The Argentina Asado Experience
Editor's Note: This post is a guest post of our new friend Daniel K, a North American living in Buenos Aires. This is an awesome article on the meat eating spectacle you will find at an Argentine Asado. Daniel does a great job of translating many of the cuts of beef here too, which will help any English speaking traveler in Argentina since even a translated English menu in Buenos Aires will still usually just say "Bife de Lomo" and not filet mignon. We welcome you to write on this blog too if you are ever interested in contributing! If you are an Expat living in Argentina, or if you are in the planning stages of your move, and you want to write about your experience, then send me an email or post a comment to the blog, be sure to include your contact info!
Diplomacy Through Beef Consumption
If you look up the translation of the word ASADO to English, you get barbeque. But anyone who is multilingual will tell you that translations are almost never perfect. Yes, asado is the Argentine version of a barbeque, but seldom will you find a hotdog or hamburger on the grill. Instead you will find the most amazingly flavorful and different (from America, at least) cuts of meat ever.
These cuts will normally include:
- Asado, which in addition to meaning “grill” or “barbeque,” indicates the rib meat cut across the bones to make a long string of 2-inch cut ribs hooked together.
- Vacio, which is flank steak, but you’ve never tasted anything like it.
- Bife de chorizo, the same as a porterhouse cut, but it’s Argentine beef.
- Bife de lomo, filet mignon.
- Colita de cuadril, literally “calf-tail, ” another cut from the rear of a young cow.
- And many others that would take me pages to list.
And this is just the more common cow meat! They will also grill lamb, pork (costilla de cerdo, which are pork ribs… amazing!), goat (cavro or cavrito), chicken and my favorite, achuras.
Achuras are the parts of the animals that Americans do not eat (at least not normally). They consist of chorizo, morcilla, chinchulines, molleja, riñon, and tripa gorda. These would be, in order:
- Sausage, pork or beef—you have to ask to figure out which—that is always very tasty.
- Blood sausage, also black pudding or blood pudding, which is better cold in my opinion.
- Intestine, um… did they clean out the inside of this cow’s gut before cooking it?
- Thymus or pancreas gland, sweetbreads—wondrous if cooked right!
- Kidney, which I never got used to eating.
- Tripe, yikes. (What is tripe? Usually the first of the 3 stomach chambers of the cow.)
Besides the food at the asado, the process itself is half the fun. One can easily spend 12 hours on the whole process by going to a country (same word, but pronounced with an Argentine accent—flip the “r”) or quinta, both of which refer to a house outside of the city where one would typically find expansive, flat green land lined with beautiful trees and perhaps a swimming pool. This day could consist of the following: up at 10am; shopping for food/drink until 11; figuring out rides and transportation until noon; arrival; glass of wine (Argentine wine is spectacular,
check out www.anuvavinos.com) or Fernet with Coke; start the fire around 2, the asador (grillman) minds the fire and cooks while everyone chills out in the pool, kicks the soccer ball or chit-chats. At around 4, depending on the size of the group, the meat should be done. Starting with the achuras first, you begin your feast and attempt to pace yourself, which almost never works. With the salad and potatoes that the women prepared, (yes, it is a traditional, Latin, and somewhat chauvinistic culture) you will find yourself full after the first course. The asador will then bring out different cuts of meat on a wooden cutting board, which you cannot resist. If you are the foreigner in the mix, everyone will be asking you, “Probaste la carne Argentina? Te gusta la carne?” And if you want to be funny and cause a ruckus you could say that you had the best asado of your life in Uruguay the week before. Argentines will surely love this commentary.
The meal will end around 5 or so, after which the drinking really begins. Wine and Fernet are usually the favorites, but it depends on the group and the temperature as beer (usually Quilmes) is also a favorite. As is common in other parts of the world, the party will last for a few hours or until the supplies run out. Be sure not to play Truco (traditional Argentine card game based on deception and lying—very typically Argentine) for money under these conditions. You are sure to lose.
Later in the night, as people start to crave something sweet, the delivery ice cream service will be called. Yes, that’s right: DELIVERY ICE CREAM. I purposefully discard the telephone numbers (is this true???—asks my cousin after reading this blog) for these places from my home as frequent visits from one, Angie O’Plasty, would certainly follow my constant ordering of ice cream. In fact, the true secret of Argentina, besides the wine, is the ice cream. You can order kilos of extremely high quality ice cream in all sorts of flavors for delivery. After eating the ice cream, you will find it hard to function because of the abuse you just put on your digestive system. People will not start leaving until 10pm or so and, of course, there are asados that start later and end later, until the wee hours of the morning depending on the crowd. Just be sure that for any asado you attend, after everyone has sat down, started to eat the meat—the key is that they must have tried the meat—and begins to yell “Aplausa para el asador,” you clap loudly because this is to show your appreciation for the work that the grillman has done for you.
Diplomacy through beef consumption!