Northwest Argentina is sandwiched in the top corner of Argentina, hemmed in by the Andes and Chile to the west, Bolivia to the north and Paraguay to the East. This positioning has a clear influence on the local food with many dishes unique to this region.
In addition this is Argentina’s second centre for wine production – food and drink is quite firmly order of the day here.
As you might expect, we tried as many different regional dishes as we could pack in and here are some of our favourites.
Locro is a corn based stew which comes in many different varieties and is traditionally eaten in the winter. While locro is corn based you will find various other ingredients thrown in for good measure. We tried a number of other varieties including lamb (whichi had a nice bit of oesophagus) and our favourite which was vegetarian and contained pumpkin, corn, peas, cheese and a tomato sauce – called waschalocro.
Our pick: the waschalocro at the food market in Salta near the intersection of San Martin and Florida streets.
Empanadas are folded over savoury pastries which contain a variety of fillings. They are ubiquitos in Argentina and other local countries, however the Northwest regions of Salta and Jujuy are considered to be one of the best places to get them. Here they come in two varieties, deep fried and baked – both are great. Typical fillings include meat (usually beef), chicken, ham and cheese. They are a really cheap meal – typically between 2 and 5 pesos each (less than 1 UK pound) and usually served with a mild chilli sauce.
A word of warning – the fillings often contain eggs so if this is not your bag (like Em) then just make sure you ask first.
Our pick: for it’s huge variety you can’t beat the Casa de las Empanada in Cafayate (south of the province). We recommend trying as many as possible and found particularly nice and very cheap ones at a restaurant on the road between Salta and Cafayate.
3. Helado del vino (wine ice cream)
This is a unique delight, apparently first created in the small wine producing town of Cafayate. We found two varities, Torrontés (the locally famous dry white) and Cabernet (a rich red). The ice cream is really a wine sorbet and is deliciously alcoholic – a must try.
Our pick: Heladaría Miranda in Cafayate is the place where this ice cream was invented and they also do delicious mango and cactus (tuna in Spanish) flavours.
4. Tamales and humitas
These corn based foods are also a local favouite and make a tasty snack or starter. Humitas are made from boiled fresh corn while humitas are made from a corn based dough. They typically contain other tasty morsels such as meat, egg and cheese.
Our pick: These can be a little hit and miss so shop around and look for local recommendations. We had a nice tamale (and loads of other great food) at La Casona del Molino in Salta.
5. Street food
We saw a lot more street food in this region than any where else we have visited in Argentina. There are many great and cheap options so snack away. Some of our favourites were:
– Milanese sandwich: a thin breadcrumbed piece of beef usually served in crusty bread with a fried egg, slice of ham, fresh tomato and plenty of sauces.
– Super poncho: a thin hotdog usually served with loads of different kinds of sauce
– Fire cooked bread: we found lots of this in the small northern towns of Purmamarca and Tilcara. Varieties included plain, cheese and ham & cheese.