Tag Archives: parilla

An asado in Mendoza

When our landlord talked to us Thursday night I heard, “blah blah blah BBQ blah blah blah Sunday.” Jeff, who actually speaks Spanish heard, “What are you doing Sunday, I’m having a BBQ, why don’t you come.” I can’t help but worry about everything.  What if he misunderstood?  What if she really said, “Hey, I’m having a BBQ on Sunday. Can you please bring your drying laundry inside and keep your obnoxious North American voices down.”

By the time Sunday rolled around I had almost convinced Jeff we weren’t invited. We lurked inside our apartment (which is in her backyard) while she set up tables, got the grill going, and brought out chairs.    This is where traveling is hard for me.  I’m adventurous enough to go to an Argentinian BBQ, but not confident enough to crash an Argentinian BBQ. Finally we migrated outside onto our porch and were quickly invited to sit down, introduced and cheek kissed by everyone.    Either we had been invited all along, or they were extremely welcoming to party crashers.


We sat down and were showered with food.   First it was chicken and salads. Next was ribs and chorizo sausage. Then came pork and more meat.       As food was ready off the grill it was like a meat auction.  Mario, the asador (griller) would take something off the grill, hold it up.  “Chorizo? Chorizo?”  Then if you wanted it you’d hold up your plate.  I tried to pace myself in order to have enough room to try everything.  It was all so good, it was hard not to just keep eating.

It’s funny how some things are the same and different. Watermelon for dessert seemed so North American to me. But then it was brought out “upside-down” to my USA eyes.

I was concerned that we would be served something really weird that I wouldn’t be able to eat.  But, the most unusual thing I saw was a glass of malbac wine, ice, and diet coke. My favorite part of the day was when they toasted with  “to family”   It made me miss my own family.  But, as I clinked glasses with our new Argentinian friends I was  thankful that they included us in their family for the afternoon.

After desert everyone broke into song.



Eating an entire cow (not in one sitting) part 9 – Rib cap and queperi?

One of the great things about our Salta apartment is that it comes with a parilla (Argentinian barbecue grill).   And, one of the great things about Jeff is he’s willing to be an asador (barbecuer).

The Argentinian grill looks sort of like a built in shelf under a chimney.   The giant rack comes with a crank, so you can adjust the height of the grill over the burning wood.

We’ve tried it several times.  For the first one, I started slicing veggies and salting the meat around 8:00pm.    It took slightly longer to light and cook the meat than intended. We sat down to dinner at 1:00am.

But, since that first attempt, Jeff has gotten quite adept with the grill.    Several things are different about our asadors (the name for the actual barbecue as well)  versus the traditional ones.    1. Number of people attending – traditional asadors have lots of people. Since we don’t know many people here, the largest one we had was attended by three people, Jeff, me and our friend Stephanie.

our first dinner guest

2. Order and kinds of meats – traditionally there is a specific order which starts with organs, then sausage, then meat.   The order in our asadors is  sausage, meat, chicken, veggies, usually more veggies than sausage, no organs at all.

3. The cook knows what he’s cooking.    Our method of obtaining the meat  is to go to our local butcher.   We always prepare ahead of time with a list of nicely translated words for cuts of beef.  But, we either loose the piece of paper, or get confused when the butcher starts talking fast.
I then say “parilla” several times and point to the case of meat.     The very nice and patient butcher cuts me several different cuts of meats.    We bring them home and look them up on google.   This last time we came home with what turns out to be  flank steak,  rib cap and something that was delicious, but no idea what cut of beef it was.   So, until I can find a definition for queperi or learn to pronounce it in a way that people can actually understand me,  the queperi portion of the cow will go uncolored.

what is queperi?

Eating an entire cow (not in one sitting) part 7 – cow heart

We chose the restaurant Monumental for our next beef adventure.   We chose it for several reasons:  it’s near our apartment, has outdoor seating, looks like a castle.

I had planned to eat mollejas (sweat breads also known as glands) but the waiter was completely freaked out that I was ordering only sweatbreads for dinner.  He didn’t think this was an appropriate dinner. I didn’t either, but assumed they’d be inedible and I’d be going out for dinner #2 at McDonalds afterward.

He suggested corazon which is beef heart.   I was little apprehensive so we also ordered lots of wine, a “ensalada Americana,” a backup pork chop and I made sure Jeff was ordering a big enough steak that I could mooch off him if needed.

The heart really wasn’t that bad.  It sort of tasted like a weird cut of steak. Now the salad, on the other hand, was totally weird. Lots of corn and white stuff which was either the worst cheese in the world, or a strange vegetable.

My favorite part of dinner was observing the family next to us.  It was past 11:30pm and an entire family including a baby, toddler, and nanny were enjoying dinner.  At around 12:30am we had to go home, we were yawning, but the family was still on dessert.

Eating an Entire cow (not in one sitting) part 6

Our guidebooks talk about all kinds of scams that can happen in Argentina.  Cab drivers give out counterfeit bills, thieves wait at ATM machines,  pick pockets throw mustard on your shoe.  So far none of these things have come even close to happening.

The only scam so far, has been the old “this matambre steak is cow shoulder,” trick.

The restaurant looks innocent enough, but since they don’t have a menu,  the waitress just told us what they were serving that day — matambre. When we asked what part of the cow that was, she said pointed to her shoulder.

Several things could have happened:

  1. it really was shoulder, but she just called it matambre
  2. it was flank steak which she thought came from the shoulder of a cow.
  3. she had a sore shoulder and was massaging it while taking our order.
  4. she was trying to trick me.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure cows even have shoulders.      Later when I googled matambre I got this.

Matambre is a beef dish from Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Of an Italian style, it is a rolled flank steak filled with vegetables, eggs and herbs that is then boiled or oven-roasted. (from Wikipedia).

So obviously, she tricked me into eating flank steak.  The confusing thing is, there was no roll, vegetables, eggs or herbs. It was just a slab of meat. And, the other weird thing is it was super light, almost white.   After much time on the internet comparing my photo to other photos of matambre, I’m pretty sure it was flank steak. You can’t really mind eating a flank steak twice.

doesn't this look more like a shoulder than a flank?

Although, I’ve had a lot of flank steak both on this trip and in Seattle and it’s never looked like this.  But, it was super good, so no matter what it is, I see lots of matambre in my future.

Notice how I had to edit out me saying “this is cow shoulder.”