Top Ten Traditional Latin American Dishes

Compiled by the food enthusiasts behind this weekend's ComidaFest, here is a tasting journey through the most popular and delicious culinary goodies of Latin American cuisine, from awsome Arepas to yummy Churros, a delicious Churrasco, Tamales and Empanadas, If you feel your mouth watering pop down to Riverside on the South Bank this weekend where you'll find snacks from Mexico to Patagonia at London's first free Latin American Street Food Festival.
by: 
Alicia Bastos, Gizane Campos and Simone Rotuolo

Arepa

A delectable, fluffy, white dough shaped in the format of a saucer and made mainly of corn flour, prominent in the cuisine of Colombia and Venezuela.  It is eaten daily by both Colombians and Venezuelan and can be filled with various accompaniments such as cheese, avocado, beans or meat. A crowd pleaser!

Pão de Queijo

An exclusive export delight from Brazil that pleases all palates and it is gluten free.   Putting it simple: pão de queijo is a small, baked, cheese ball made from sour cassava flour and of course,  lots of tasty cheese.  A popular snack and breakfast food in Brazil, pão de queijo originated from African slaves like many other Brazilian foods. Slaves would soak and peel the cassava root and make bread rolls from it.

Anticuchos

Anticuchos are a popular and inexpensive dish that originated in Peru in the pre-Colombian era but are also available at their neighbours Chile and Bolivia.  A very special addition to any barbecue party, the anticuchos are made of beef heart marinated, cut into small cubes, skewered, and seared over the grill. You can also use regular beef, chicken, fish, prawns, or lamb to make anticuchos, but the original and traditional recipe calls for cow heart.  

Tamales

Popular all over Central and South America, the tamales dough are made of corn (masa), which is filled with pork, chicken or beef and delicately wrapped in a corn husk of banana leaf and then steamed.  (Think of a Latin American version of the Cha Sio Bao dim sum) The wrapping is of course, discarded before eating. The tamales shape, filling and even wrapping can vary from country to country.  

Patacones

The Colombian patacones or plantain chips are very simple to make and taste great. Patacones taste best when they are hot out of the skillet and the Colombians usually eat them on breakfast, along with eggs with tomatos and onion. They also make a great side dish!

Tacos

Crunchy or soft, they are messy and great fun to eat! It is a traditional Mexican dish made of a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. A taco can be made with a variety of fillings, including beef, pork, chicken, seafood, vegetables and cheese. A taco is generally eaten without knifes or forks and is often accompanied by salsa or chili pepper, avocado or guacamole, coriander, tomatoes, onions and lettuce. Yummy!

Cuban Sandwich

An authentic Cuban sandwich is made with Cuban bread, ham, roast pork, cheese, and pickles.  The secret is in  “el pan”, it must be crispy on the outside but soft on the inside to accommodate the oozing, melted cheese.     No one seem to agree on where and when the Cuban sandwich originated, some say it was often made in Florida to cater for workers in the early Cuban immigrant communities of Florida, some argue that it was the staple diet of the cigar makers and sugarcane field workers in Cuba.  

Empanadas Argentinas

Empanadas are common all over South America, but the Argentine empanada, specially the steak one has one advantage… the country´s great meat quality! Empanadas are made by folding dough or bread with stuffing consisting of a variety of meat, cheese, vegetables, and others. Argentine empanadas are often served during parties and festivals as a starter or main course and it is the perfect accompaniment for a glass of hearty Argentinean Malbec.

Brazilian churros

This popular snack is filled to order with chocolate or dulce de leche (a caramel, which, in Brazil, is called doce de leite). A  deep fried doughnut with longitudinal shape dipped into cinnamon and sugar, the Brazilian churros differs from the Spanish counterpart not only due its filling (luscious doce de leite) but also on size.  The dough is slightly thickier, allowing more space for the filling.  Brazilians are huge fans of churros as an afternoon treat eaten at parks and street fairs, and so should you become one!

Alfajores

There is many reasons to love Argentina, but Alfajores is on the top o four list, hands down. The traditional sweet, made with two soft and crumbly cookies sandwiched around a tick layer of dulce de leche (caramel), is considered a national treasure.  Although officialy treat it as a pastry,  Argentinians eat them in the morning with coffee or tea, as an afternoon snack or after dinner. There is no “right” time to eat alfajores, actually. Any time is the right time to indulge in one. The most popular varieties are the ones filled with dulce de leche, of course, and either rolled in coconut or covered in dark or white chocolate.

You'll find COMIDAFEST at Riverside Grass, Riverside Walkway, South bank SE1 9PP, behind ITV studios. 12-20h on Saturday and Sunday 11-18h

More info at http://www.comidafest.com/event/