6 mouth watering reasons to visit Latin America
If there is food from any other region that matches the vibrancy, robustness and diversity as the Indian subcontinent, it is from Latin Americas. The reasons are similar too. Both regions have a huge imprint from various civilizations and empires that ruled them. These influences have, over the years, catapulted the variety that these cuisines have to offer.
There is much more to Latin American cuisine than the more famous tacos, salsas and enchiladas. Living in the United States provided us with an opportunity to travel to a few countries in this part of the world and sample dishes from others, since there is a huge Latin American population is the United States.
Traditionally, this cuisine relies heavily on cooking with corn, potatoes (there are an unbelievable 3800 varieties of potatoes grown there), rice, plantains, beans and a variety of chilies (starting from the milder jalapenos to the mind-numbing Habaneros).
These are a few of our favorite Latin American dishes:
Prepared fresh when served, Ceviche is a cold seafood dish made only with fresh raw fish cured in juices of citrus based blends and seasoned with salt, dried chilly and fresh coriander. It is served with a side of yucca (a tuber mainly grown in South America), sweet potatoes, fried plantain or corn. The freshness of the ingredients is the key here as the dish largely rides on the unsullied flavors from the sea, not attempting to alter them too much. Native to the country of Peru, my favorite Ceviche experience was at a restaurant at Larcomar, Lima, sitting by the Pacific Ocean, eating the fruit of the same ocean.
What is not to like about fried flaky dough filled with rich flavorful concoction of meat, cheese, vegetables and sometimes even fruit and chocolate delivering desserts from heaven? Widely present in most menus today across the world, the Spanish influence on the Latin American cuisine is evident with this dish, as empanadas can be traced back to old Spanish cooking. Most Latin American countries prepare versions of empanadas, however, the best empanada we ever had was at a food festival in Manhattan, NY.
Fun Fact: Gujiya or Ghughra is another variant, popular in the Indian subcontinent
I do not feel my meal is complete without rice, having born in the state of Bengal, where rice is revered, literally. Fortunately for me, Latin American cuisines give rice the respect it deserves. To really understand the charm of the meager rice and beans dish, one has to visit Costa Rica or Nicaragua, for it is as staple to the country as pizza to the Italians. In my household, it is now one of the hearty dishes that are cooked with much fanfare, just reminiscing about our wonderful travels across Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
It is the famous, national drink of Peru. This foamy and sour concoction is derived by mixing Pisco (a Peruvian brandy), Angostura bitters, lime and egg whites. This drink is a heady mix of contrasting flavors – bitter, sweet and mostly sour.
This is probably my favorite food from Latin America. Traditional to the countries of Venezuela and Colombia, this is bread made with corn flour dough and filled with a multitude of ingredients. I have tried many of them, but my favorite fillings were Spanish style chorizo with diced potatoes, chicken and avocado salad and fresh grilled vegetables over spicy cabbage.
Popular in many parts of the world, including Europe and United States, Churros are a preferred dessert munch across Latin American countries, with Mexico, Columbia and Venezuela spotted with churrerias throughout their streets. Churros, in their most basic form are fried dough, which is further doused in powdered sugar and cinnamon. Dip the Churros in a locally prepared dulce de leche sauce and be transported to dessert heaven.
Apart from the glorious culture, friendly people and experiences soaked in rich history, the winning gastronomical display that Latin America offers is why we will be back to Latin America again. And, again!