Arepa – The Pre-Colombian Classic
One staple in Latin America is maize, a cereal grain that has served the region's people for well over 10,000 years! 'Arepa' is really worth trying and look a bit like a small round pancake. The Arepa is pre-Colombian; it is produced from maize flour and it is very adaptable as it can be cooked in numerous different ways. The most common way to have arepas is filled with butter and cheese and then baked. They can sometimes be fried and served with grated cheese and a fried egg. This can be found all over South America and can be eaten with regional toppings like shrimp, meat and Guacamole. One incredible looking example is the Venezualan 'Arepa de pabellon' served with fried plantains, black beans and braised beef.
Pupusa – Cornmeal Flatbread
Another Latin classic is the Pupusa, a flatbread from El Salvidor and Honduras. These are similar to Colombian arepa but generally made from cornmeal. The beauty of this kind of flatbread is that it can be made fresh and filled with all sorts of local specialities, like meats, fish and beans. One more example of the importance of using corn or maize is the tortilla and tacos that have become synonymous with Mexico. First made by the Aztecs, the tortilla is a vital part of day-to-day eating. It is a thin round flatbread which can hold whatever the chef fancies, like roast pork, chillis and sour cream.
Salsa – A Dance of a Condiment
One of the great things about Latin food is the way you can just add to what you have. Salsa is the side dish of choice for many; with its combination of fresh tomatoes, coriander and lime it is almost a meal in itself. This excellent condiment can vary from the red tomato and chilli 'Pico de Gallo' to the green Salsa Verde made from tomatillo and green peppers. Of course, tortilla chips and a good salsa are one of the great delights of street food eating.
Guacamole – A Mexican Staple
Any commentary on Mexican food would not be complete without mention of Guacamole. This wonderful condiment is made from avocados, coriander, lime juice and onion. In Mexico, it is ubiquitous, from street stalls to fine dining restaurants. This can be enjoyed as a dip or as a salad and compliments most meats and goes well in a tacos. The great thing about this epic green dish is that not only does it taste great, but also contains several vitamins and minerals.
Unmissable Rice Dishes
Mexican Rice is another Latin classic to either cook or enjoy on your travels. Many people confuse this dish with Spanish rice but this is characterized by its beautiful orange colour from the tomatoes. The magic of the dish is that the rice is cooked in a rich broth and well-spiced and seasoned. In Brazil another must eat is 'Galinhada', essentially saffron chicken and rice. This particular rice dish has a wonderful colour due to the saffron and it originated with the arrival of the Portuguese in Brazil in the 16th Century. The name itself comes from the Portuguese 'galinha' meaning chicken.
Empanadas to Snack On
In Cornwall, England, they have the Cornish Pasty, but in the Latin American countries of Argentina and Chile they offer the world Empanadas. One great recommendation would be the mouth-watering Empanadas de Pino which contains tender beef, hard-boiled eggs, raisins and a few olives. This is a must-eat for anyone travelling through the region! They originate in the northwest of Spain from Galicia. In Argentina, they are a highly prized snack and can contain a mix of potatoes, peppers and chillies.
And for Dessert…
Finally, after all these wonderful savoury suggestions from Latin America, there is a need for something sweet. Churros is a long thin doughnut prepared on the street and served at carnivals and other national celebrations. Churro originates from Madrid and is a great breakfast with a café con leche. This is made even tastier with a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon on top.