Argentine Asado 101
The Argentine Asado is a one-of-a-kind experience, and it's an honor to be invited to join one. However, for many foreigners, the different cuts and types of meat can be a little intimidating. It doesn't help that one of the favorite pastimes of Asadors is tricking their non-spanish speaking guests into eating sweetbreads or entrails. Knowing a thing or two about the asado and the terms associated with it helps a lot, especially for not-so-adventurous eaters. Consider this an intro to asado, and how to avoid unknowingly eating a full plate of brains!
First the Vocab:
- Parilla- Argentine BBQ. Everything goes on the grill.
- Leña- wood for the parilla.
- Asador- BBQ master
- Lomo- Filet; leanest cut
- Bife de Chorizo-NOT sausage, a slightly more fatty cut of beef, reddish in color, and very flavorful
- Chori- Sausage
- Chori-pan- A sausage sandwich
- Cerdo- Pork
- Cotilla- Beef ribs
- Vacillo- Beef; Similar to a Rump Roast
- Mollejas- Sweetbreads
- Chinchulin- Crispy intestines
- Sesos- Brains
- Lengua- tongue
In a nutshell, an asado is Argentina's version of BBQ. The Asador builds a wood fire along side the grill, then as the embers fall apart, he spreads them evenly underneath. Once the grill is hot, the Asador adds more fresh embers, throws the meat on and slow-roasts it from below.
Every Asador has their own technique, but from cerdo to lomo to sesos, most Argentines cook everything well-done. Having worked at a steakhouse in the US, we're accustomed to eating our meat pink or even red so it was definitely a change to eat world-class beef well-done. It was surprisingly tender and a testament to the quality of both the meat and the Asador.
Also, expect little to no vegetables; it is literally meat on top of meat. We love grilled veggies, so we offered to bring them to each asado we went to. Everyone appreciated our contribution and the greens were happily thrown on the grill, but most guests passed right over them for the meat.
While there is no shortage of food, and wine flows from the moment people arrive, there are not many snacks or munchies before the big dinner.
It takes on average about 3-4 hours from starting the fire to plating the meat, so we learned real fast to grab a small bite beforehand to tide us over and balance out the wine. Oh, and expect to eat very, very late. Most nighttime asados don't even start until 9 or 10 p.m., and at two of the three asados we attended dinner was served between 1-2 a.m.
For us, asados were our one of our favorite parts of Argentina: Long, lingering dinners of savory meat, rich Malbec, and lively Spanish conversation.