such as cinema and TV.
Tourism has increasingly become a significant source of income for many South American countries. Historical relics, architectural and natural wonders, a diverse range of foods and culture, vibrant and colorful cities, and stunning landscapes attract millions of tourists every year to South America. Some of the most visited places in the region are Machu Picchu, the Amazon Rainforest, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Cuzco, Lake Titicaca, Patagonia, and Cartagena.
The following monuments are designated as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations organization, UNESCO. These monuments receive many tourists due to their uniqueness, aesthetic attraction, and cultural significance.
Argentina: Cave of the Hands (Cueva de las Manos) and Río Pinturas (has prehistoric cave paintings), Iguazú National Park (home of Iguazu Falls), Ischigualasto / Talampaya National Parks and its paleontologic formations, Jesuit Block and Estancias of Córdoba, Jesuit missions of the Guaranis (San Ignacio Mini, Santa Ana, Nuestra Señora de Loreto and Santa Maria Mayor), Los Glaciares National Park and the Perito Moreno Glacier, Península Valdés (a marine wildlife preserve) and Quebrada de Humahuaca (a World Cultural Landscape for its scenic natural beauty and historical sights).
Colombia: Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments (in Cartagena), Los Katíos National Park, Malpelo Island, Santa Cruz de Mompox, San Agustín, Huila, Tierradentro, and the coffee cultural landscape of Colombia
Peru: Caral, Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, Chavin de Huantar (Archaeological site), City of Cusco, Historic centre of Lima, Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, Historic centre of Arequipa, Huascaran National Park, Lines and Geoglyphs of Nazca and Pampas de Jumana, Manu National Park, and Rio Abiseo National Park.
South American Cuisine
South America is a land full of intense flavors and traditions. Few regions of the world boast such a rich culinary tradition as South America. And if trends continue, more of its foods will go from humble to high chic as Americans discover just how incredible Latin flavors can be.
South American cuisine is truly a mix of the world. Long before the Europeans discovered South America, the native populations knew how to cultivate an incredible array of plants. They developed elaborate irrigation systems, and terraced the steep Andean mountain slopes to make them more suitable for growing food. They grew corn, lima beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, chile peppers, avocados, peanuts, chocolate, and raised llamas and guinea pigs. Each region developed its own traditional dishes. When the Europeans arrived, they incorporated some of these native dishes into their own cuisine. Some native foods were not incorporated into the European-syle cuisine, but the indigenous populations continue to cultivate and eat them. Recently these foods have been rediscovered and many reputable chefs have begun to feature this dishes at chic and trendy restaurants.
Europeans brought their culinary traditions, but quickly adapted several of the fruits and vegetables native to the Americas into their own cuisines. Europe itself had been influenced by other cultures, such as with the Moors in Spain, and thus their food was already a mix of their world. The European influence for South American cuisine mainly comes from Spain, Portugal, Italy and to a lesser extent France, although some influences from cuisines as diverse as British, German and Eastern European are also evident in some countries' cuisines.
Africans brought and preserved many of their traditions and cooking techniques. They were often given less desired cuts of meat, including shoulder and intestines. Menudo, for example, was derived from the habit of the Spaniards giving the slaves cows' intestines. Slaves developed a way to clean the offal and season it to taste. Slaves were also given scraps of food the landlords did not eat, and by mixing what they got, they usually ended coming up with new plates that nowadays have been adopted into the cuisine of their respective nation. (Such being the case with the Peruvian tacu-tacu).
A wave of immigrants from Asia, such as China and Japan, also influenced the cuisine of South America. The Chinese brought with them their own spices and food-styles, something that the people of South America accepted into their tables. Not only that, but several Asian restaurants also adapted a whole lot of South American food-styles into their own. This case can clearly be seen in the Peruvian chifa.
Some items typical of South American cuisine include maize-based dishes (tortillas, tamales, pupusas) and various salsas and other condiments (guacamole, pico de gallo, mole, chimichurri, and pebre). These spices are generally what give the South American cuisines a distinct flavor; yet, each country of South America tends to use a different spice and those that share spices tend to use them at different quantities. Thus, this leads for a variety across the land. Sofrito, a culinary term that originally referred to a specific combination of sauteed or braised aromatics, exists in South American cuisine. It refers to a sauce of tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, garlic, onions and herbs.
South American beverages are just as distinct as their foods. Some of the beverages can even date back to the times of the Native Americans. Some popular beverages include mate, pisco, horchata, chicha, atole, cacao and aguas frescas.
The South American cuisine varies from one country to the other, but they all have in common a love for the traditional recipes which are passed from generation to generation.
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Argentine cuisine is strongly influenced by Italian and Spanish cuisines and cooking techniques. Indigenous gastronomies derived from groups such as the Quechua, Mapuche, and Guarani have also played a role.
Another determining factor in Argentine cuisine is that Argentina is one of the world's major food producers. It is a major producer of meat (especially beef), wheat, corn, milk, beans, and since the 1970s, soybeans. Given the country's vast production of beef, red meat is an especially common part of the Argentine diet. Beyond asado (the Argentine barbecue) it is hard to think of any other type of dish that more genuinely matches the national identity.
Grilled meat from the asado (barbecue) is a staple, with steak and beef ribs especially common. Chorizo (pork sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), chinchulines (chitterlings), mollejas (sweetbread), and other parts of the animal are enjoyed. In Patagonia, lamb and goat are eaten more frequently than beef. Whole lambs and goats can be seen on the asado. Chimichurri, a sauce of herbs, garlic and vinegar, is often used as an accompaniment (most Argentines have a relatively delicate palate and do not include chili in their version of chimichurri).
Breaded and fried meat (schnitzel)—milanesas—are used as snacks, in sandwiches or eaten warm with mashed potatoes—purée. Empanadas—small pastries of meat, cheese, sweet corn and a hundred other varieties—are a common sight for parties, starters and picnics across Argentina.
Just as much as beef, Italian staples, such as pizza and al dente pasta, are eaten. Fideos, Tallarines, ñoquis, ravioles and canelones can be bought freshly made in many establishments in the larger cities.
A sweet paste, dulce de leche is another national obsession, used to fill cakes and pancakes, spread over toasted bread for breakfast or as an ice cream flavor. Alfajores are shortbread cookies sandwiched together with dulce de leche or a fruit paste. Apples, pears, peaches, kiwifruits, avocados and plums are major exports.
A traditional drink of Argentina is an infusion called mate. The dried leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant are placed in a small cup, also called mate, usually made from a gourd, but also from bone or horn. The drink is sipped through a metal or cane straw called a bombilla. Mate can be sweetened with sugar, or flavored with aromatic herbs or dried orange peel to hide its bitter flavor. Mate cocido is the same leaf, which rather than brewed is boiled and served, as coffee or tea, with milk or sugar to taste.
Other typical drinks include wine (occasionally mixed with carbonated water known as soda); tea and coffee are equally important. Quilmes is the national brand of pale lager, named after the town of Quilmes, Buenos Aires, where it was first produced.
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Chilean cuisine stems mainly from the combination of Spanish cuisine with traditional Chilean ingredients, with later influences from other European cuisines, particularly from Germany, Italy, Croatia, France and the Middle East. The food tradition and recipes in Chile stand out due to the varieties in flavors and colors.
An characteristic of Chilean cuisine is the variety and quality of fish and seafood, due to the geographic location and extensive coastline. The Humboldt current causes a supply of seafood that gathers along the Pacific coast perpendicular to Chilean waters. These include squid, soleidae (sole), albacore, codfish, hake, corvina (salmon), batoidea and tuna. Seafood such as abalone, prawns, clams, crabs, shrimp, oysters, lobsters, percebes, picorocos, and eels are also fished in large amounts. Moreover, the country's waters are home to unique species of fish and shellfish such as the Chilean sea bass, loco and picoroco.
Paila marina is a traditional Chilean seafood stew that is common in Chile. It is usually served in a paila (earthenware bowl). Paila marina is usually a shellfish stock containing different kinds of cooked shellfish and fish. These are complemented with a variety of herbs and spices such as garlic, cilantro, onion.
The country's immense geographical diversity allows for a wide range of crops and fruits to be present in Chilean food. Among the most known are the following: olives, chirimoya, maize, lúcuma (a subtropical fruit that's very nutritious, having high levels of carotene and vitamin B3), ugni molinae (also known as "Chilean guava"; an ingredient used for marmalades and liquor), potato (featured heavily in dishes such as cazuela; also a fundamental product in a wide array of dishes), and quinoa.
In addition, many Chilean recipes are enhanced and accompanied by wine and Pisco, a type of grape brandy produced in Chile as well a drink in Peru. Chile is the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world, and the ninth largest producer. The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère.
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Colombian cuisine consists of a large variety of dishes that take into account the difference in regional climates. Inland, the plates resemble the mix of cultures, inherited mainly from Amerindian and European cuisine, and the produce of the land—mainly agriculture, cattle, river fishing and other animals' raising.
Common main dishes on a national level include:
- Asado bogotano — an assortment of meats cooked on a grill, called a parrilla, or open fire, accompanied by potatoes, corn, onion and eggplant cooked on the grill and seasoned with olive oil and salt.
- Lechona — a mixture of yellow pea purée and pork meat, with a side of rice arepa and corn.
- Bandeja Paisa – consists of white rice, red beans, ground beef, plantain, dirty rice, chorizo, chicharron, arepa, avocado and a fried egg.
- Sancocho — a popular soup that combines vegetables and poultry or fish and usually contains yuca, maize, and is frequently eaten with banana slices.
- Ajiaco — a soup consisting of pieces of chicken, large chunks of corn on the cob, two or three kinds of native potatoes, and guasca, a weedy, aromatic herb common in all America that lends the dish part of its distinctive flavor.
- Tamales — corn “cakes” filled with everything from chicken, potatoes, peas, carrots, to rice wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. Cuchuco — a thick soup made of wheat, fava beans, potatoes, ribs, and peas.
- Mondongo — a soup made from slow-cooked diced tripe and vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, carrots, cabbage, celery, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic or root vegetables.
- Changua — a milk soup with or without a poached egg; usually a breakfast dish.
Arroz con coco (coconut rice) is a typical side dish for fries. It is made from white rice cooked in a base of coconut milk and combined with shredded coconut meat, water, salt, raisins (optional), and sugar.
Fruit and juice stands are found all over the place, particularly on the Caribbean coast. Colombia is home to numerous tropical fruits and rarely found elsewhere. There are several varieties of bananas including a very small, sweet version. Others include zapote, nispero, lulo, passion fruit, borojó, curuba, mamoncillo, guanábana, guava, mango, apple, pear, blackberry, strawberry and many others.
Colombia is known world-wide for its exquisite coffee, which is considered to have a flavor unmatched by any other. Aguardiente is alcoholic drink derived from sugarcane. It is widely consumed at Colombian parties, and ranges in potency from 20% to 40%.
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Peruvian cuisine is considered one of the most diverse in the world and competes with the top popular cuisines in the planet such as the French, Chinese and Italian cuisine. In January 2004, The Economist said that "Peru can lay claim to one of the world's dozen or so great cuisines", while at the 2006 Fourth International Summit of Gastronomy of MadridFusión, regarded as the world's most important gastronomic forum, Lima was declared the "Gastronomic Capital of the Americas". As of the late 20th century and the early 21st century, Peruvian cuisine has become widely regarded by professionals and the international media as "the best of Latin America."
Thanks to its pre-Inca and Inca heritage and to Spanish, Basque, African, Sino-Cantonese, Japanese and finally Italian, French and Britain immigration (mainly throughout the 19th century), Peruvian cuisine combines the flavors of four continents. With the eclectic variety of traditional dishes, the Peruvian culinary arts are in constant evolution, and impossible to list in their entirety. Suffice it to mention that along the Peruvian coast alone, there are more than two thousand different types of soups, and that there are more than 250 traditional desserts.
Some typical Peruvian dishes are ceviche (fish and shellfish marinated in citrus juice), the chupe de camarones (a soup made of shrimp), anticuchos (cow's heart roasted en brochette), the olluco con charqui (a casserole dish made of ulluco and charqui), the Andean pachamanca (meats, tubers and broad beans cooked in a stone oven), the lomo saltado (meat fried lightly with tomato and onion, served with french fries and rice) that has a Chinese influence, and the picante de cuy (a casserole dish made of fried guinea pig with some spices).
Peruvian food can be accompanied by typical drinks like the chicha de jora (a chicha made of tender corn dried by the sun). There are also chichas made of purple corn or peanut.
Pisco, a kind of brandy, is the national drink of Peru. It originated during the colonial period as a cheaper substitute for the Spanish liquor known as Orujo, which is made in virtually the same manner. This distilled beverage made from grapes is produced in various regions of the country. Pisco Sour is a cocktail made from pisco combined with key lime juice, the white of an egg and sugar.
Wines come from many different regions of the country, most notably from the Ica Region. Beer, as in many countries, is popular at all levels of society. Local brands include Pilsen and Cristal. A couple of regional beers are Arequipeña and Cuzqueña (Cusqueña), from Arequipa and Cuzco, respectively; though Cuzqueña is popular nationwide and is exported worldwide.