The Food of Uruguay
As the exclusive U.S. importer of Polanco Caviar, we were so thrilled when this exquisite product of Uruguay was featured in USA Today’s 10 Best list at the end of last year. The news giant included this caviar as part of a survey of the remarkable food scene in Uruguay. We couldn’t agree more – the food of Uruguay is indeed remarkable. It may be the smallest country in South America, but that doesn’t stop it from packing a big punch in the food world. So for this blog, we thought we’d cover a few other amazing foods you can discover in Uruguay, which help make it a culinary tour de force.
The first must-try on our list (besides Polanco Caviar of course!) is the Chivito Sandwich. Although “chivito” translates as “little goat,” this is not a goat-meat sandwich. It’s a steak sandwich, on steroids! We are talking layers of flavor. You start with your bun (a hoagie type bun) and add thin slices of grilled steak (churrasco) and then add cheese, tomatoes, ham, lettuce, mayonnaise, black or green olives, bacon, and an egg on top. You can add more toppings, but with these main ingredients, you’ll be transported to another dimension of sandwich. It’s no surprise this sandwich is the national dish of Uruguay. Even celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain called it his favorite sandwich.
Uruguay values its meat as much as its neighbor, Argentina, but it seems as though the larger country gets all the press. If you go to Uruguay, you’re going to get some serious grilled protein. Parrilla literally means “grill,” so make room in your stomach for some smoky, juicy edibles, hot off the parrilla. The end result might be a food coma, but it’s worth it. You’ll want to try every kind of meat from the grill, including chicken, sausage, steak (of course), pork, and even some vegetables. The meal itself is an event, called an “asado,” and the grill is a sight to behold. Fire it up!
Dulce de Leche
American homes have fallen in love with this sweet caramel spread and with good reason. In Uruguay, this love goes back many decades and persists. Everywhere you look, you’ll find dulce de leche in many forms and on many food items. You can stuff a churro with it, try it on ice cream, spread it on toast, make a flavored flan, or just eat it with a spoon right out of the jar. It is THE sweet item on every street, in every restaurant, and on every Uruguayan grocery list. You can’t really go wrong with it, and if you mix it with chocolate, it’s a taste combination that will live on in your dreams.
Another sweet favorite in Uruguay is pasta frola. This tart is filled with another common national flavor, quince jam, called dulce de membrillo. Quince is a fruit that looks like a pear and tastes kind of like one too, but with a sour almost apple-like flavor mixed in. Quince is used often in jams because of its tartness, and it serves as the perfect filling for this bakery staple. It's the perfect complement to the standard shortcrust pastry crust, and in Uruguay, it is considered the perfect snack to beat the afternoon blues. Between 4-6 p.m., don’t be surprised to see many Uruguayans enjoying a slice of pasta frola with a beverage a few hours before dinner.
There are many other wonderful dishes to be found in Uruguay, including an abundance of fresh seafood, and of course, Polanco Caviar. It would take a book to do them all justice. But hopefully the above choices give you an idea of just how wonderful eating in Uruguay can be, and inspire you to indulge in a new world of flavors.