Latin American Street Food

Latin American Street Food Sandra Gutierrez

Latin American Street Food by Sandra A. Gutierrez, UNC Press 2013, hardback $35.00, 368 pages

Street food anywhere seems to catch the quick and vital flavors of a culture—their comforts and lodestones—fuul medammes in Egypt, noodle soups in Asia, and fried anything, anywhere.

Latin America has a long tradition of street and market food. In 1883, Ricardo Palma describes tamales at the Lima market, along with empanadas and turrone.

Gutierrez’s recipes are the latest in a long tradition. She gathers them up from across Latin America and what she finds makes American food truck look downright effete—white tablecloth by comparison. Bicycle-powered batido vendors ply milkshakes and kiosks called ranchos or casitas squeeze onto busy corners. Street food pops up where people are—at universities, offices, beaches, and festivals—and becomes a social event as diners chat and gossip.

The book’s fresh and intense flavors are also inexpensive meals. Hot dogs alone are a revelation. They achieve the same sweet-savory mix as ketchup and relish, but using avocado, pineapple jam, cheese, fried potato sticks, sweet rolls, or chimichurri. And as Gutierrez points out, this food may be served up fast, but the most popular stands take care with their recipes—adding personal twists and prepping simmered stews and meats in advance. The dishes are further varied by the slaws and salsas that diners use to customize their arepas, empanadas, or tacos.

Some recipes are as simple as those in the Raw Bar chapter—a toss that makes a salad or ceviche. Others, like Pork Carnitas Tacos require a long-simmer, in this case in milk with oranges, onion, garlic, and bay leaves. My house was fragrant and the tender meat, rolled into corn tacos with radish slaw, corn and avocado salsa, and a drizzle of crema, are as authentic as you can get at home.

And there is an undeniable element of fun that Gutierrez captures in chapters with recipes for Food on a Stick, Tamale Train, and Fried & True. Each country has his specialty—arepas in Venezuela and alfajores in Argentina—and each country has absorbed the flavors and techniques of its immigrants. In Peru there are Japanese-inspired Nikkei-style ceviches, in Mexico you’ll find tacos arabes, and in Brazil there are meat and bulgur fritters called quibe. It makes for bold and flexible flavors.

Authentic, yet approachable, these recipes will spark your kitchen and your table.

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About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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