Touring South American Cuisine

December 5, 2005

23 Min Read
Touring South American Cuisine

South America is a land of diverse food, culture and geography. Its Caribbean coastline gives way to the Amazons tropical rain forests, south through the Pampas grasslands and the windswept dunes of the Atacama Desert, and on to the Patagonia plateau on the continents far southern tip. The snow-capped Altiplano Andes Mountains form its backbone, towering from the north to the south.

Largely dominated by the Inca civilization, later colonized by the Portuguese and Spanish, and eventually settled by other Europeans, South America is home to the mestizos, a majority in many regions, as well as the mulattos and the zambos. Brazilians and Guyanese and other Caribbean South Americans largely constitute the indigenous, non-Hispanic South American population. Japanese, Chinese and Jewish emigrants are prominent in Argentina, Peru and Brazil.

Spanish is spoken all over, except in Brazil where Portuguese is the rule. Many Amerindian dialects prevail, specifically within the Quechua, Guarani, Aymara and Mapuche populations.

South Americans are becoming a large and integral part of the U.S. Latino population. Their highest concentration is in Florida, New York, California and New Jersey. Colombians, Ecuadorians and Peruvians constitute a major portion of this growing U.S. Hispanic category.

South Americas culture and foodways are as diverse as its geography and people. For lunch, savor the clean, cool taste of an Ecuadorian ceviche of mixed seafood cooked in the tart juice of the Seville orange, mixed with hot chiles and accompanied by toasted corn. Or snack on Bolivian humitas, cornmeal dough with potatoes, onions, aji chiles and cheese fillings, steamed in corn husks, with a sip of stimulating yerba maté from Paraguay. For dinner, feast on Argentinean churrasco, an array of juicy, fresh meats roasted over an open fire and served with chimichurris, vinegary sauces accented with fresh herbs. Or enjoy Peruvian papas rellenas, deep-fried potatoes stuffed with spicy meat, eggs and olives. Wash it all down with Brazilian caipirinhas, made from cachaça (sugar-cane liquor) and fresh lime juice served over ice. End the meal with Bolivian corn pudding and a cup of Colombian café con leche.

Everyday ingredients

South America is home to many primary ingredients we use in our everyday meals, such as potatoes, chiles, beans and corn. While South American cuisine has great diversity, some foods, such as chicken soup, white rice, stews, ceviches, tamales and empanadas, are common around the continent. Foods are generally served with white rice or potatoes. Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) is popular all over. Potatoes are daily foods of the indigenous peoples of the Andes highlands and come in a wider variety of sizes, shapes, colors and flavors than we typically find in North America. Other staples include maize (corn), yuca (manioc or cassava), squash, sweet potato and hardy grains.

Maize comes in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Andeans still grow and eat the large, white corn, called Cuzco corn. Corn is enjoyed fresh off the cob (choclo), boiled, baked, stewed or ground into a meal for arepas (baked or fried cornmeal cakes). It is also made into corn fritters, corn bread, added as fillings for tamales or empanadas, or toasted as snacks. Purple corn is made into a dessert, mazamorra morada (purple-corn pudding), and an alcholic corn drink with pineapple and sugar called chicha morada.

Lima beans, black beans and chickpeas are made into soups and stews. Lima beans are cooked and served chilled and seasoned with salt, black pepper, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, onions and chiles. Tarwi (or chocho), an Andean leguminous member of the lupin family, was domesticated by the Incas. It has high protein, up to 50% rich in lysine and cystine and is added to ceviches, stews and breads.

Guava, mango, oranges, pineapple, passion fruit, apples, peaches and pears are abundant. They are canned; added to meat and seafood stews; and made into sauces (with hot peppers), juices, fruit nectars, beverages, and desserts. Other, more-exotic fruits include camu camu (high vitamin C), guarana (high caffeine), acerola (also known as Barbados cherry due to its cherrylike flavor), açai (berrylike) or caja (the plumlike purple mombin). Bananas, avocados, limes and coconut milk are also plentiful to season dishes or made into snacks, bakery items or beverages.

The Andes region is likely the motherland of chile peppers. Aji amarillo, aji colorado, rocoto and Malagueta peppers are abundant in Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. A commonly used chile paste called aji molido is made with ajis, garlic, vinegar, olive oil and salt. Salsas and condiments, including chimichurris, pebre, salsa de mani, salsa Criolla, pickapeppa sauce or molho apimentado, made with chiles, vinegar, onions, cilantro, parsley and fruits, become marinades and dips for barbecued or grilled meats, like steak (biftec), as sides for seafood stews and soups, or to flavor cooked potatoes, manioc, corn or beans. Sofrito, a mixture of onions, garlic, bell peppers and/or tomatoes, sautéed in olive oil, forms a foundation for many Spanishstyle sauces. Some sofritos call for aceite de achiote (annatto-infused oil), which the indigenous population also uses to color and flavor dishes.

Many high-protein grains quinoa, kañiwa and kiwicha are native to the Andes. Quinoa (quinua) was cultivated extensively in the Andean region by the Incas some 5,000 years ago. After maize, it has occupied the mostprominent place among Andean grains. It thrives in poor soil and high altitudes and today is cultivated in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Unlike other grains, it is a complete protein with high iron, potassium and riboflavin levels. When cooked, the grain becomes delicate in flavor, soft and creamy, with a crunchy tail (a spiral created by the exterior germ during cooking). The grain has a bitter coating of saponin, which is removed through washing to make the grain palatable.

Cooks toast or roast quinoa and then cook it before adding to soups, stews or rice, or making it into snacks, cereals and bread, which can contain 15% to 20% quinoa flour. Quinoa has anti-inflammatory properties, is used as analgesic against toothache, and is believed to disinfect the urinary tract.

Kañiwa, or cañihua, (Chenopodium palliducaule), which originated in the Andes of southern Peru and Bolivia, is closely related to quinoa. It has a high protein content 15% to 19% and lacks saponin. Locals lightly roast it or grind it into flour, called cañihuaco, which can replace 20% of wheat flour to make bread and biscuits. It is also made into cold or hot drinks, soups, stews, porridges, and desserts.

Amaranth, or kiwicha, has 12% to 16% protein, good levels of sulfur-containing amino acids and no saponin. The grains are popped under heat in a clay pot and mixed with molasses or honey to form a snack called turrónes, ground into flour for breads, or fermented for beer. Also known as Inca wheat or love-liesbleeding, its young leaves are boiled, fried or pickled and enjoyed by the indigenous population. They also use its red flowers to treat toothaches and fevers, as well as boiling them to color many products.

Common comidas

Soups and stews (caldos, cocidas, locros, ajiacos, chupes, carbonadas or guisados) are sustaining meals for the indigenous population. They are also a Spanish and Portuguese legacy. Generally, they are prepared with potatoes, avocado, chickpeas, squash, corn, rice, seafood, chicken, meats, tomatoes, fruits and grains, and seasoned with ajis, garlic, cilantro and other herbs and spices, lime juice, and coconut milk.

Freshly made potato soup with aji peppers, cheese, vegetables or seafood is a daily Andean fare. Some other popular dishes are sopa de mani (peanut soup) from Bolivia, Colombias ajiaco (rich, creamy chicken-and-potato soup), porotos granados (with cranberry beans, corn and squash) from Chile, Argentinian locro de choclo (young corn with tomatoes and peppers), Bolivias guisado de repello (shredded cabbage, potatoes and chiles) and Bahias seafood-and-coconut based vatapes or moquecas.

Empanadas, also called pastels, empadas, salteñas or empanitas, have numerous regional flavor variations. They are deep-fried (fritas) or baked (al horno) savory turnovers with fillings of ground meat, seafood, potatoes or corn, chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped olives, ham, and cheese, and generally seasoned with chiles, dried shrimp, capers, hearts of palm and raisins.

Of Amerindian origin, tamales consist of cornmeal dough possibly filled with chicken, meat, seafood, potatoes, puréed young corn and cheese, and then wrapped and cooked in corn husks, banana leaves or other vegetable leaves. It is also called humitas in Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, or hallacas in Venezuela.

Ceviches (seviches or cebiches) are enjoyed throughout South America, especially around coastal regions. This involves cooking (marinating) raw fish (sea bass, snapper and halibut) or shellfish in acidic citrus juice (lemon, lime or bitter orange) and adding other ingredients like red onions, garlic, black pepper, ajis and garlic. South Americans serve ceviches with cold boiled potatoes or camote (sweet potato), toasted corn kernels (cancha), avocados or bread.

The Spanish brought escabeche, a method of pickling that originated from the Moors, to South America. This involves pickling cooked seafood, meat, duck or chicken in a sauce that might include vinegar, onions, tomatoes and chiles. Popular variations include escabeche de pollo, with chiles, sliced veggies and spices in red-wine vinegar; escabeche de pescado, with onions and ajis; and escabeche de huachinango, using red snapper, ajis, achiote and spices, all topped with cheese.

Desserts and pastries with Moorish and Portuguese influences are rich and sweet, made with coconut, bananas, pumpkin, avocado, mango and many other local fruits. Dulce de leche (also called manjar blanco); turrónes; helados (fruitflavored ice cream); cheese; pumpkin, banana or coconut flans; cakes made with fruits, spices and nuts; macaroons; and mango, banana-walnut or coconut pies are favorites. Creamy, caramelized dulce de leche (milk and sugar boiled down to a thick paste or sauce) is enjoyed by itself, with fruits, or as a topping or sauce for cookies, cakes, confectioneries and ice creams.

Beverage bonanza

A favorite South American beverage is yerba maté, a strong, bitter drink with a high caffeine content (the dried leaves contain about 0.5% to 2.0% caffeine, so the content varies with preparation). It is made from dried, roasted or fermented leaves of the Paraguayan holly tree. Traditionally, the dried leaves are crushed and placed in a gourd container, called a maté, which is filled slowly with hot water, sweetened with sugar or flavored with lime juice, and then drunk through a straw called a bombilla. Locals take it to reduce fatigue and treat digestive ailments.

South Americans enjoy sweetened fruit juices (sucos or jugos), licuados (light, frothy, blended fruit shakes typically made with milk, but sometimes with water), refrescos (still drinks with juices or flavors) and fizzy frinks, like Inca Kola, with fruits or fruit flavors, sugar and/or vanilla and sweet spices. Sugar-cane and coconut juices are refreshing street drinks. Guarana beverages are taken as an aphrodisiac and stimulant. Traditionally, guarana a small, red fruit containing about 5% caffeine in the seeds is roasted, ground, mixed with manioc meal and rolled into sticks and left to harden; these are then mixed with water as a drink.

The Incas made the earliest-known alcoholic beverage (called chichi) in South America from fermented maize. This cloudy, tart and cidery beer has a frothy head and is colored from the corn used. Today in Peru, chicha morada is a national icon, prepared from boiled purple maize, pineapple, sugar and ice. Pisco is a brandylike alcoholic beverage distilled from grapes and made into a pisco sour, the national drink of Peru, with egg white, lime or lemon juice, and sugar.

Coffee, a commercial crop in Brazil and Colombia, is popular with all South Americans generally served as café chico (strong black coffee), café cortado (espresso with a dash of steamed milk) or café com pingo (coffee with a little milk), or café con leche (coffee with a lot of milk). Herbal teas made with chamomile (manzanilla), mint (yerba buena), boldo (the leaves of Peumus boldus) or lemon are taken after meals for their purported healing properties.

Wandering down the foodways

Europeans brought rice, wheat, chicken, beef, lamb, tomatoes, citrus, sugar and many spices, such as garlic, onions, cinnamon, clove and cilantro, to South America. These staples have since become everyday items in local diets. Dishes based on seafood, manioc, potatoes, corn, quinoa and squash cooked in achiote are Amerindian favorites; paellas, stews and sofritos originated from the Spanish; wines, salt cod, olives and cheese are a legacy of the Portuguese; steaks, sausage-making and beer were an influence of the Germans; pizzas and pastas were learned from the Italians; kebobs, cuscuz (a combination of meats, vegetables, cornmeal and manioc meal) and sweets were created by the Arabs; rice dishes, soy products and stir-fries arrived courtesy of the Chinese and Japanese; and foods cooked with peanuts, coconut milk and dendê oil (a bright-orange or reddish palm oil that lends a nutty flavor to foods) came from the Africans.

The Caribbean coast. This area, also called Caribbean South America, includes Suriname (Dutch), Guyana (English) and French Guiana. They follow the foodways of the Caribbean and their European colonizers, as well as the Asian and African laborers brought to their colonies. Pepper-pot stew, cow-foot soup, curries, Indonesian satay and fried rice, and Vietnamese noodles and soups abound. In Guyana, pickapeppa sauce, made with lime juice, chiles, ketchup and brown sugar, adds a punch to many dishes. Salsa Criolla, with tomatoes, black pepper and onions, is added to fried fish as well as meat dishes made along the Caribbean coast.

Colombia and Venezuela. These countries have retained a strong Spanish influence. The Pacific and Caribbean surround Colombia. Thus, seafood dishes are abundant: mariscada (seafood stew); paellas; sopa de pescado Tumaca, a fish soup from Tumaco, Colombia with tomatoes, coconut milk, onion and lemon; and sancochos (meatand- vegetable stews), generally prepared with chicken, fish, plantains, squash, potatoes, avocados and yuca, seasoned with coconut milk, cilantro and cumin. Rice is a favorite along the coast, while potatoes and corn are eaten further inland.

With similar flavors as found in Colombia, Venezuela also has Caribbean influence, with fish, black beans, corn and rice as staples. Black beans are popular and used in caraotas negras (with onion, garlic, cumin and chiles), frijoles negros con jamón (with ham hocks, bananas, tomatoes, paprika and cilantro) and pabellón Criollo (shredded flank steak, rice and black beans seasoned with cumin, tomato, bay and oregano, topped with fried bananas and/or fried eggs).

Arepas (thick, round, white-cornmeal cakes with crisp exteriors and doughy interiors) are enjoyed in Colombia and Venezuela, served with cheese, ham, guava paste or butter. Arepas de choclo are made from freshcorn kernels, kneaded and roasted over a charcoal fire, and served piping-hot with butter, salt and white cheese.

The Amazon to the Pampas. Brazil, the largest country in South America, has a multiethnic cuisine consistent with its diverse population and bordering countries (see Brazils Carnival of Flavors in the Dec. 2003 issue of Food Product Design, for an in-depth look at Brazilian cuisine). The Portuguese and Spanish brought African slaves to South America, and nowhere is their influence stronger than in Brazil. In Bahia, in northeastern Brazil, African presence is found in dishes based on peanuts, yams, dendê oil and coconut milk. Rice, breads, potatoes, pastas, cheese, eggs, sausages, soy products, corn, bananas and beans are commonplace. Seafood stews predominate in the North, while the South is the land of churrascos.

Manioc is a staple enjoyed by the Amerindians, either as an ingredient in many dishes or as a tabletop condiment when toasted (farinha de mandioca). It is cut into strips and deepfried (like french fries) or used as a base for tucupi sauce, a condiment for meats and chicken.

Feijoada completa, Brazils national dish, is cooked with fresh and smoked meats, organ meats, dried beef (carne seca), pork sausage, and beans. The cooked meats and sausages are served sliced, ladled with the cooked sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, onions and chiles and beans, accompanied with white rice, cooked kale, onion rings, toasted manioc with butter, and a spicy lemon sauce.

Portuguese and African influences have combined to give birth, to many rich, sweet confections, such as coconut flan (quindim) using eggs, sugar and grated coconut; manioc-coconutmilk pudding; macaroons; and pastries and cakes made from Brazil nuts and fruits South Americas Andean heartland Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay has a large indigenous Amerindian population: Guaranis, Aymaras, Quechuas and many others. The high altitudes and cold nights of these countries have given rise to a spicy cuisine with abundant potatoes, meats and hot peppers. Soups and stews abound.

Ecuador. Located north of Peru and along the equator, Ecuador is renowned for its ceviche, made with bitter-orange juice and chiles. The Afro-Ecuadorians along the northern coast enjoy seafood seasoned with coconut milk. Peanuts and bananas are staples on the lower-coast regions. Corn and potato pancakes and soups, as well as grilled cuy (guinea pig), are staples further inland along the Andes. Bananas form the basis of many products: a dip for tortilla chips with beans, sausage, tomato sauce and spices; platano verde, thinly sliced and fried bananas; and patacones, thick-sliced bananas fried in lard, then mashed flat and fried again.

Foods are cooked in achiote oil or lard. Refrito, a fried mixture containing chopped onions, green peppers, tomato, achiote and salt and/or garlic, is added to many cooked dishes, like sofrito. Aji peppers form the basis of many condiments and sauces, such as aji costeño with onions and cilantro and aji serrano with chopped tomato and carrots.

Bolivia. Around Lake Titicaca and the lowlands, trout, freshwater fish, veggies and fruits predominate. Bolivians serve humitas (tortillas often filled with puréed young corn, potatoes, onion and cheese, with ajis, cooked in achiote oil), empanadas and salteñas (corn pies), and pukacapas (spicy cheese patties) with cold beer or other drinks. Spicy sauces and condiments made with ajis, tomatoes and spices are served with stews and soups such as chairo with cured lamb or alpaca, chuno (freeze-dried potatoes), corn and camote or saice (meat soup with onions and tomatoes).

Peru. This land of the Incas is the worlds potato capital, with numerous varieties and colors (including purple, blue, yellow and shades of brown to pink), as well as various sizes, textures and flavors. Many dishes are served with boiled potatoes. Papas (potatoes), which played a religious role with the Incas, are made into many dishes, including: papas a la huancaina (sliced potatoes with spicy sauce and cheese), ocopa (boiled and sliced yellow potatoes covered with a sauce of walnuts, ajis and white cheese), papas rellenas (deep-fried stuffed potatoes with ground meat, eggs, olives and spices), and papas arequipena (potatoes in peanut, cheese and aji sauce).

Corn is mashed and made into breads, tamales and beverages, and choclo is added to soups and stews or toasted and eaten as a snack. A variety of soups and stews are also popular, including sancochado, a hearty beef-and-vegetable stew that includes yuca and camote; crema de tarwi (or chocho); yuca chupe; and chupe de pescado (fish chowder), popular along the coast. Rice is cooked with chicken stock or with green sauce, or served as arroz chaufa (fried rice seasoned with ajis and garlic) in Chinese restaurants (called chifas).

Meats are served in a variety of ways. Butifarras is a sandwich with Peruvian ham and spicy sauce. Carapulcra has pork, chicken, yellow potatoes, chiles, peanuts and cumin. Aji de gallina is a peppery chicken served in a creamy, yellow, spicy, nut-based sauce. Lomo saltado is fried chopped steak with onions, tomatoes, potatoes and rice. Seco de cabrito is goat marinated with chicha de jora (a fermentedmaize drink) or beer, cilantro, and garlic.

Chalona is cured lamb, alpaca or llama in which slits are made for the salt to penetrate; the meat is left to dry in the sun and cold nights for about a month. Grilled or fried guinea pig (cuy) is a favorite in the highlands. Pachamana, a big feast of Inca origin, consists of cuy with other meats (pork, ostrich or goat), cheese, potatoes, yuca and tamales cooked underground for several hours, covered with leaves.

The areas surrounding the Pacific ocean, the Amazon River and Lake Titicaca have abundant seafood and turtles. Ceviche, the national dish comes with many different flavor variations, served with boiled potato, sweet potato or cancha (toasted corn kernels). Ceviche de conchas negras (black clams), ceviche de Huachinango (with red snapper and ajis), and mixedseafood ceviches are popular. Chupe de camarones (shrimp soup) is a popular dish using shrimp stock, potatoes, milk and ajis. Other seafood dishes include escabeche de pescado, escabeche de Huachinango (with ajis or rocotos, achiote, and cheese), chupa de camarones con pescado, (shrimp and fish stew with potatoes, corn and milk) and chupe de camarones y papas.

Maca, grown in the Andes, is a root vegetable used to enhance strength and endurance and to treat male sexual dysfunction. It contains 10.0% protein and 8.5% dietary fiber. Peruvians consume maca in many ways: pit-roasted; mixed with milk for porridge; mixed with other vegetables, grains or potatoes; made into flour for baking; fermented for beer called chica de maca; and puréed into smoothies with water or milk, honey, cinnamon, and fruit.

Peruvian cuisine is often made spicy with ajis or rocotos (called uchu by the Incas). Some Peruvian chile peppers are not spicy but give color to sauces. Rice often accompanies dishes in Peruvian cuisine. Street foods include tamales; ceviches; choclo con queso; potato snacks; anticuchos de corazón, marinated, grilled beef hearts dipped in spicy sauce; pickled black beans with ham and olives, seasoned with annatto, cumin and chiles; and grilled fish kebobs (pinchos).

Paraguay. This countrys predominant Guaranis enjoy veggies, fruits, grilled meats, soo-yosopy (ground-beef soup with rice, chiles, oregano and onions), chipa (manioc bread with egg and cheese) and corn mush (mazamorra). Corn, a staple, is made into many dishes: sopa paraguaya (corn bread with cheese and onion), corn pudding with beef, chicken soup with cornmeal dumplings, and corn bread with meat filling.

The people of Paraguay enjoy hot or cold yerba maté, sugar-cane juice, and alcoholic sugarcane juice (cana).

Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. These southern countries border the Atlantic and are more European than the other regions, with many Spanish, German, Welsh, French, Italian, Swiss and Eastern-European immigrants. These are the lands of the gaucho, where beef is the staple. Argentina is the beef capital of the world. The rich grassland plains of the Pampas, located below the Andes, are home to cattle, sheep, wheat and corn.

The food is strongly influenced by Italians and Germans with pizzas, fresh pastas, gelatos, sausages, cheese or sauerkraut served at most cafés and restaurants. Fish are plentiful, while game meat, such as deer, hare and emu, are also eaten.

Parilladas and churrascarias that serve meats grilled or barbecued over open fires and asados (roasts) are popular. Beefsteaks skirt steak, (flank steak) and churrasco (grilled sirloin, flank or rump steak) are most popular cuts of beef, often served with ribs, sausages, sweetbreads and organ meats. Parillada is a multicourse meal with grilled steak and sweetbreads, sausages, and kidneys. Chinchulines are sheep and beef intestines grilled over open fires and have a crispy, crunchy texture. All are served with chimichurri, an olive-oil- and vinegarbased condiment with garlic, parsley and lemon juice. Other beef dishes include carbonada Criolla and puchero (beef stews, often with sausage, bacon, corn and potatoes), matambre (thin flank rolled with fillings), beef empanadas and bife a caballo (steak topped with eggs).

In Uruguay, common dishes include biftik a la Montevideo, a sauced, simmered steak; chivito, a sandwich with thin slices of sirloin steak, lettuce, bacon, tomato, hearts of palm, olives, onions and cheese; and seafood or tripe soups.

Chile. Because of its long coastline, Chiles seafood forms the basis of many dishes, while corn and beans are enjoyed in the interior. Seafood is made into almost everything: stews, ceviches, escabeches, or snacks with potatoes, corn, squash and other vegetables.

Many of Chiles lamb dishes (such as lamb ribs or lamb shish kebabs), baked deer dishes and cakes stem from Welsh influence. Popular dishes include caldillo de congrio (fish stew with potatoes, tomatoes, cilantro and oregano), curanto (indigenous seafood stew with chicken, pork, lamb, beef and potato); chupes de camarones (shrimp stew with potatoes, corn and milk); porotos granados; pastel de choclo (corn pie), charquican (mashed potato with squash, ground beef and corn) and pastel de papas (potato pie with a sprinkling of salt or sugar). Pebre, prepared with garlic, lemon juice, chiles and cilantro, is a popular Chilean condiment served with stews and grilled seafood and meats.

South American translations

Pisco sour and caipirinhas have already become popular drinks at U.S. bars and nightclubs. Most people in this country are also familiar with empanadas, and their savory fillings have cross-cultural appeal. Food-product designers can tap into the variety offered in South America to develop products that are not only new, but also with wide appeal.

Many South American spices and flavors such as olives, capers, oregano, thyme or cilantro are already familiar to mainstream U.S. consumers. By introducing new flavors, such as aji or rocoto peppers, companies can attract a large, existing consumer base that already has a taste for fiery foods but is looking for new products and added variety.

Food, flavor and ingredient companies can tap into the many exotic-fruit flavors and ingredients from South America for beverages, cereals, soups, stews and confectionary, for not only the Hispanic market, but also mainstream U.S. consumers. South American cuisine provides so many great flavors to choose from anywhere from mildly marinated bisteks and churrascos to spicy seafood stews and sauces. Many Nuevo Latino restaurants have a variety of ceviche concepts as appetizers or tapas-style dishes, which appeal to fish lovers. Latino and fusion restaurants have marinated chicken asados and flank steaks, chimichurris, and aji-based sauces or dips on their menus. Frozen entrées grilled or roasted meats, chicken and seafood can be perkedup with similar marinades and condiments, not only to create more flavor, but also to go beyond Mexican salsas and sauces in the Hispanic category.

Many Hispanic neighborhoods have Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Colombian or Chilean restaurants serving their homecooked dishes foods that are popular all over South America. Designers can assimilate these seasonings and dishes into foodservice and retail concepts. For example, South American cuisine exalts the potato. Potatoes and other tubers from the region, in combination with traditional preparation techniques, can be introduced via stews, soups and sauces into North American cooking. This adds new excitement to potato dishes. Many of these flavoring concepts can be applied to side dishes or even to potato snacks. Why not a papas rellenas version of a heat-andeat, hand-held sandwich?

Formulators can also expand confectionary and dessert concepts using South American coconut, nuts and fruit flavors already popular with mainstream consumers, Hispanics and Asians. Dulce de leche has already become a sweet flavor embraced by most of the U.S. market.

America continues to romance Latin American foodways. The broad range of flavors and culinary influences from South America can be tapped to continue this Latino food craze in North America.

Susheela Raghavan is president of Horizons Consulting Inc., DBA Taste of Malacca, a New Rochelle, NYbased supplier of innovative spice blends and food-consulting firm that spots trends and develops ethnic and new American products for U.S. and global markets. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected], or by visiting or

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