If you’re a meat lover, Buenos Aires will not disappoint. The traditional meal in Argentina is the asado, featuring various cuts of beef slow-cooked over an open-fire grill or parrilla(pronounced pah-ree-shah). The selection varies from chicken to ribs to filet to intestine and sweetbreads. Argentine beef is arguably the best in the world, and you’ll be pleased with any cut that you buy at the store. Because of the traditional slow-cooking process, butchers don’t trim their meat, and tend to leave a decent amount of fat on the cuts.
Grocery shopping in Buenos Aires is a familiar activity. There are the large all-inclusive stores (known as ‘hipermercados’) good for one-stop shopping. More localized are the ‘supermercados’, which have three or four aisles of basic products, a butcher at the back of the store, and usually a produce section in front. They are often convenient for last-minute purchases. Supermercados also called ‘chinos’ as most are run by Chinese immigrants. (The term ‘chino’ has no offensive connotation in Spanish.) Lastly, there are the specialized shops that sell meat, fish, poultry, produce, deli meats and cheeses, wines, bread, and super-sweet pastries.
Items like milk and eggs are frequently stored at room temperature in the stores, so when you purchase them make sure to take note of the expiration date and be sure to cook eggs all the way through if you’re unsure of their freshness. The same goes for the meat, especially the meat purchased in the smaller shops. Don’t be surprised if you’re sitting in a restaurant and you see a delivery man carrying a stack of uncovered ribs into the back kitchen, dripping blood along the way. It’s usually very fresh and in general very safe to eat.
In the meat shops, you will notice flat, breaded cutlets called milanesas, which are normally made with ground meat (or sometimes flattened chicken breast) breaded and shallow fried, usually with some onion or provencal herbs mixed in. Buying the pre-made, uncooked milanesa is a great shortcut as the process isn’t difficult but can be time-consuming to make your own. It’s a very popular dish, and almost every restaurant serves it.
When looking for any specialized items like soy products, rice noodles, peanut butter, or more international food, your best bet is to visit the Asian markets in the barrio chino(Chinatown) located in Belgrano. The prices for common groceries in other countries, like peanut butter, can be exorbitant, but at least you can find them in Chinatown. For the gourmet, you can also find things like bamboo steamers and woks in the Asian markets, as well as a plethora of herbs and spices.