1. Yerba mate in a bull’s testicle gourd
At this point, the famous Argentine drink yerba mate isn’t that unusual anymore. You can find it in any health or smoothie shop in the United States and Europe these days. What’s unusual (and actually pretty awesome) about mate in Argentina is the way it’s consumed. Unlike in the United States, mate is pretty much always served hot in Argentina, and is served loose-leaf in an actual gourd. You then fill the gourd with water, and a special straw with a filter at the tip is used to suck the water out. It’s kind of like drinking tea by sucking water straight through the tea bag: super strong, and pretty delicious.
Argentines also make drinking mate into a communal event: the single gourd is passed around, like a communal bong, from person to person. The weirdest it gets is when the outside of the gourd is covered in — I’m not kidding — the skin from a bull’s testicles. But if you can get past the initial “ick” of “I’m touching a bull’s testicles,” the ceremony is actually a really cool thing to be a part of.
2. Dulce de leche with mendicrim
Dulce de leche is basically pure heaven. It’s a popular dessert through a lot of Latin America, and while its name means “Sweet of milk,” it tastes more like a liquid caramel. It’s totally delicious on its own, which is why it’s inexplicable that Argentines often mix it with mendicrim (basically a type of sour cream).
It should be inexplicable, but it’s not. The mendicrim makes the dulce de leche creamy and even more delicious. The two also go together when you’re making a chocotorta, which literally translates to chocolate cake. And you just can’t mess that up.
3. Pretty much the entire cow
If you’re in Argentina and you’re not eating steak, you’re doing it wrong. Argentine beef is among the best in the world (and it goes so well with a good Mendoza malbec), but Argentines don’t stop with just your typical cuts of beef. They use all of the cow in their famous parrilladas, or barbecues.
The parrillada typically includes your normal cuts of delicious steak, but it also throws some weirder parts in there, like chinchulines (cow’s intestine) and, of course, the world-famous blood sausage. Various other organs are often used as well — at my first parrillada, I had a cow kidney as well as mollejas, or “sweetbread,” or a cow pancreas. While this might sound strange, it actually all combines extremely well, and makes for an unforgettable meal.
Outside of the parrillada, Argentines also eat dishes like lengua a la vinagreta, which is a cow tongue cured in vinegar and cooked in oil with spices.
Continuing in the “all-of-the-cow” tradition: Criadillas in the United States are known as “Rocky Mountain Oysters,” or, to be more straightforward, bull testicles. But don’t let that stop you — don’t knock bull testicles until you’ve tried bull testicles. They’re actually pretty delicious, as they are deep fried and are usually served with a testy (sorry, I meant tasty) salsa.
5. Rodent empanadas
It’s really hard to mess up empanadas. That extends to empanadas de carpincho. Carpincho is the Argentine word for the capybara, the world’s largest rodent. But meat is meat, and capybara meat is particularly good meat — so once you get over your queasiness regarding eating a rodent, you’ll come back for more.
6. Fernet and coke
Argentine mixology is a field that doesn’t need to exist — the country has so much delicious wine it’s a wonder that people ever drink anything else. But one of the country’s more popular cocktails is Fernet and Coke, which should, on its face, be disgusting, because it includes Fernet.
If you haven’t had it, Fernet is a 90-proof spirit that tastes, as SF Weekly put it, like “black licorice-flavored Listerine.” But Coca-Cola, the world’s greatest mixer, actually serves to complement the licorice flavor pretty well. So try Fernet and coke as your digestif after your meal of Bull testicles and rodent empanadas to really round out your delicious Argentine meal.