Northwest Argentina is known for many things, including extraordinary high-altitude wines and rich culture surrounding cuisine and food preparation. This section of Argentina sits beneath the mighty Andes mountain range, and is composed of the provinces of Catamarca, Jujuy, Salta and Tucumán.
Argentina is a beef-crazed nation. However, the country's varied cultural influences have blended together to create a unique and savory cuisine. You'll find pizza and pasta (Italy), schnitzel (Germany), empanadas (Spain), and the Argentinian BBQ called asado. Also unique to this region is their altitude, creating a perfect climate to produce grapes that evolve into full-bodied wines.
I've highlighted some of the typical Argentinian dishes you will sample on our ONLY high altitude photo and walking tour of northwest Argentina. Warning: don't read this before lunch! Let's begin:
1) High altitude wines: Torrontés and Malbec
In mountainous northwest Argentina lies the city of Cachi, Salta 2,300-2,500 meters above sea level. It is here that the one of the highest wineries, Isasmendi Estate and Winery, is located, producing famous Malbec and Torrontés wines. What role does altitude play with wine production? Altitude produces unique characteristics: hotter days and cooler nights, cleaner air, healthier vegetation, little rainfall, and rocky soil. When combined, you get intense, dark and very aromatic wines with a deep structure, red berry highlights and a violet aftertaste.
2) Asado: not your average BBQ
You cannot visit Argentina and not experience the asado. Asado means a gathering of friends for a grill party, not to be confused with the traditional American BBQ, and is a sacred weekend ritual. This dish traditionally features beef alongside other meats, all cooked on a parrilla (grill). You'll need: small wood and charcoal, vegetables (tomatoes, lettuce, etc), pan, bread rolls, and meat (lomo or tenderloin work best). What's unique about the asado is that heat is managed by moving the coals, not the food. Experience the asado on day 3 of our Argentina: Vision & Vine photo and hiking tour!
3) Empanadas: savory turnovers
Empanadas are a stuffed bread or pastry that are baked or fried. Traditional Argentinian empanadas are filled with beef, but you can find ham, fish, humita (sweetcorn with white sauce), or spinach-filled ones. These delicious turnovers are served during parties and festivals as appetizers. The region of Salta claims to make the best empanadas (known as salteñas). They are smaller, baked, have a little kick, and are served with a side of tomato salsa. Impress your friends by making your own!
4) Locro: Argentinian stew
This hearty and thick white corn soup is popular along the Andes. It is considered Argentina's national dish and typically served on Dia de la Revolucion (Argentina Revolution Day, May 25). The soup carries on the legacy of ancient Incan dining concepts. Typical locro is made using the Papa Chola potato, difficult to find outside of its home region. It is a large, red-skinned potato with a creamy yellow flesh (and no, American red potatoes are not a good replacement. You can try it with Yukon Gold or Russet, and add some extra oil). This stew is served with a side of quiquirimichi, a sauce made from red peppers and paprika.