Region: 
Norte
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Flavours of the region: 

The gastronomy in the Northern Region

Dr. José Siaba Serrate

The North is the roots of Argentine gastronomy. Its food bears this stamp with elegance. From generation to generation, the native Argentine and Spanish cultures, what is genuinely American and what was brought in by the colony is consumed in its pots and fires. The mixing of these diverse cultures, the symbiosis of “criolla” that was born after stirring for so long and sharing the spoons can now be savored. As time went by, the migratory currents of Italians, Syrians, Lebaneses and other working people would bring their cultural heritage without breaking the harmony, but enriching this heritage subtlety.

This one-hundred year old Argentine tradition, luckily due to the   habit of its people, does not suffer from rigidity or anachronism. It is a full and living force, capable of absorbing new ideas as well as illuminating its influence. The traveler, who retraces his steps in search of food, will notice the presence of a simple and consistent noble matrix in the multiple variations which are the result of the passing time. Outside the region or the country, you will find its elements and recipes which are avidly incorporated as the foreign palate discovers them.

Northern gastronomy is imbued with the richness of its ingredients and the magnificent variety of its soils and climates. The meats (beef, lamb, kid, goat, pork, rabbit, and llama) are taken from the woods, valleys and the Puna. An amazing infinity of pulses, potatoes and corn, the quinua and kiwicha, a legion of fruits (that explode of tropical flavor), the sugar cane, where cheeses and sauces are prepared, the chichi  and  aloja, the aguardientes (clear brandy distilled from fermented fruit juice) and the wines. There is no better description of this wealth of flavors that could be more beneficial than a trip around its markets, even in modest and remote towns.

The richness of its ingredients, the breed of its food… It might be locro- the stew full of boiled corn, beans, vegetables and garbanzo, full of pieces of meat, bacon and sausage- or the lowly locro- the essence of its idea is the same, whether in the opulence or rigor of the simplicity. The tamales, humitas (flavored corn paste wrapped in corn leaves), the stews in mud pots, the pucheros (stew with meat and vegetables) and asados (slow grilling on wood charcoal), the spicy panza and chicken share the place of honor with the delicious meat empanadas; chicken, pork, llama, lamb, rabbit, mondongo (tripe), charqui (also of different kinds of meat), jam and cheese, humita, cheese and onion, ad infinitum.

The sweet desserts are a chapter that should not be missed. The cayote jam with nuts, cheese with cane honey (or with cuaresmillo), the gaznate (meringue filled cake), colaciones (cookies) ,  turrón de miel (type of candy made from honey), alfajores, chancaca, confetti nuts and nut bonbons begin to describe its abundance.

And the wines deserve to close this brief report. The ancient tradition of wine making and the impetus of innovation come together to provide overwhelming growth of its supply and terroirs.  It is a testimony that the gastronomy of the region is not a quiet river, but rather, its water turns progressively richer and deeper and when it does, the miracle is the whole is not modified, and its identity preserved. 

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Best time to travel: 
The Northern region features warm weather so it is better to visit during the winter (June to September). 

At this time of the year, temperatures are pleasant and the rains are lighter.

Average Temperatures:
Tucumán: 13°C/55°F (winter); 25°C/77°F (summer)
Santiago del Estero: 12°C/54°F (winter); 28°C/82°F (summer)
Salta: 10°C/50°F (winter); 24°C/75°F (summer)

How to get here: 
Buenos Aires is the departure point for flights to the main cities in the region (Catamarca, Tucumán, Santiago del Estero, Salta and Jujuy). 

The flights have a duration of between 1:40-2:15 hours. 

Also, there are some international flights to regional destinations that stop in Jujuy or Salta (mainly to Bolivia and Perú). 

From Córdoba, Iguazú and Mendoza it is possible to fly to the city of Salta in the North. 

To travel within the region, it is recommended to use a car or bus.

Regional dishes: 

Empanadas Salteñas (Salta Beef Turnovers)

Empanadas are made with fillings of various ingredients wrapped in a disc of dough. Not only it is common in many different regions of Argentina (each has its special mode of preparation), but it is also found in other Latin American countries.

Ingredients (4 servings):

For the dough:

750 gr. flour
200 gr. grease
Water where necessary
Salt to taste

For the filling:

500 gr. lean beef
500 gr. green onions
2 potatoes, boiled and peeled
3 hard boiled eggs
120 gr. raisins
4 olives
2 tbsp. paprika
150 gr. pella fat (refined fat)
1 tsp ground red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Clean and chop the meat into small cubes, preferably with a knife. In a pan, fry the onion with refined grease. Incorporate the meat and brown it. Season it with salt, pepper and ground red pepper. Remove from fire.

Cut the potatoes into small cubes and add them to the pan, the same with the boiled eggs, raisins, and chopped olives. Correct seasoning. Let cool and refrigerate.

Cut fat into small pieces and heat in a skillet with a cup of water. Once melted, place into flat container and let cool. Add a splash of milk, heat again and strain. 

Mix flour with fat, water and salt until obtaining a homogenous paste.  Let rest for 15 min. Make small balls of about 150 gr. each and stretch with a rolling pin, later placing a portion of filling in the center. Fold the disc in half and pass thumb, wettended with water, along the edges. Close the disc, folding the edges inward. This closure is called repulgue, and it is characteristic of empanadas. 

Fry empanadas in oil or bake in hot oven until golden brown.

Humita

Corn is one of the products most representative of America. In Argentina, it is consumed in different variants. The one provided here is a simple and traditional recipe.

Ingredients (4 servings):

12 ears of corn
2 ripe tomatoes
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 cup milk
2 tbsp. grease
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. paprika
Salt to taste

Preparation:

Peel and grate the corn. Set aside. Chop and peel the corn into brunoise (dice 1 mm.) and fry lightly in grease. Add peeled tomatoes without seeds, and cut into small cubes. Season them with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Add grated corn and milk to the mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly.

Once the mixture is creamy and tender, place into individual Clay pots, sprinkle with sugar, and cook in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.

Tamales 

This dish is a filling wrapped in corn husks; in Salta, it means the leaf that surrounds the corn cob.

Ingredients:

Dry corn husks
2 kg. corn flour
1,5 kg. pork or beef meat
500 gr. pella or refined fat
3 green onion seedling
4 eggs
½ cup beef broth
200 gr. raisins
¼ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. powdered chili pepper
½ tsp. paprika
Salt to taste

Preparation:

In a tall pot filled with water, simmer the piece of pork or beef meat for 1 hour. Once cooked, remove, cool and chop it fine. Set aside the cooking water. Soak the corn flour in the broth in which the meat was boiled. Place 250 gr. of melted fat with paprika, powdered chili pepper, cumin, and a pinch of salt in a sauce pan. Add corn flour and mix until it forms a consistent dough.

The filling will be made as follows. In a saucepan, place 250 gr. of fat. Cook over low heat until melted. Add finely-chopped onion, salt, cumin, chili pepper and broth. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool. Add chopped eggs and raisins.

Soak corn husks in boiling water. Take out one by one add a bit of pastry, and in the center, add the ground stuffing. Close by tying the husks with string like a package. Finally, boil the tamales in broth or salted water for about 30 minutes.