Help. I think I’m turning into a giant ravioli or sorrentino, filled with jamón y queso or verduras.
Both Argentinians and Uruguayans are meat eaters. A popular style of restaurant is the parilla where chunks of meat (steak, sausages, etc.) are cooked on the grill, and served with a side (usually mashed potatoes or French fries). Typical dishes in restaurants include milanesa (breaded meat, usually chicken) or some kind of sandwich with cold cuts. Even when I ordered salads in Argentina (I’m sometimes desperate for veggies), they came topped with a mountain of ham (hence why Mark developed a fondness for ham, I always give him half of my plate).
The national dish in Uruguay is the chivito, a sandwich with churrasco beef, mozzarella, tomatoes, mayonnaise, olives, bacon, fried eggs and ham. It is served in a bun, often with a side of French fries, or al plato (without the bun).
Even though meat is cheap by international standards, parillas are a more upscale food choice and I’m not a “meat at every meal” person. More casual restaurants, where we go, feature pizza and pasta, minutas (quick eats like milanesas) and sandwiches.
In both countries, pizza is a serious affair. The crust isn’t that thick (i.e. not like New York-style pizzas) but pizzas come topped with a mountain of cheese and a few veggies. Savoury pies, like pascualinas (puff pastry crust, spinach, boiled egg and ricotta filling) or ham and cheese quiche, as well as empanadas (savoury turn-overs, fried or baked, filled with ham and cheese, chicken or cheese and onions), are often available.
I tend to opt for pasta, usually ravioles, sorrentinos (round pasta with a filling, like ravioli but bigger) or gnocchi (traditionally served on the 29th of the month in Uruguay). The sauces are very good and typically include… yes, more meat. Ham, chicken (for Caruso or parisiene sauces) or beef (for Bolognese). Sometime, I ask for just a simple tomato sauce sin carne and waiters look at me weirdly. As a French I appreciate “real” cheese, i.e. not the processed crap we get in North America.
Typical sandwiches include sandwiches de miga, single or double-layered sandwiches made from a thin white bread without crust and typically filled with ham, cheese or whatever combination with ham. Burgers and hot dogs are also very popular.
Uruguay, like Argentina, has good bakeries with facturas and huge creamy cakes. Small pastries are sold by weight and prices are reasonable. I stay away from actual cakes because for these, portions are huge and I don’t crave brownies or sticky pies when it’s 40°C!
As for drinks, in both countries, you can see people sipping mate de coca everywhere—this is an herbal tea made using the raw leaves of the coca plant. We usually stick to water, Coke Zero or juice.
Food in Uruguay is surprisingly expensive compared to Argentina. There is also less variety and portions are smaller (and there are fewer “extras”, for instance, if you want bread you have to order it whereas it was always free in Argentina).