Why buy it?
Its title, Argentinian Street Food, is somewhat misleading; this book is dedicated almost entirely to just two street-eat items – empanadas and helado – and not the entire spectrum, as the name might have you believe. However, authors Enrique Zanoni and Gaston Stivelmaher, Argentinian natives now living in France, explain their thinking up-front: these simple dishes play an integral role in Argentine culture. They are a double-act of sweet and savoury, consumed across the country, every day. In Buenos Aires, the capital, casas de empanadas (empanada shops) and heladerias (ice-creameries) grace every corner. Any visitor to the country will attest: empanadas and ice-cream are an Argentine obsession and local producers have mastered the art.
Zanoni and Gaston are also the founders of Clasico Argentino, a popular three-restaurant and food truck chain established in 2011 in Paris, and its offering of premium empanadas and ice-cream is the inspiration behind this snappy, creatively designed book (its cover with spot-gloss type, cut-out empanada and eye-catching sky blue and yellow palette are indicative of the cool styling found throughout its 160 pages).
Unlike many restaurant-driven books, this one sticks to the food, not the glorification of the venue. It’s refreshing. Another boon? While its original audience (it was first printed by French publisher Hachette Livre) is obvious in the overarching comparisons between Argentine and French food cultures, the examples are equally relevant for Australians, most of whom are familiar with the French foods to which they refer. Add this to some light history and you have a great snapshot of what makes these street staples cherished Argentine dishes.
It’s easy to think there’s not much for you in this book if you’re not an empanada and ice-cream devotee, but the authors’ enthusiasm for the theme and tempting recipes hook you in. Ingredients and instructions are detailed but straightforward.
Empanada fillings, as you’ll quickly discover, range from savoury to sweet, with every possible peasant and restaurant-y filling in between. Many classic combinations can be identified by the pleated edge that surrounds the empanada (known as repulgue). Others can be spotted by their shape, including the must-eat, log-shaped choriempa, Argentina’s tempting equivalent of a sausage roll.
Most surprising dish
Burrata di bufala and grated tomatoes. Included in the book is also a concise selection of pica-pica (little dishes), dulce (sweets) and bebidas (drinks) from the restaurant. Their buffalo-milk burrata highlights the local Italian food influence.
Argentina is also famed for dulce de leche (its name features on the cover and almost half of the country’s ice-creams are centred on the sweet milk caramel, say the authors). Yes, you can buy it, but it’s incomparable to real dulce de leche, made by slow-cooking milk and sugar (versus boiling canned condensed milk). For top results, “place a few metal forks in the bottom of the saucepan to prevent the mixture burning or the sugar catching.” Brilliant.
Pastry lovers, ice-cream buffs, Argentinian food aficionados, design-book collectors.
Argentinian Street Food's recipes
Argentinian Street Food: Empanadas, Helados & Dulce De Leche by Enrique Zanoni and Gaston Stivelmaher (Murdoch Books, $29.99, hbk). Photography by Akiko Ida.