Most regions of Argentina are known for their beef-oriented diet. In Argentina the Spanish term,”Carne”, which means meat, is assumed to be beef in Argentina. In other Spanish-speaking countries—such as Spain—the term is usually qualified with the type of animal, such as “carne de vaca” (beef), “carne de cordero” (lamb), etc.
Grilled meat from the asado (barbecue) is a staple, with steak and beef ribs especially common. The term asado itself refers to long strips of flank-cut beef ribs. Popular items such as Chorizo (pork sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), chinchulines (chitterlings), mollejas (sweetbread), and other parts of the animal are also enjoyed. In Patagonia, however, lamb and chivito (goat) are eaten more frequently than beef. Whole lambs and goats are traditionally cooked over an open fire in a technique known as asado a la estaca.
The most common condiment for asado is Chimichurri, a sauce of herbs, garlic and vinegar. Unlike other preparations, Argentines do not include chili in their version of chimichurri.
Breaded and fried meats — milanesas — are used as snacks, in sandwiches, or eaten warm with mashed potatoes — purée. Empanadas — small pastries of meat, cheese, sweet corn, and a hundred other fillings — are a common sight at parties and picnics, or as starters to a meal. A variation, the “empanada gallega” (Galician empanada), is a big, round meat pie made most commonly with tuna and mackerel (“caballa” in Spanish). Vegetables and salads are also eaten by Argentines; tomatoes, onions, lettuce, eggplants, squashes, and zucchini are common side dishes.
Italian staples, such as pizza and pasta, are eaten as commonly as beef. Fideos (noodles), tallarines (fettucine and tagliatelle), ñoquis (gnocchi), ravioles, and canelones (cannelloni) can be bought freshly made in many establishments in the larger cities. Italian-style ice cream is served in large parlours and even drive-through businesses.
In Chubut, the Welsh community is known for its teahouses, offering scones and torta galesa, which is rather like torta negra.
Sandwiches de miga are delicate sandwiches made with crustless buttered white bread, very thinly sliced cured meat, cheese, and lettuce. They are often purchased from entrepreneurial home cooks and may be eaten for a light evening meal.
A sweet paste, dulce de leche is another treasured national food, used to fill cakes and pancakes, spread over toasted bread for breakfast, or served with ice cream. Alfajores are shortbread cookies sandwiched together with chocolate and dulce de leche or a fruit paste. The “policeman’s” or “truck driver’s” sweet is cheese with quince paste or dulce de membrillo. Dulce de batata is made of sweet potato/yam: this with cheese is the Martín Fierro’s sweet. Apples, pears, peaches, kiwifruits, avocados, and plums are major exports.
A traditional drink of Argentina is an infusion called mate (in Spanish, mate, with the accent on the first syllable [MAH-teh]). The name comes from the hollow gourd from which it is traditionally drunk. The mate (gourd) or other small cup is filled about three-quarters full with yerba mate, the dried leaves and twigs of the Ilex paraguariensis. The drink, which is rather bitter, is sipped through a metal or cane straw called a bombilla. Mate can be sweetened with sugar, or flavored with aromatic herbs or dried orange peel. Hot but not boiling water is poured into the gourd, drunk, then the mate is refilled. The mate is nearly full of leaves, so each refill only makes a small drink, but many refills are possible before the yerba is spent. In small gatherings it is traditional for one mate to be passed from person to person, filled by whoever has the kettle. It is customary not to thank the refiller routinely; a final gracias (thank you) implies that the drinker has had enough. Drinking mate together is an important social ritual. Mate cocido is the same leaf, which rather than brewed is boiled and served, like tea, with milk and sugar to taste.
Other typical drinks include wine (sometimes with soda water added); tea and coffee are equally important. Quilmes is the national brand of pale lager, named after the town of Quilmes, Buenos Aires, where it was first produced.