What to eat in Patagonian Restaurants
Patagonian Restaurants. Think Patagonia is only about outdoor adventure? Wrong! Patagonia is a wide, vast space, with an equally broad variety of cuisine. Fresh off the boat seafood, exceptional meat, creative vegetable dishes and hearty stews dominate. Here’s our roundup of the regional specialties and what to look out for when you eat out in Patagonia. Keen to hit the road in Latin America? Check out our variety of trips here.
Roast lamb on a spit (Cordero al Palo)
Lambs are ubiquitous in this region, and one of Patagonia’s most renowned dishes is lamb on a spit, where the meat is stretched out wide and slow-roasted on an open wood fire for hours and turned every so often. The meat is often rubbed with a mix of spices–each restaurant has their own secret blend but it generally includes a fragrant mix of garlic, parsley, red pepper, rosemary and mint. The cooking process makes the lamb crispy on the outside but so tender on the inside that ist often falls off the bone when you dig in.
Guanaco Filet (Filete de Guanaco)
Guanacos are native to South America. Their are in the camelid family – the same family of animals that includes camels, llamas and alpacas – and resemble a llama a bit, but they’re far smaller. In Patagonia, the guanaco populations is huge and they are often used for food consumption. It’s a super lean meat, tastes slightly gamey and is served in the same way as steak: the hunk of meat arrives on your plate with a selection of sides like french fries, salads and other vegetable.
King Crab Pie (Chupe de Centolla)
A staple across Chilean Patagonia, this dish takes fresh king crab, mixes in breadcrumbs and fish stock to yield a creamy, thick stew–think chowder but with a base of crumbly bread instead of potato. The whole thing is topped with grated cheese. King Crab is also served steamed, with a side of melted butter and fresh lemon.
While it is not not native to Patagonia (boar entered the region in the 20th centrury thanks to European immigrants) but the animal multiplied quickly and found a new home in the Andean foothills as well as the wide grasslands. It’s a gamey, nutty meat with a touch of sweetness and is often served in a variety of sauces like a thick mushroom gravy, with butter, green onions and almonds and lemon or as a dish labelled Boar Burgundy, where boar medallions are served with sauerkraut.
Carbonada Criola (Patagonian Beef Stew)
This dish is available across other parts of Argentina, but it’s a popular dish in Patagonia and lends itself well to the blustery, windy weather that often dominates this part of the world. Like many stews, the ingredients often shift according to what’s available, but the general ingredients are chunks of beef, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, corn and squash. In winter dried fruit is added, in summer, fresh fruit such as apples, pears and peaches, are thrown in.
Patagonian Toothfish, otherwise known as Chilean Sea Bass
One of the most well-known Chilean food exports is a lie. Chilean Sea bass, a mild flavored fish with a divine buttery texture on account of its high oil component, graces menus worldwide, yet it is not even a type of bass. It’s actually Patagonian Toothfish. Rumor has it that a marketing savvy local fisherman changes its name in the 1970s to market it more appealing to the North American market. It worked, and as demand soared it led to overfishing. We’re not here to tell you what to do, but while it is technically not on the endangered species list, it is tough to know which ones are fished legally and there are many illegal sources for the fishes. If in doubt, order something else.
Curanto means hot rock and is a dish that comes from the Mapuche, the indigenous people in this part of the world. The dish is technically from Chiloe, a southern Chile archipelago, but often graces outdoor Patagonian food events. The experience of cooking and eating it goes like this: a variety of seasoned potatoes and bread dumplings, meats and seafood are placed on sizzling-hot stones sitting in a hole in the ground, and then covered with leaves and grass, then topped with dirt. Anything from lamb, sausage, pork and boar to mussels, razor clams, crabs and sea urchins join the underground cooking fiesta. The deep concoction simmers for hours until it’s unearthed and becomes a smokey smorgasboard of a feast.
The Magellan Barberry or Calafate Berry
There are two names for this sweet berry: the Calafate berry and the Magellan Barberry. It’s a deep dark midnight blue berry, almost black, and is native to Patagonia. . The berry is used in many ways and appears in sauces, jams, whipped up into a mousse, concocted into ice cream and often added to cocktails (try a calafate pisco sour). Its tastes is unlike any other berry, but is flavor is a cross between a ripe black cherry, a bittersweet blueberry and a red grape. The fresh berries are available during Patagonia’s summer season (roughly December to early March), but year round you can find it in jams and other concoctions. Legend says that if you eat the berry you will return to Patagonia at another point in your life. So track that berry down, and be assured you’ll be back to this magical land one day.