Latin American Cuisine Facts and History
Latin American cuisine managed to conquer the entire world, through its delicious flavors and spicy notes. But before it ended up being what everybody knows today, it had to be created.
The dwellers of Latin America were already growing a high diversity of crops when the European discovered this part of the globe. The native already prepared numerous dishes by slow-cooking them, preparing something similar with a stew, or barbecuing the food, using an open fire.
Together with the appearance of the Europeans, new cooking techniques appeared as well in the Latin American cuisine, together with the use of sauces to complete a dish. The Native Americans had a great influence on this cuisine, many of the foods they introduced being kept until today, some examples would be frybread, cornbread, potatoes, taco, pupusas, and tortilla. African and Asian are two other influences that can felt in this cuisine as well.
Latin American Cuisine Menu
Unlike many other parts of the world, the breakfast in Latin America is quite consistent. Eggs, cheese, meat, and even beans are served early in the morning, many breakfast dishes being warm and satisfying. For instance, you may serve tortillas with eggs, avocado, and chiles in the morning. Or a dish with beans and rice. Another example might be bread that is smoldered by refried beans, avocado, tomatoes, and queso fresco, which is a type of cheese similar to feta cheese. Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate is served at breakfast as well.
For lunch, Latin Americans serve anything from soups, to sandwiches, salads, and stews. But, the favorites for lunch will be the dishes that can be served rather fast, like tacos, sandwiches, or quesadillas. Tacos are very versatile, using flat bread which is filled with a wide array of ingredients. It can contain chicken, shrimp, tuna, veggies, herbs, spices, and, of course, sauces. You will find all sort of tacos in Latin America, which will fit all tastes and preferences.
Latin Americans are gourmands, so you will have plenty of snacks to enjoy while in the area, whenever you have a stomach that upsets you. You will love croquetas, which are small morsels made from bread with a filling of ground ham, cod fish, or chicken, and deep fried. Pastelitos de carne is another type of snack, made from layered pastry dough, filled with ground beef, onions and olives, or pieces of chorizo sausage, or anything you like. Or perhaps you want to try tostones, which are slightly smashed and twice fried plantains slices, served with salty cheese, meat, or dipped in sauce.
The day will end as well with serving delicious foods, dinner being quite filling and diverse. You can enjoy a stew made out of beans with pork, or beef, to which carrots, tomatoes, and cabbage is added. Stew are quite common at dinner, a dish made out of stewed beef, in a tomato sauce, served with plantains, yellow rice, black beans, and fried yucca. Rice is also used for preparing dinner, gallo pinto being one example, which is rice prepared together with brown or red beans.
If the food is plentiful in Latin America, desserts are sweet. A wide variety of dessert recipes can be found here, because people in this area enjoy good food. You want to try churos, especially if you are in Mexico, which are stripes of dough deep fried and tossed through sugar and cinnamon for extra flavor. Dulce de leche is a very popular dessert, resembling a pudding, together with the tres leches cake, a soft and puffy dessert. Ice cream, or gelato as it is called here, will also be found, especially when the weather is warm, and you will be able to try some exotic assortments.
When it comes to drinks, they are plenty to choose from in Latin America, from fruit juices, so spirit beverages and cocktails. If you want to try an authentic Latin American alcoholic beverage, you should try chicha. It is one of the oldest drinks of this kind in this part of the world, every country in Latin American having a different recipe, using different main ingredients, to produce it. In Salvador, you will encounter Marañon juice, a non-alcoholic beverage made from a fruit called Marañon, filled with vitamin C. Tequila is one beverage everybody knows about, even outside of Latin America. But, here, you will also find Mezcal, a type of tequila that comes with a worm in the bottle.
For Christmas, people in Latin America adopted the Italian panettone, a soft cake filled with dry fruits. They also prepare a special holiday version of tamale, one of the most appreciated dishes. Moros y Cristianos is another dish served for Christmas, consisting of black beans, rice, and shredded beef. They also prepare tostones, fried plantain slices, because they are great for dipping in a sauce or as side dish. And, as a drink, they have coquito, something similar with eggnog, but with rum.
Easter is another great holiday, meaning that people will serve rosca de Pascua, which is Easter bread ring, sweet and decorated with candy or almonds. During the Holy Week, cevishe is much appreciated, together with fried fish. Empanadas with fish and seafood are also consumed. Cheese rolls, sweet cream of beans, and spring soup, made with fish and veggies, can also be a part of the menu.
Most Popular Latino Dishes
• Ropa vieja – it means “old clothes”, and it consists in shredded beef, stewed in tomato sauce, served with rice, black beans, and plantains;
• Tamal – starchy dough, made from corn, is filled with all sort of ingredients, from veggies, to meat, cheese, or chilies, according to preference, and boiled in a leaf;
• Feijoada – a stew made out of black beans and meat, pork or beef, and served with rice, vegetables, and even sausages;
• Asado – this means grilled meat, usually consisting in beef ribs that are spiced and prepared on a grill.
Most Used Ingredients
• Meat / Fish: pork, beef, chicken, seafood;
• Veggies: tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, beans;
• Fruits: mango, pineapple, coconut, avocado;
• Other: rice, corn, cheese, milk;
Latin American Street Food
What to eat when traveling to Latin America
In Mexico, you can enjoy cemita poblana, which is a bread bun stuffed with fried cutlet, chipotle, avocado, queso blanco, pepper, and papalo, which is a type of coriander. Another great street food is the Brazilian roast beef sandwich, made with roasted beef, tomato, and melted mozzarella, all wrapped nicely in a bread bun. Elote is boiled sweet corn, to which an herb called epazote is added, for giving it a floral flavor. If you are visiting Puerto Rico, look for cheese fritters. And don’t forget about tacos, those tasty flat bread sandwiches that you can fill with whatever your hear desires.
Are you from Latin America? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Lationo ethnic food.