The 15 dishes worth travelling to South America for


There are people who would travel to France just to eat. Same as they'd travel to Italy purely for the local cuisine, or Japan, or Thailand, or even Vietnam. But go to a country in South America for the food? Unlikely.

South America has a reputation as being as amazing adventure travel destination, but it's not known for its cuisine. However, it should be. This is one of the best culinary destinations on the planet, a series of countries with deeply ingrained food cultures that utilise influences from across the globe to make the best of unique local ingredients.

If you love food, then you should be heading to South America. And you should be making it your goal to try all of these dishes.

Arroz con pato, Peru

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Drawing influences from China, Spain and France, this is northern Peru's answer to paella: a dish of rice cooked in stock with local vegetables and plenty of minced coriander, served with a confit or roasted duck leg. It's a specialty in the city of Chiclayo, and it's absolutely delicious.

Asado, Argentina

The asado, or barbecue, is as important to Argentinians as football and fashion combined. Every household has a parrilla - the traditional grill - in the backyard, and an asador - the person in charge of cooking. Don't mess with the asador. An Argentinian asado is a day-long meat-feast extravaganza that has to be experienced to be believed.

Churrasco, Brazil

As the asado is to Argentina, so is the churrasco to Brazilians. This is the wood-fired festival of meat that Brazilians love, but it's also something you're as likely to find in a restaurant as a backyard. Diners sit at tables while a huge selection of meats is brought past and offered, but don't fill up too soon: each is tastier than the last.

Saltenas, Bolivia

These are actually named after the northern Argentinian city of Salta, as the inventor of these Bolivian treats is thought to have come there. Regardless of their origin, these empanada-style pastries, filled with a soupy gravy that's almost guaranteed to end up on your shoes, are now typically Bolivian fare.

Chicharrones, Peru

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Chicharrones can take many forms - in some places they're pork rinds cooked in pork fat, but in others they're crumbed and fried bits of fish, fried squid, or even pork sandwiches in certain parts of Peru. Regardless, you've heard the main attraction: deep-fried meat. Get into it.

Arepas, Colombia

Ground maize is mashed into dough, flattened into pancakes, fried and then filled with all sorts of tasty goodness in Colombia. Arepas are a national staple, sometimes served with egg, or cheese, or sweet corn, or spicy mince, or a combination thereof.

Causa, Peru

There's a lot of Peruvian food mentioned in this list, simply because Peruvian cuisine is so amazingly good. Case in point: causa, a dish of cold mashed potatoes usually served with seafood, carefully layered and beautifully presented. This is a subtly complex dish that makes use of two of Peru's key ingredients.

Acaraje, Brazil

You'll probably only find this spicy street food dish in the northern state of Bahia, where they're handed over piping hot from vendors and shop windows at a rapid rate. Acaraje (a-cara-zhay) is a deep-fried cake of mashed black-eyed peas filled with a spicy paste of school prawns and ground cashews. Not exactly healthy, but delicious.

Aji de gallina, Peru

This is an easily approachable dish for those just getting to know Peruvian cuisine, a stew of shredded chicken cooked with yellow potatoes and "aji amarillo", a yellow Peruvian chilli, and other spices, served with rice.

Ceviche, Peru

<i>Peruvian trout ceviche</i>

Peruvian trout ceviche Photo: Alamy

The classic Peruvian dish. A good ceviche - essentially just raw seafood that is cured in citrus juice - will incorporate the freshness of the best seafood, plus the crunch of fried corn, and the depth of flavour provided by a little aji amarillo. Look out for this in any coastal area in Peru.

Empanadas, Argentina

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Australia has pies, and Argentina has empanadas, the meat-filled pastry that's loved by the nation as snack and meal. A typical Argentinian empanada will be a crumbling pastry filled with beef mince, spices, hard-boiled eggs and olives. Empanadas are usually quite small, which means you'll want to eat about 20 of them in each sitting.

Lechona, Colombia

Here's the deal: you take an entire pig, stuff it with rice, peas, onions and other vegetables, then slow-roast it in a brick oven for about 10 hours. The result is lechona, a Colombian obsession that you'll find sold in any shop with a telltale pig's head - or entire lechona - in the window.

Nikkei, Peru

This isn't so much a single dish as a style of food, a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine that has been championed by the famed Spanish chef Ferran Adria, and perfected by Mitsuharu Tusmura, the Lima-born chef behind the world No.8 restaurant Maido. Good luck getting a booking???

Patagonian lamb, Argentina

This might just be the ultimate lamb dish: an entire beast that is stretched out on a wooden cross and positioned far enough away from a roaring fire that it's cooked gently and slowly, bringing the whole thing to tender perfection over the course of an afternoon. You can while away that time with a glass of wine or two.

Alfajores, Argentina

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Just the one South American sweet makes the cut, and this is a good one: a dollop of caramel-style dulce de leche is smooshed between two biscuits and rolled in shredded coconut. That's it. Alfajores work as coffee snacks, as desserts, or as the breakfast of champions.

What's your favourite South American food? Do you think the continent should be known as a destination for foodies?