Top 10 tasty and low-cost recipes of Latin American streetfood

Some of the very best dishes of the continent worth trying to cook at home

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1. Argentinian Sandwiche de Milanesa (breaded steak sandwich)

MAKES 4   PREPARATION: 5 MINUTES   COOKING: 10 MINUTES

The milanesa (steak) is put between two pieces of bread and that is the sandwiche de milanesa. It is favorite in Argentina. The same food is also eaten in Uruguay but with the name milanesa al pan.

The origins of the ‘Milanesa’ name seem to lie in the troubled times of the 19th century when the Austrian Hapsburgs ruled part of Italy. The Austrian Marshal Radetzky apparently provided conclusive evidence in a letter when he wrote about discovering the cotoletta (chop or cutlet) ‘alla milanesa’ and gave a careful description.

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Workers often eat sandwiches de milanesa as lunch because they can be readily bought and eaten – important if you need to get back to work quickly.

INGREDIENTS:

4 thin steaks
1 cup / 100 g soft breadcrumbs
1-2 eggs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
bread
oil
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

1 Tenderize the steaks by hitting both sides with the end of a rolling pin. Then season.
2 Beat the eggs in a bowl. Now add the garlic, the parsley, and a bit of salt and pepper.
3 Take a large, rectangular dish and place half the breadcrumbs in it. Taking the steaks, dip them first into the bowl containing the egg mix and then into the dish with the breadcrumbs. Ensure they are well coated; repeat with all the pieces.
4 Heat the oil in a frying pan and when it is very hot, fry both sides of the steak. The milanesa is ready when both sides of the steak are browned. Serve hot in a bread sandwich.


2. Brazilian Pasteis fritos (fried pies)

MAKES 12   PREPARATION: 20 MINUTES PLUS 1 HOUR SET ASIDE   COOKING: 20 MINUTES

Popular foods, like cachorro-quente (hot dog), pipoca (popcorn), and bauru (steak sandwich), are not sold everywhere in Brazilian cities.You will not find people selling these foods in the richest neighborhoods, but you will in the poorest and middle-class ones. On the beaches the situation is different. They seem to be more democratic and people of all social classes get together there, so the sellers walk along the beaches and promenades offering foods, mainly milho cozido (boiled sweetcorn). This popular food is eaten at the seaside all over Brazil. The pasteis are quite big and can be filled with meat, egg, olives, chicken, or – usually on the beach – fish. On the beaches there are also vendors with baskets offering pasteis de siri (crabs), pasteis with prawn, with chicken and other fillings.

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Pastry shops frequently use the same fillings (chicken, beef, seafood, vegetables or cheese) to make small tartlets (empadas) which are also served as appetizers. Pasteis generally are filled with mixtures of meat, chicken or cheese. They are best served hot immediately after cooking.

INGREDIENTS:

FOR THE DOUGH:
1 cup / 100 g flour
1 tablespoon margarine
salt
1/2 beaten egg
water

FOR THE FILLING:
1/4 pound / 110 g cheese, grated
1 onion, sliced finely
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped finely
2 tablespoons tomato sauce or puree
1 hardboiled egg, chopped
6 olives, pitted and chopped
pepper sauce
oil
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

1 Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and a little water.
2 Mix well with the fingertips, adding a few more drops of water if the dough seems dry. Cover with plastic film and set aside for an hour.
3 When ready, cook the onions. Now put in the parsley, tomato sauce, egg and olives. Add pepper sauce and seasoning to taste. Stir to mix the ingredients well; leave to cool.
4 On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 0.5 cm thick. Cut into circles with a saucer.
5 Spoon some of the mixture on one half of the dough circle. Top with grated cheese. Fold over the other half and seal by pressing with a fork.
6 Heat oil in a wok or deep-fryer and when hot cook the pasteis until golden on both sides. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.
Serve hot.


3. Brazilian Bolinhos de bacalhau (codfish balls)

SERVES 4-6   PREPARATION: OVERNIGHT SOAKING PLUS 20 MINUTES   COOKING: 40 MINUTES

A great snack, especially with a glass of cold beer. The cod needs to soak overnight in cold water.

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INGREDIENTS:

1/2 pound / 225 g dried cod, soaked overnight
1 onion, sliced finely
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 potatoes, cooked and mashed
2-3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon paprika
milk
oil
salt

DIRECTIONS:

1 Soak the cod overnight. Drain, and put the fish in a cooking pot. Cover with fresh water and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the bones and skin, and then chop the fish finely.
2 Next, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and cook until it is soft. When the onion is translucent put in the chives, parsley and fish, stirring well. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes.
3 Now take the pan from the heat and add the milk, mashed potatoes, flour and paprika, adding a little milk if necessary. Combine well and check the flavoring; add a little salt if desired. Leave the mixture to cool.
4 When ready, take pieces of the mix and shape into walnut-sized balls or flat cakes. Heat up some oil in a frying pan or wok. Carefully slide in the fishballs and fry until golden. Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot.


4. Colombian Bandeja paisa

SERVES 4   PREPARATION: OVERNIGHT SOAKING   COOKING: 40 MINUTES

La bandeja paisa is a local dish from Antioquia, Colombia’s coffee region. This is a specialty of Medellin and you can purchase it at all the stalls. It’s served hot on a clay plate. You can eat it with arepa – typical corn bread. In its original and most calorific form this dish serves antioquenos beans – beans cooked in the Antioquian way – and meat with white rice, pork fat, chorizo, fried egg,
banana and beans. Sometimes it comes with a sauce, el hogao, made of onion with tomato sauteed on a very low heat until it becomes a soft paste. People enjoy freshly made fruit juices with the bandeja paisa.

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INGREDIENTS:

1 cup / 175 g red kidney beans, cooked
1/2 pound / 225 g ground/minced beef
1 cup hogao sauce* or tomato puree
1/4 pound / 110 g bacon, sliced
oil
salt and pepper

*FOR 1 CUP/240 ML HOGAO SAUCE:
1 onion, chopped
6 tomatoes, chopped
water
salt and pepper

OPTIONAL SIDE DISHES:
4 eggs, fried
1 plantain, sliced and fried

DIRECTIONS:

1 To begin, make the sauce by heating a little oil in a pan and sauteing the onion for a few minutes until it is soft and golden. Then put in the chopped tomatoes and seasoning and cook very gently for 20 minutes or so until it is reduced and thickened. Add a little water and/or tomato sauce if it seems too stiff.
2 While that is happening, take another pan and lightly fry the meat in some oil for a few moments. Then add the hogao sauce and mix well. Set aside.
3 Fry or grill the bacon pieces until they are crisp. Drain on absorbent paper.
4 Now add the cooked beans to the meat and hogao mix and stir them in, partially mashing them as you do so. Heat through.
5 Serve on a plate with rice, the bean mix with the crispy bacon on top, and other ingredients as liked such as fried plantains, fried eggs and corn bread arepas.


5. Colombian La Bomba

SERVES 4   PREPARATION: 5 MINUTES

Colombian people eat this – a sort of quick paella – at the weekend or before meetings or festivities because its ingredients give you energy.

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You can buy La Bomba in every streetmarket of Colombia’s capital Bogota and all around the country. It’s very popular with young people, who might eat it before going out at night to dance, but adults consume it as well. The shellfish is often eaten raw, but you may prefer to cook it first.

INGREDIENTS:

Enough shellfish for 4 people (such as lobster, oysters, mussels, crab, shrimps)
4 tomatoes
1-2 tablespoons honey
juice of 1 lime or lemon
oil
salt

DIRECTIONS:

1 Put the tomatoes, honey and a pinch of salt into a blender and whizz to make a smooth sauce. Add a little lime or lemon juice and oil to make a smooth, thick sauce.
2 Put the shellfish into glass dishes. Spoon the sauce over it and serve cold, with crackers or bread.


6. Jamaican Jerk Pork (or chicken)

SERVES 6   PREPARATION: 24 HOURS (12 HOURS FOR CHICKEN*)   COOKING: 1-2 HOURS

The idea of jerk or jerked meat, with attendant ‘rubs’ or seasonings, conjures interesting images. The name ‘jerk’, similar to the US ‘jerky’, comes from an anglicization of the Spanish word charqui, derived from the Quechua Indian word escharqui.
While staying in the lush, green parish of Portland, we visited Port Antonio, considered the home of jerk. Both jerk pork and chicken were readily available, well seasoned with spices and cooked slowly over a pit of smoking pimento (allspice) wood. The ‘Jerkman’ served it in paper with ‘festivals’ – long, flat, slightly sweet, deep-fried dumplings – made from cornmeal (polenta).

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There are many versions of seasonings or ‘rubs’. The Scotch bonnet and habanero peppers are very hot, so use less if you wish. The meat is best cooked over a charcoal fire if possible – if not, use the oven.

INGREDIENTS:

3 pounds / 1.5 kg tender pork, such as loin, or chicken *
1 Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper
1 onion
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cloves, heads only
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1-2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar
juice of 1-2 limes

DIRECTIONS:

1 To begin, put all the ingredients except the pork into a blender and blend to make a thick, smooth paste. Add more lime juice or water if required.
2 Place the meat on a non-metal baking dish and spoon the marinade all over, using your hands to rub it in. Wrap in aluminum foil and leave in the fridge for 24 hours – or 12 if using chicken.
3 If possible, slow-roast the meat over a barbecue. If not, use the oven (325 o F/170 o C/Gas 3) and cook for 1-2 hours or until done.


7. Mexican Tlacoyos azules (prickly pear dish)

MAKES 12-16   PREPARATION: 30 MINUTES   COOKING: 10 MINUTES

These are a seriously yummy street food of Mexico City. They are only around at lunchtime: if you are there don’t hesitate to eat one – and I assure you it will be more than just one. The palmear method of flattening the tlacoyos takes time to master but don’t let that stop you trying. You need to used refried beans – pinto beans cooked and put into a pan with a bit of oil or pork fat. When they’re very hot you mash them. Let them dry; for this recipe you need them to be very dry. You can also make the filling with cottage cheese and some herbs – in Mexico that would be epazote but parsley will do.

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Harder to find is nopales, that is the ‘leaves’ or paddles of the opuntia vulgaris (prickly pear) cactus that gives the prickly pear fruit. You can buy this ready prepared (ie spines removed!) in jars on the internet.

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INGREDIENTS:

FOR THE REFRIED BEANS:
1 cup / 200 g pinto beans, cooked
pinch of chili powder
oil
salt

FOR THE TLACOYOS:
1 pound / 450 g masa (corn/maize tortilla dough) *
1 cup / 200 g refried pinto beans (see above)
4 nopales, cut into two **
1/2 pound / 225 g fresh white cheese
spicy salsa

* Masa azul (blue masa) if possible.
** Available from internet – if you cannot obtain whole nopales leaves or ‘paddles’ use the chopped ones.

DIRECTIONS:

1 Start by making the refried beans. Heat a little oil in a pan and when hot put in the cooked beans. Stir them around to heat through and then mash with a fork. Add a little chili powder and salt. Make sure the mixture is dry before proceeding to #3.
2 Make the masa according to the packet instructions. Take a ball of dough (between a tennis ball and a ping-pong ball in size) in your hand and then put one finger in to make a hole.
3 Fill the hole with the refried beans paste. Once you fill the little ball you ‘close’ it. Then pass the ball from one hand to the other, pressing it a little each time to make it flat and an oval shape, about 10 cm in length. The bean paste should only show a bit, so take care to press equally on each side to get the desired results.
4 As soon as you have made the tlacoyo, cook it on a hot griddle or flat pan with a smear of oil. When one side is done the bottom changes color and looks drier. Then flip to the other side.
5 Make cuts lengthwise on the nopales, but do not slice right through. If using sliced nopales, omit this step.
6 Place the nopal alongside the tlacoyo in the same pan, with no oil, and sprinkle with salt. Once cooked on one side, flip it over and add more salt. When it is cooked it softens, becomes a deeper green and has bits of black where it has caught while cooking.
7 Now put the nopal on top of the tlacoyo azul, and sprinkle with fresh cheese and some spicy salsa.


8. Peruvian Cebiche de pescado (cebiche of fish)

SERVES 6-8   PREPARATION: 10 MINUTES PLUS 1 HOUR SET ASIDE

This is a famous Peruvian seafood dish. The Humboldt current keeps Peru’s Pacific Ocean stocked with plankton, which attract many different fish. Cebiche has been on the menu for over 2,000 years. It’s made with fish, scallops, shrimp or squid, or a mixture of these. Then marinated in lime juice with chilies and served raw with onion, sweetcorn and sweet potatoes.

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The recipe is typical of the north of Peru but there are some special versions in the Ecuador border area. On both sides the ‘black ostry cebiche’ – another variety – is eaten with maize/corn. In Piura and Tumbes (Peru) and Huaquillas (Ecuador) there are lots of street markets selling cebiche. But each country has a different way of preparing it. Peruvians eat it with lemon and the Ecuadorians with milk and sauce.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound / 450 g cod fillet, cut into small cubes
1 cup / 240 ml lime juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2-1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or 1 chili, de-seeded
1 onion, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, cut into strips
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro/coriander, finely chopped
1 sweetcorn cob per person
4 sweet potatoes
salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

1 Mix together the lime juice, garlic, pepper sauce and salt and pepper. Pour this over the fish and set aside to stand for 1 hour.
2 Now add the onion, red peppers, chopped celery and cilantro. Leave to stand for another hour.
3 When that is nearly ready, cook the corn and sweet potatoes and serve with the cebiche.


9. Venezuelan Arepas

MAKES 12   PREPARATION: 10 MINUTES   COOKING: 25 MINUTES

Arepas are served the moment they are ready. They can be filled with cheese, butter, meat, or scrambled eggs, for example. The areperos – sellers of the arepas – are in the city centers, where there are more people. Arepas are heavy on the stomach and too many people eat a lot of them at home at dinner time.

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The Venezuelan singer Gualberto Ibarreto says in a song: ‘My grandmother, not knowing geometry, cooked the arepas perfectly round’.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups / 300 g white maize/corn flour
360 ml water
1/2-1 tablespoon sugar
oil
salt

DIRECTIONS:

Heat oven to 350 o F/180 o C/Gas 4
1 Pour the water into a saucepan. As it heats up, add the salt, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the oil, and then gradually sift the flour in, trying to avoid making lumps.
2 Keep stirring and then kneading the mixture, adding more flour if necessary until you obtain a firm dough that does not stick to your fingers.
3 Make 5-cm balls and flatten them slightly at the top and bottom.
4 Heat a lightly oiled griddle. When it is hot, put the arepas on it and cook until they have a golden brown crust on both sides. Keep separating them from the griddle or they will stick.
5 Then transfer them to a baking sheet in the oven and let them cook for 20 minutes or so, turning them from time to time, until they are golden and they make a hollow sound when you tap them. Serve with butter and grated cheese.


10. Uruguayan Tortas Fritas

MAKES 12-16   PREPARATION: 30 MINUTES

The tortas fritas are another typical Uruguyan food; part of the culture. They can be eaten at any time in the year but they are more special in winter because if somebody gets a torta frita which was cooked a few minutes earlier, it is warm and a potion against the cold day. When there is a cold and rainy day Uruguayans will say, ‘What a wonderful day to eat tortas fritas’. However, they are also eaten at every other season, including summer, when you can see people selling them in stalls by the beaches. Like the garrapinadas, the tortas fritas are cooked and sold by vendors with their own gas stoves in little kiosks. The tortas are quite a heavy food. They are usually eaten hot, with mate tea, coffee with milk, tea or milk with chocolate. Some people put sugar over the torta frita to make it sweet.

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Happily, today tortas fritas are no longer sold as they once were. The kiosks had to be regulated because some were operating in unhygienic conditions. But now the street stalls are very clean.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups / 200 g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon margarine
1/2 cup / 120 ml water
1/2 cup / 120 ml milk
oil

DIRECTIONS:

1 Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Then put in the margarine and mix it with the flour, using a fork to combine the ingredients.
2 Now add the liquids gradually, and then, with the hands, mix and knead everything until you have a very smooth dough that is not too stiff. When that is ready, set aside for 5 minutes, covered with a damp cloth.
3 After this, take small pieces of the dough and roll out each one to 3 inches/7 cm diameter. Prick the tortas with a fork.
4 Heat the oil in a wok or pan and fry the tortas on both sides. When they are nicely golden, remove and drain on absorbent paper.

 

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