Latin American cuisine: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Latin American Cuisine is a phrase that refers to typical foods, beverages, and cooking styles common to many of the countries and cultures in Latin America. Latin America is a very diverse area of land that holds various cuisines that vary from nation to nation.

Some items typical of Latin American cuisine include maize-based dishes (tortillas, tamales, pupusas) and various salsas and other condiments (guacamole, pico de gallo, mole, chimichurri, and pebre). These spices are generally what give the Latin American cuisines a distinct flavor; yet, each country of Latin America tends to use a different spice and those that share spices tend to use them at different quantities. Thus, this leads for a variety across the land.

Latin American beverages are just as distinct as their foods. Some of the beverages can even date back to the times of the Native Americans. Some popular beverages include mate, pisco, horchata, chicha, atole, cacao and aguas frescas.

Desserts in Latin America are generally very sweet in taste. They include dulce de leche, alfajor, Rice pudding, tres leches cake, Teja and flan.


A Mix of the World

Native American influence

More information at: Native American cuisine

Information about Native American cuisine comes from a great variety of sources. Modern day native peoples retain a rich body of traditional foods, some of which have become iconic of present-day Native American social gatherings (for example, frybread). Foods like cornbread are known to have been adopted into the cuisine of the United States from Native American groups. In other cases, documents from the early periods of contact with European, African, and Asian peoples allow the recovery of food practices which passed out of popularity in the historic period (for example, Black Drink). Archaeological techniques, particularly in the subdisciplines of zooarchaeology and paleoethnobotany, have allowed for the understanding of other culinary practices or preferred foods which did not survive into the written historic record.

African influence

More information at: Cuisine of Africa

Africans brought and preserved many of their traditions and cooking techniques. They were often given less desired cuts of meat, including shoulder and intestines. Menudo, for example, was derived from the habit of the Spaniards of giving the slaves cows' intestines. Slaves developed a way to clean the offal and season it to taste. Slaves in the southern United States also did the same thing to the pig's intestines given to them. In South America, the scraps of food the landlords did not eat, and by mixing what they got they usually ended coming up with new plates that nowadays have been adopted into the cuisine of their respective nation (Such being the case with the Peruvian tacu-tacu and dog).

European influence

More information at: European cuisine

The Europeans brought forth their own styles of food, but quickly adapted several of the many fruits and vegetables of the Americas into their own cuisines. Europe itself had been influenced by other cultures, such as with the Moors in Spain, and thus their food was already a mix of their world. Yet, the "New World" that the Americas were provided for a nice exchange of culinary knowledge between the civilizations across the globe. Even though the European influence for Latin American cuisine mainly comes from Spain, other cuisines like those of Italy, France, Portugal, Germany, and Britain have also made a smaller but nevertheless unique and exciting impact on Latin American cuisine.

Asian influence

More information at: Asian cuisine

A wave of immigrants from Asia, such as China, also influenced the cuisine of Latin America. The Chinese brought with them their own spices and food-styles, something that the people of Latin America accepted into their tables. Not only that, but several Asian restaurants also adapted a whole lot of Latin American food-styles into their own. This case can clearly be seen in the Peruvian chifa.

Variety by Region

Caribbean cuisine

More information at: Caribbean cuisine

Caribbean cuisine is a fusion of African, Dutch, Amerindian, French, Indian, and Spanish cuisine. These traditions were brought from the many homelands of this region's population. In addition, the population has created from this vast wealth of tradition many styles that are unique to the region.

Seafood is one of the most common cuisine types in the islands, though this is certainly due in part to their location. Each island will likely have its own specialty. Some prepare lobster, while others prefer certain types of fish. For example, the island of Barbados is known for its "flying fish."

Another Caribbean mainstay is rice, but you'll find the rice on each island may be a little different. Some season their rice, or add peas and other touches - like coconut. Sometimes the rice is yellow, but other times it is part of a dish. Though it comes in many forms, it is a common side dish throughout the region.

North America

More information at: North American cuisine

North American cuisine is a term used for foods native to or popular in countries of North America, as with Canadian cuisine, Cuisine of the United States, and Cuisine of Mexico. It has influences from many international cuisines, including Native American cuisine and European cuisine.

The cuisines of nearby Central America and the Caribbean region — sometimes grouped with the North American continent — may be considered part of North American cuisine in the technical sense that they are not assigned to their own continents.

South America

More information at: South American cuisine

The richest products of South America come from the middle of the continent, the Amazonia. In countries like Peru there is a strong influence of the Inca and their cuisine. Potatoes are frequently grown as a result of this, and also plants such as quinoa. Lima itself was declared the "Gastronomic Capital of the Americas" in 2006. Costa Rica lies on the Pacific Ocean, which provides a large array of seafood. Many plains are also on this continent, which are rich for growing food in abundance. In the Patagonia south of Chile and Argentina, many people produce lamb and venison. King crab is typically caught at the southern end of the continent. Antarctic krill has been recently discovered and is now considered a fine dish. Tuna and tropical fish are caught all around the continent, but Easter Island is where they are found in abundance. Lobster is also caught in great quantities from the Juan Fernández Islands.

Variety by Country

Cuisine of Argentina

Asado of Argentina (barbecue)

The cuisine of Argentina is strongly influenced by Italian and Spanish cuisines and cooking techniques. Indigenous gastronomies derived from groups such as the Quechua, Mapuche, and Guarani have also played a role.

Another determining factor in Argentine cuisine is that Argentina is one of the world's major food producers. It is a major producer of meat (especially beef), wheat, corn, milk, beans, and since the 1970s, soybeans. Given the country's vast production of beef, red meat is an especially common part of the Argentine diet. Due to the very large number of Argentines of Italian ancestry, pizza and especially pasta are also very popular, but there are food traditions from other European nations as well, including the English afternoon tea.

Cuisine of Belize

Traditional Belizean dinner.

Belizeans of all ethnicities eat a wide variety of foods. Breakfast consists of bread, flour tortillas, or fry jacks that are often homemade. They are eaten with various cheeses, refried beans, various forms of eggs or cereal, topped off by milk for younger ones and coffee or tea for adults. Eating breakfast is called "drinking tea". Midday meals vary, from lighter foods such as rice and beans or beans and rice with or without coconut milk, tamales, panades, (fried maize shells with beans or fish) and meat pies, escabeche (onion soup), chirmole (soup), stew chicken and garnaches (fried tortillas with beans, cheese, and sauce) to various constituted dinners featuring some type of rice and beans, meat and salad or coleslaw. In the rural areas meals may be more simplified than in the cities; the Maya use recado, corn or maize for most of their meals, and the Garifuna are fond of seafood, cassava (particularly made into hudut) and vegetables. The nation abounds with restaurants and fast food establishments selling food fairly cheaply. Local fruits are quite common, but raw vegetables from the markets less so. Mealtime is a communion for families and schools and some businesses close at midday for lunch, reopening later in the afternoon. Conversation during meals, unless the topic is important, is considered impolite.

Cuisine of Brazil

Moqueca of Brazil.

The cuisine of Brazil, like Brazil itself, varies greatly by region. Brazilian cuisine can be divided into several distinct locations. From the north of Brazil through the Amazonian jungle, and directly down the Brazilian coastline.

This diversity reflects the country's mix of native Amerindians, Portuguese, Africans, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Syrians, Lebanese and Japanese among others. This has created a national cooking style marked by the preservation of regional differences.

Cuisine of Chile

Caldillo de Congrio of Chile

Chilean cuisine stems from the combination of traditional Spanish cuisine with indigenous ingredients.

European immigrants also brought with them various styles and traditions in cooking, heavily influencing the cuisine of Chile, including Italian, German, and French influences as well the English afternoon tea. These mixtures have created a unique fusion. Seafood is widely used and an array of produce which historically has grown throughout the region have been implemented into Chilean gastronomy. Many recipes are accompanied and enhanced by Chilean wine such as Curanto.

Cuisine of Colombia

Bandeja paisa of Colombia

The cuisine of Colombia consists of a large variety of dishes that take into account the difference in regional climates. For example, in the city of Medellín the typical dish is the bandeja paisa. It includes beans, rice, ground meat or carne asada, chorizo, fried egg, arepa and chicharrón. It is usually accompanied by avocado, tomato and sauces.

Inland, the plates resemble the mix of cultures, inherited mainly from Amerindian and European cuisine, and the produce of the land mainly agriculture, cattle, river fishing and other animals' raising. Such is the case of the sancocho soup in Valledupar, the arepas (a corn based bread like patty). Local species of animals like the guaratinaja, part of the wayuu Amerindian culture.

Cuisine of Costa Rica

Gallo pinto of Costa Rica

The main staple, known as Gallo Pinto, consists of rice and black beans, which in many households is eaten at all three meals during the day.

Other Costa Rican food staples include corn tortillas, white cheese and picadillos. Tortillas are used to accompany most meals. Costa Ricans will often fill their tortillas with whatever they are eating and eat it in the form of a gallo (direct translation: rooster, however, it resembles a soft Mexican taco). White cheese is non-processed cheese that is made by adding salt to milk in production. Picadillos are meat and vegetable combinations where one or more vegetables are diced, mixed with beef and garnished with spices. Common vegetables used in picadillos are potatoes, green beans, squash, ayote, chayote and arracache. Often, picadillos are eaten in the form of gallos.

Cuisine of Cuba

Authentic Cuban dish of ropa vieja, black beans with yellow rice, and yuca.

Cuban cuisine is a distinctive fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share their basic spice palette and preparation techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in the use of local foods such as tropical fruits, fish, etc. A small but noteworthy Chinese influence can also be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area.

Cuban cuisine has almost nothing in common with Mexican cuisine, which is a surprise for many visitors from the United States or Europe. It also differs from other Latin American cuisines and food traditions of the United States.

Cuisine of the Dominican Republic

The cuisine of the Dominican Republic is primarily a mixture of Spanish and African cuisines, as well as some Taino Indian influence. The country that is now the Dominican Republic was formerly a Spanish colony. Many Spanish traits are still present in the culture, the cuisine included. Traditional dishes in the Dominican Republic remain essentially Spanish, but ingredients and flavors have changed to reflect the ingredients available in the average Dominican household.

Dominican cuisine differs in some respects from other parts of the West Indies and spicing of dishes is much more on the mild side. What Dominicans tend to eat depends highly on where they live, either near the sea or in the mountains.

Cuisine of Ecuador

A bowl of Fanesca as served in Quito

The food in Ecuador is diverse, varying with altitude and associated agricultural conditions. Pork, chicken, beef, and cuy (guinea pig) are popular in the mountain regions and are served with a variety of grains (especially rice and corn or potatoes). A popular street food in mountain regions is hornado, consisting of potatoes served with roasted pig. Fanesca, a fish soup including several types of bean, is often eaten during Lent and Easter. During the week before the commemoration of the deceased or "día de los muertos", the fruit beverage "Colada Morada" is typical, accompanied by "Guaguas de Pan", which is stuffed bread shaped like children.

Most regions in Ecuador follow the traditional 3 course meal of sopa/soup and segundo/second dish which includes rice and a protein such as meat, poultry, pig or fish. Then desert and a coffee are customary. Dinner is usually lighter and sometimes just coffee or agua de remedio/herbal tea with bread.

Some of the typical dishes in the coastal region are: ceviche, pan de almidón, corviche, guatita, papas con quero, encebollado and empanadas; in the mountain region: hornado, fritada, humitas, tamales, llapingachos, lomo saltado, and churrasco.

Cuisine of El Salvador

Salvadorean Pupusas.

Salvadoran cuisine is a style of cooking derived from the nation of El Salvador. The traditional cuisine consists of food from the Maya, Lenca, and Pipil people. Many of the dishes are made with maize (corn).

El Salvador's most notable dish is the pupusa, a thick hand-made corn flour or rice flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, chicharrón (fried pork rinds), refried beans, and/or loroco (a vine flower bud native to Central America). There are also vegetarian options, often with ayote (a type of squash), or garlic. Some adventurous restaurants even offer pupusas stuffed with shrimp or spinach.

Two other typical Salvadoran dishes are yuca frita and panes rellenos. Yuca frita, which is deep fried cassava root served with curtido (a pickled cabbage, onion and carrot topping) and pork rinds with pescaditas (fried baby sardines). The Yuca is sometimes served boiled instead of fried. Panes con Pavo (turkey sandwiches) are warm turkey submarines. The turkey is marinated and then roasted with Pipil spices and handpulled. This sandwich is traditionally served with turkey, tomato, and watercress along with cucumber, onion, lettuce, mayonnaise, and mustard.

Cuisine of Guatemala

Fiambre, a traditional dish eaten on November 1st and 2nd. It consists of over 50 ingredients.

The cuisine of Guatemala reflects the multicultural nature of Guatemala, in that it involves food that differs in taste depending on the region. Guatemala has 22 departments (or divisions), each of which has very different typical foodstuffs. Guatemalan cuisine is widely known for its candy originating from Antigua Guatemala.

There are also foods that it is traditional to eat on certain days of the week - for example, by tradition it is known that on Thursday, the typical food is "paches" which is like a tamale made with a base of potato, and on Saturday it is traditional to eat tamales.

Cuisine of Haiti

Haitian cuisine is a mixture of various cuisines, predominately of a similar nature with fellow Latin American countries. It employs similar techniques with the rest of the Caribbean with influences from French, Spanish, and African cuisines, and a few derivatives from native Taino cooking. Though similar to other cuisine in the region, it carries a uniqueness native only to the country and an appeal to many visitors in the island. Haitian cuisine uses vegetables and meats extensively and peppers and similar herbs are often used for strengthening flavor.

Cuisine of Honduras

Fried Yojoa Fish from Honduras

Honduran Cuisine combines the food of the indigenous Maya-Lenca population with Spanish and Mexican food. Its most notable feature is that it uses more coconut than any other Central American cuisine in both sweet and savory dishes. Regional specialties include fried fish, carne asada, and baleadas.

In addition to the baleadas, the following are also popular: meat roasted with chismol carne asada, chicken with rice and corn, fried fish (Yojoa style) with pickled onions and jalapeños. In the coastal areas and in the Bay Islands, seafood and some meats are prepared in many ways, some of which include coconut milk.

Among the soups the Hondurans enjoy are: conch soup, bean soup, Mondongo Soup, or soup of intestine, seafood soups, beef soups, all of which are mixed with plaintains, yucca, cabbage among other things, and complemented with corn tortillas.

Other typical dishes are the montucas or corn tamale, stuffed tortillas, tamales wrapped up with banana leaves, among other types of food. Also part of the Honduran typical dishes are abundant selection of tropical fruits such as: papaya, pineapple, plums, epazotes, passion fruits, and bananas which are prepared in many ways while they are still green.

Cuisine of Mexico

Enchilada with mole sauce
Chile en nogada

Mexican cuisine is known for its intense and varied flavors, colorful decoration, and variety of spices. Mexican culture and food is one of the richest in the world, both with respect to diverse and appealing tastes and textures; and in terms of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Most of today's Mexican food is based on pre-Hispanic traditions, including the Aztecs and Maya, combined with culinary trends introduced by Spanish colonists.

Mexican food varies by region, because of local climate and geography and ethnic differences among the indigenous inhabitants and because these different populations were influenced by the Spaniards in varying degrees.

A distinction must be made between truly authentic Mexican food, and "Tex Mex" (Texan-Mexican) cuisines. Mexican cuisine combines with the cuisine of the southwest United States (which itself has a number of Mexican influences) to form Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex cuisine. Another style of cuisine that is commonly mistaken for Mexican food is New Mexican cuisine, which is, of course, found in New Mexico, USA.

Cuisine of Nicaragua

The Cuisine of Nicaragua is a fusion of Spanish, Caribbean and pre-Columbian dishes of the indigenous peoples. When the Spaniards first arrived in Nicaragua they found that the indigenous peoples had incorporated foods available in the area into their cuisine.[1] Despite the blending and incorporation of pre-Columbian and Spanish influenced cuisine, traditional cuisine changes from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast. While the Pacific coast's main staple revolves around fruits and corn, the Caribbean coast makes use of seafood and the coconut.

As in many other Latin American countries, corn is a main staple. Corn is used in many of the widely consumed dishes, such as nacatamal, and indio viejo. Corn is also an ingredient for drinks such as pinolillo and chicha as well as in sweets and desserts. Nicaraguans do not limit their cuisine to corn, locally grown vegetables and fruits have been in use since before the arrival of the Spaniards and their influence on Nicaraguan cuisine. Many of Nicaragua's dishes include fruits and vegetables such as jocote, grosella, mimbro, mango, papaya, tamarind, pipian, banana, avocado, yuca, and herbs such as culantro, oregano and achiote.[1]

Gallopinto is Nicaragua's national dish, consisting of red beans and rice. The dish has several variations including the addition of coconut oil and/or grated coconut which is primarily prepared on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. It is thought to have originated in Nicaragua, however, there is some controversy about the origins of this dish.

Cuisine of Panama

Panamanian cuisine has its own unique and rich cuisine. As a land bridge between two continents, Panama is blessed by nature with an unusual variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs that are used in native cooking. Also, as a crossroads of the world, Panama’s cuisine is influenced by its diverse population of Hispanic, native Indian, European, African, Colombian, Jamaican, and even Chinese migrations.

Cuisine of Peru

Ceviche, a Peruvian plate that has grown rapidly in popularity.
Peruvian Pisco sour.

Peruvian cuisine is considered one of the most diverse in the world and competes with the top popular cuisines in the planet such as the French, Chinese and Italian cuisine.[2] In January 2004, The Economist said that "Peru can lay claim to one of the world's dozen or so great cuisines" [1], while at the Fourth International Summit of Gastronomy Madrid Fusión 2006, regarded as the world's most important gastronomic forum, held in Spain between January 17th and 19th, Lima was declared the "Gastronomic Capital of the Americas" [2]. As of the late 20th century and the early 21st century, Peruvian cuisine has become widely regarded by professionals and the international media as "the best of Latin America."[3]

Thanks to its pre-Inca and Inca heritage and to Spanish, Basque, African, Sino-Cantonese, Japanese and finally Italian, French and Britain immigration (mainly throughout the 19th century), Peruvian cuisine combines the flavors of four continents. With the eclectic variety of traditional dishes, the Peruvian culinary arts are in constant evolution, and impossible to list in their entirety. Suffice it to mention that along the Peruvian coast alone there are more than two thousand different types of soups, and that there are more than 250 traditional desserts.

There are many restaurants specializing in Peruvian cuisine in many different cities throughout the world.

The great variety in Peruvian cuisine stems from three major influences:

  • Peru's unique geography, 84 of the 104 possible life zones according to Holdridge
  • Peru's openness and blending of distinct races and cultures
  • The incorporation of ancient cuisine into modern Peruvian cuisine

Cuisine of Uruguay

The cuisine of Uruguay is traditionally based on its European and Mediterranean roots, especially from Italy, Spain, France, Portugal and Germany. Many foods from those countries such as pasta, sausages, and desserts are common in the nation's diet. The Uruguayan barbecue, asado, is one of the most exquisit and famous in the world. A sweet paste, Dulce de Leche is the national obsession, used to fill cookies, cakes, pancakes, milhojas, and alfajores.

Cuisine of Venezuela

Arepa filled with cheese

Due to its territory, its diversity of agricultural resources and the cultural multiplicity of the Venezuelan people, Venezuelan cuisine often varies greatly from one region to another but its cuisine, traditional as well as modern, has strong ties to its European ancestry (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French).



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