Tuesday 9 December 2014

Being vegetarian in Argentina

I may have been able to seek out more vegetarian options in Argentina, if James hadn't been on an ongoing mission to find the best steak in the world. 

Luckily, because of the Italian influence on Argentinian cuisine, pretty much every restaurant in Argentina (including the steak houses) do serve meat-free pasta dishes. However, generally these options are either pasta with a nice (but not especially inspiring) tomato sauce or pasta with a good (but again not particularly varied) cheese sauce. 

To avoid just eating pasta covered with tomatoes, here are some of our top tips for being vegetarian in Argentina:

1. Pay by weight restaurants
For a cheap, healthy and vegetarian meal, the 'por peso' or 'by weight' cafes and restaurants are a really good option for vegetarians (and their meat eating friends). These are self-service places with lots of different salads, quiches, vegetables and pulses to choose from. Pile up your plate and then get it weighed! You are charged for the food you take by the kilo - the heavier the plate the more you pay.

Load up your plates!
A particular highlight for me was that these places had salad and vegetables - a bit of a rarity in meat loving Argentina.

2. The varied cuisine of Buenos Aires
As you can imagine, Argentina's capital has a wide range of options for all different tastes. We tweeted at Pick up the Fork to ask for advice for a good restaurant that served both steak for James and a veggie option for me. They replied pretty quickly and one of the options they suggested was Don Julio in Palermo. 

While very much a meaty place, my butternut squash tortellini was really quite delicious and it wasn't the only veggie option on the menu. 

Getting stuck in!
We also had a fun night at the restaurant, particularly as we met Brig and Dan, who are behind Sucre Life. This is a blog that we used a lot while we were in Sucre in Bolivia and is worth checking out if you're heading that way. Like James and I, Brig is also veggie, while partner Dan is a meat-eater.

Hanging out with Sucre Life!
We were also recommended El Cuartito by both Argentinians and travellers for "the best pizza in Buenos Aires". We didn't get there in the end, but if you like pizza, it is apparently a must visit.  

Fed up with pizza and pasta? The guys over at Never Ending Voyage have a very good list of veggie friendly restaurants in Buenos Aires for you to munch your way through. 

3. Empanadas
Like much of the rest of South America, the trusty empanada (a type of pasty) is available in Argentina too. 

They are a little (a lot) smaller that the Chilean empanada, but possibly a bit better quality. We were particularly impressed that on arrival at our Air BnB place in Mendoza, our host called up for empanadas for home delivery. 

My favourite was the caprese empanada, which was stuffed with cheese, tomato and basil.

4. Cooking for yourselves
While I thought I was fed up with pasta, when we actually cooked for ourselves, we found some very good fresh pasta shops, where you could buy fresh veggie raviolis, cannellonis and lasagnes, as well as a range of sauces. 

We first tried some fresh cook your own pasta from a small specialist shop in the town of Villa General Belgrano in the Sierras de Cordoba. Their vegetable ravioli was delicious.

If you want to get away from pasta, markets and supermarkets in all the big towns are well stocked.

5. Quinoa
Quinoa is not as popular in Argentina as it is in its true home of Bolivia and Peru. However, it is worth looking out for it on menus, particularly the further north you are.

6. Alfajores
We first came across these sweet, tasty, biscuity treats in Chile and were very pleased to discover that Argentina made them too. Alongside James' mission to find the best steak, we started a new mission to find the best alfajor. 

Artisan alfajor from the artisan alley in La Cumbre
(Un)Fortunately, we couldn't agree on which one was the best, so had to keep sampling them all!

7. Drink wine!
If all else fails and you've had enough, you can always turn to the bottle. The wine in Argentina is delicious and really good value - make sure you make the most of it!

Drinking wine in Maipu
Are you veggie? Have you been to Argentina? What are your top tips?

Related links:
Being vegetarian in Peru
Being vegetarian in Bolivia
Being vegetarian in Chile
Where we stayed - Argentina

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