If you’re planning a trip to Latin America, chances are you won’t be leaving without running your mouth into any number of traditional soups and stews. These dishes lay at the heart of any Latin American culture, and are sure to warm the soul, tickle the tastebuds, and probably have you begging the camarero for pitchers upon pitchers of water to cool the inferno blazing away in your stomach.
Not all traditional Latin American stews are created equal. In fact, each country prides themselves on the stews they’ve established over years and years of perfecting their recipes.
We’ve chosen 5 of our favorite stews, and are eager to see if our readers can guess which Latin American country they traditionally come from. Let your knowledge of local ingredients culinary history guide you to the answers at the end of each segment. And if you know nothing about Latin American stews and are just here to make your mouth water, we’re on board with that, too.
Let’s get started.
1 | Ají de Gallina | Guatemala or Perú?
This hearty stew plants its roots way back in time during the social upheaval of the French Revolution in 1789. French aristocrats fled their struggling country and made way for the new world, settling in this colony and bringing their knowledge of food along for the ride. Ají de Gallina traditionally features shredded chicken stewed in garlic, nuts, and local peppers. It is often served over rice, or, as pictured, with a hard or soft boiled egg.
2 | Carbonada | Mexico or Argentine?
This tasty beef stew hails from a Latin American country where an abundance of cattle graze in the high planes at the base of a famous mountain range. The stew is made sweet by slow cooking the beef with dried fruits such as apricots or raisins, along with root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. It might sound like an unusual preparation, but this sweet and savory dish is sure to warm you up in a cold winter night at the peak of a towering mountain.
3 | Feijoada | Brazil or Venezuela?
Feijoada is considered to be the national dish in this country. It is deeply engrained into its culture, and is prepared in a number of different ways depending on which city you order it in. The name comes from the Portuguese word for “beans,” and is most traditionally made by slow cooking pork with black or pinto beans. The stew is prepared in a large clay pot, and cooks down for hours to allow flavors to melt together in a dish that defines comfort food for this coastal nation.
4 | Seco de Chivo | Honduras or Ecuador?
This goat stew (yes, goat) comes from a place where one can take a boat to the famous Galapagos Islands. Seco de Chivo is a traditional stew from this country and is made by braising lamb shoulder over many hours, shredding it, and serving it with yellow rice, avocado, and other local vegetables. It is often prepared with an Andean fermented corn drink called ‘chicha,’ but more commonly with beer as chicha can be hard to come by these days.
5| Ropa Vieja | Cuba or Colombia?
This traditional island stew is prepared by slow-cooking flank steak in a tomato base, then pairing with beans, rice, and fried yucca. It is perhaps the most basic dish coming out of this country, and one enjoyed by all economic and social classes. It originated all the way back in the Middle Ages in the Sephardic culture – a Jewish sect who made their way to Latin America via Spanish colonization in the 16th century.