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Latin American cuisine refers to typical foods, beverages, and cooking styles common to many of the countries and cultures in Latin America. Latin America is a highly diverse area of land that holds various cuisines that vary from nation to nation. Some items typical of Latin American cuisine include maize-based dishes (tortillas, tamales, tacos, pupusas, arepas) and various salsas and other condiments (guacamole, pico de gallo, mole, chimichurri, chili, aji, pebre). These spices are generally what give the Latin American cuisines a distinct flavor; yet, each country of Latin America tends to use a different spice and those that share spices tend to use them at different quantities. Thus, this leads for a variety across the land. Sofrito, a culinary term that originally referred to a specific combination of sauteed or braised aromatics, exists in Latin American cuisine. It refers to a sauce of tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, garlic, onions and herbs.
Latin American beverages are just as distinct as their foods. Some of the beverages can even date back to the times of the Native Americans. Some popular beverages include mate, hibiscus tea, horchata, chicha, atole, cacao and aguas frescas.
Information about Native American cuisine comes from a great variety of sources. Modern day Native peoples retain a rich body of traditional foods, some of which have become iconic of present-day Native American social gatherings (for example, frybread). Foods like cornbread are known to have been adopted into the cuisine of the United States from Native American groups. In other cases, documents from the early periods of contact with European, African, and Asian peoples allow the recovery of food practices which passed out of popularity in the historic period (for example, black drink). Archaeological techniques, particularly in the subdisciplines of zooarchaeology and paleoethnobotany, have allowed for the understanding of other culinary practices or preferred foods which did not survive into the written historic record. The main crops Native Americans used in Mexico & Central America were corn and beans such as Pupusas, Tamales, Pozole, Chuchitos, Corn tortilla, Tacos etc. The main Native American crops used by Native Americans in South America were potatoes, corn and chuño used mainly in modern day Colombian, Ecuadorian, Peruvian, Bolivian and Paraguayan dishes such as Arepas, Papa a la Huancaína, Humitas, Chipa Guasu, Locro and many more.
Africans brought and preserved many of their traditions and cooking techniques. They were often given less desired cuts of meat, including shoulder and intestines. Menudo, for example, was derived from the habit of the Spaniards of giving the slaves cow's intestines. Slaves developed a way to clean the offal and season it to taste. Slaves in the southern United States also did the same thing to the pig's intestines given to them. In South America, the scraps of food the landlords did not eat, and by mixing what they got they usually ended coming up with new plates that nowadays have been adopted into the cuisine of their respective nation (such being the case with the Peruvian tacu-tacu).
Europeans brought their culinary traditions, but quickly adapted several of the fruits and vegetables native to the Americas into their own cuisines. Europe itself has been influenced by other cultures, such as with the Moors in Spain, and thus their food was already a mix of their world. The European influence for Latin American cuisine mainly comes from Spain, Portugal, Italy, and to a lesser extent France, although some influences from cuisines as diverse as British, German and Eastern European are also evident in some countries' cuisines.
A wave of immigrants from Asia, such as China and Japan, also influenced the cuisine of Latin America. The Chinese brought with them their own spices and food-styles, something that the people of Latin America accepted into their tables. Not only that, but several Asian restaurants also adapted a whole lot of Latin American food-styles into their own. This case can clearly be seen in the Peruvian chifa.
Caribbean cuisine is a fusion of African, European, Amerindian, Asian, and Arab cuisine. These traditions were brought from the many homelands of this region's population. In addition, the population has created from this vast wealth of tradition many styles that are unique to the region.
Seafood is one of the most common cuisine types in the islands, though this is certainly due in part to their location. Each island will likely have its own specialty. Some prepare lobster, while others prefer certain types of fish. For example, the island of Barbados is known for its "flying fish."
Another Caribbean mainstay is rice, but you'll find the rice on each island may be a little different. Some season their rice, or add peas and other touches - like coconut. Sometimes the rice is yellow, but other times it is part of a dish. Though it comes in many forms, it is a common side dish throughout the region.
Cuban cuisine is a distinctive fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share their basic spice palette (cumin, oregano, and bay leaves) and preparation techniques with Spanish and African cooking.the black Caribbean rice influence is in the use of local foods such as tropical fruits, root vegetables, fish, etc. A small but noteworthy Chinese influence is the daily use of steamed white rice as the main carbohydrate in a traditional Cuban meal.
Unlike nearby Mexico and Central America which have tortillas in their cuisines, the only resemblance to the use of tortillas is an item left from pre-Columbian indigenous times which is called Casave. This flat bread is produced by grinding the yuca (cassava) root to form a paste which, when mixed with water, becomes a dough. This is lightly cooked as a flat circular disk and air dried to preserve its consumption for a later time. It is traditionally reconstituted in salted water and eaten with roasted pork. The other culinary curiosity is a regional dish made up of a roasted rodent uniquely found in Cuba and called Jutia (desmarest's hutia).
Haitian cuisine is a mixture of various cuisines, predominately of a similar nature with fellow Latin American countries. It employs similar techniques with the rest of the Caribbean with influences from French, Spanish, and African cuisines, and a few derivatives from native Taino cooking. Though similar to other cuisine in the region, it carries a uniqueness native only to the country and an appeal to many visitors in the island. Haitian cuisine uses vegetables and meats extensively and peppers and similar herbs are often used for strengthening flavor.
Puerto Rican cuisine has its roots in the cooking traditions and practices of Europe (Spain), Africa, and the Amerindian Taínos. In the latter part of the 19th century the cuisine of Puerto Rico was greatly influenced by the United States in the ingredients used in its preparation. Puerto Rican cuisine has transcended the boundaries of the island and can be found in several countries outside the archipelago.
North American cuisine is a term used for foods native to or popular in countries of North America, as with Canadian cuisine, Cuisine of the United States, and Cuisine of Mexico. It has influences from many international cuisines, including Native American cuisine and European cuisine.
The cuisines of nearby Central America and the Caribbean region — sometimes grouped with the North American continent — may be considered part of North American cuisine in the technical sense that they are not assigned to their own continents.
Belizeans of all ethnicities eat a wide variety of foods. Breakfast consists of bread, flour tortillas, or fry jacks that are often homemade. They are eaten with various cheeses, refried beans, various forms of eggs or cereal, topped off by milk for younger ones and coffee or tea for adults. Eating breakfast is called "drinking tea". Midday meals vary, from lighter foods such as rice and beans with or without coconut milk, tamales, panades, (fried maize shells with beans or fish) and meat pies, escabeche (onion soup), chirmole (soup), stew chicken and garnaches (fried tortillas with beans, cheese, and sauce) to various constituted dinners featuring some type of rice and beans, meat and salad or coleslaw. In the rural areas meals may be more simplified than in the cities; the Maya use recaudo, corn or maize for most of their meals, and the Garifuna are fond of seafood, cassava (particularly made into hudut) and vegetables. The nation abounds with restaurants and fast food establishments selling food fairly cheaply. Local fruits are quite common, but raw vegetables from the markets less so. Mealtime is a communion for families and schools and some businesses close at midday for lunch, reopening later in the afternoon. Conversation during meals, unless the topic is important, is considered impolite.
The main staple, known as Gallo Pinto (or simply "Pinto"), consists of rice and black beans, which in many households is eaten at all three meals during the day.
Other Costa Rican food staples include corn tortillas, white cheese and picadillos. Tortillas are used to accompany most meals. Costa Ricans will often fill their tortillas with whatever they are eating and eat it in the form of a gallo (direct translation: rooster, however, it resembles a soft Mexican taco). White cheese is non-processed cheese that is made by adding salt to milk in production. Picadillos are meat and vegetable combinations where one or more vegetables are diced, mixed with beef and garnished with spices. Common vegetables used in picadillos are potatoes, green beans, squash, ayote, chayote and arracache. Often, picadillos are eaten in the form of gallos.
Salvadorian cuisine is a style of cooking derived from the nation of El Salvador. The traditional cuisine consists of food from the Pipil people, with a European twist in most modern dishes. Many of the dishes are made with maize (corn).
El Salvador's most notable dish is the pupusa, a thick hand-made corn flour or rice flour tortilla stuffed with cheese, chicharrón (fried pork rinds), refried beans, and/or loroco (a vine flower bud native to Central America). There are also vegetarian options, often with ayote (a type of squash), or garlic. Some adventurous restaurants even offer pupusas stuffed with shrimp or spinach.
Two other typical Salvadoran dishes are yuca frita and panes rellenos. Yuca frita, which is deep fried cassava root served with curtido (a pickled cabbage, onion and carrot topping) and pork rinds with pescaditas (fried baby sardines). The yuca is sometimes served boiled instead of fried. Panes con Pavo (turkey sandwiches) are warm turkey submarines. The turkey is marinated and then roasted with Pipil spices and handpulled. This sandwich is traditionally served with turkey, tomato, and watercress along with cucumber, onion, lettuce, mayonnaise, and mustard. A lot of Salvadoran food is served with French bread, or pan frances in Spanish.
The cuisine of Guatemala reflects the multicultural nature of Guatemala, in that it involves food that differs in taste depending on the region. Guatemala has 22 departments (or divisions), each of which has very different typical foodstuffs. Guatemalan cuisine is widely known for its candy originating from Antigua Guatemala.
There are also foods that it is traditional to eat on certain days of the week - for example, by tradition it is known that on Thursday, the typical food is "paches" which is like a tamale made with a base of potato, and on Saturday it is traditional to eat tamales.
Spanish, Caribbean and pre-Columbian dishes
Honduran Cuisine combines Spanish, Caribbean and pre-Columbian influences of the indigenous Maya-Lenca population. Its most notable feature is that it uses more coconut than any other Central American cuisine in both sweet and savory dishes. Regional specialties include pollo con tajadas (fried fish with fried green banana chips) fried fish, carne asada, and baleadas. Platano maduro fritos with sour creme are also a common dish.
In addition to the baleadas, the following are also popular: meat roasted with chismol carne asada, chicken with rice and corn, fried fish (Yojoa style) with encurtido (pickled onions and jalapeños). In the coastal areas and in the Bay Islands, seafood and some meats are prepared in many ways, some of which include coconut milk.
Among the soups the Hondurans enjoy are: conch soup, bean soup, Mondongo Soup, or soup of intestine, seafood soups, beef soups, all of which are mixed with plaintains, yuca, cabbage among other things, and complemented with corn tortillas.
Other typical dishes are the montucas or corn tamale, stuffed tortillas, tamales wrapped up with banana leaves, among other types of food. Also part of the Honduran typical dishes are abundant selection of tropical fruits such as: papaya, pineapple, plums, epazotes, passionfruits, and a wide variety of bananas and platains which are prepared in many ways.
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Mexican cuisine is a style of food which is primarily a fusion of indigenous Mesoamerican cooking with European (especially Spanish) cooking developed after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. The basic staples remain the native corn, beans and chili peppers but the Europeans introduced a large number of other foods, the most important of which were meat from domesticated animals (beef, pork, chicken, goat and sheep), dairy products (especially cheese) and various herbs and spices. While the Spanish initially tried to superimpose their diet on the country, this was not possible thanks largely to Mexico's highly developed indigenous cuisines. Instead, the foods and cooking techniques of both the indigenous Mexicans and the Spanish began to be mixed contributing to the development of an even more varied and rich cuisine. Over the centuries, this resulted in various regional cuisines, based on local conditions such as those in the north, Oaxaca, Veracruz and the Yucatán Peninsula. Mexican cuisine is highly tied to the culture, social structure and its popular traditions, the most important example of which is the use of mole for special occasions and holidays, particularly in the South region of the country. For this reason and others, Mexican cuisine was added by UNESCO to its list of the world’s "intangible cultural heritage".
Mexican cuisine is known for its intense and varied flavors, colorful decoration, and enormous variety of spices. Mexican culture and food is one of the richest in the world, both with respect to diverse and appealing tastes and textures; and in terms of proteins, vitamins, and minerals.
Mexican-Americans in the United States have developed regional cuisines largely incorporating the ingredients and cooking styles of authentic Mexican cuisines. Tex-Mex is a term describing a regional American cuisine that blends food products available in the United States and the culinary creations of Mexican-Americans influenced by Mexican cuisine. The cuisine has spread from border states such as Texas and those in the Southwestern United States to the rest of the country. Tex-Mex is very different from the Southwest cuisine found in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. In these areas, the preferred southwest cuisine is New Mexican cuisine, also heavily influenced by authentic Mexican cuisine. The southwestern state of Nevada and West Coast state of California (which is home to Cal-Mex cuisine) tend to lie in the middle as far the preferred style of Mexican-American food. In some places, particularly outside of Texas, "Tex-Mex" is used to describe a localized version of Mexican cuisine. It is common for all of these foods to be referred to as "Mexican food" in Texas, other parts of the United States, and some other countries. In other ways, it is Southern cooking using the commodities from Mexican culture. In many parts of the U.S. outside of Texas the term is synonymous with Southwestern cuisine.
Mexican cuisine is very well known outside of Mexico and features prominently in Latin America as a source of influence to many Latin American cuisines thanks enormously to the spread of crops originally from Mexico to other Latin American countries. Maize or corn, which originated in the highlands of the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Jalisco, is a staple in most Latin American cuisines today. The tomato, another crop with origins in Mexico is also widely consumed and incorporated in the cuisines of most Latin American countries. The Spanish are largely responsible for introducing indigenous Mexican crops to other regions worldwide.
Mexican cuisine varies by region, because of local climate and geography and ethnic differences among the indigenous inhabitants and because these different populations were influenced by the Spaniards in varying degrees.
Central Mexico's cuisine is largely made up of influences from the rest of the country, but also has its authentics, such as barbacoa, pozole, menudo, tamales, and carnitas. Southeastern Mexico, on the other hand, is known for its spicy vegetable and chicken-based dishes. The cuisine of Southeastern Mexico also has quite a bit of Caribbean influence, given its geographical location. Veal is common in the Yucatán. Seafood is commonly prepared in the states that border the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, the latter having a famous reputation for its fish dishes, in particular à la veracruzana. In modern times, other cuisines of the world have become very popular in Mexico, thus adopting a Mexican fusion. For example, sushi in Mexico is often made with a variety of sauces based on mango or tamarind, and very often served with serrano-chili-blended soy sauce, or complemented with vinegar, habanero and chipotle peppers. The most internationally recognized dishes include chocolate, tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, tamales and mole among several others. Regional dishes include mole poblano, chiles en nogada and chalupas from Puebla, cabrito and machaca from Monterrey, cochinita pibil from Yucatán, Tlayudas from Oaxaca, as well as barbacoa, chilaquiles, milanesas, and many others.
The Cuisine of Nicaragua is a fusion of Spanish, Caribbean and pre-Columbian dishes of the indigenous peoples. When the Spaniards first arrived in Nicaragua they found that the indigenous peoples had incorporated foods available in the area into their cuisine. Despite the blending and incorporation of pre-Columbian and Spanish influenced cuisine, traditional cuisine changes from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast. While the Pacific coast's main staple revolves around fruits and corn, the Caribbean coast makes use of seafood and the coconut.
As in many other Latin American countries, corn is a main staple. Corn is used in many of the widely consumed dishes, such as nacatamal, and indio viejo. Corn is also an ingredient for drinks such as pinolillo and chicha as well as in sweets and desserts. Nicaraguans do not limit their cuisine to corn, locally grown vegetables and fruits have been in use since before the arrival of the Spaniards and their influence on Nicaraguan cuisine. Many of Nicaragua's dishes include fruits and vegetables such as jocote, grosella, mimbro, mango, papaya, tamarind, pipián, banana, avocado, yuca, and herbs such as cilantro, oregano and achiote.
Gallo pinto is Nicaragua's national dish, consisting of red beans and rice. The dish has several variations including the addition of coconut oil and/or grated coconut which is primarily prepared on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast. It is thought to have originated in Nicaragua, however, there is some controversy about the origins of this dish.
Panamanian cuisine has its own unique and rich cuisine. As a land bridge between two continents, Panama is blessed by nature with an unusual variety of tropical fruits, vegetables and herbs that are used in native cooking. Also, as a crossroads of the world, Panamanian cuisine is influenced by its diverse population of Hispanic, native Indian, European, African, Colombian, Jamaican, and Chinese migration. They also drink chicha, a very common drink found in Panama.
The richest products of South America come from the middle of the continent, the AmazoniaPotatoes are frequently grown as a result of this, and also plants such as quinoa. Lima itself was declared the "Gastronomic Capital of the Americas" in 2006. Costa Rica lies on the Pacific Ocean, which provides a large array of seafood. Many plains are also on this continent, which are rich for growing food in abundance. In the Patagonia south of Chile and Argentina, many people produce lamb and venison. King crab is typically caught at the southern end of the continent. Antarctic krill has been recently discovered and is now considered a fine dish. Tuna and tropical fish are caught all around the continent, but Easter Island is where they are found in abundance. Lobster is also caught in great quantities from the Juan Fernández Islands.
The cuisine of Argentina is strongly influenced by Italian and Spanish cuisines and cooking techniques. Indigenous gastronomies derived from groups such as the Quechua, Mapuche, and Guarani have also played a role.
Another determining factor in Argentine cuisine is that Argentina is one of the world's major food producers. It is a major producer of meat (especially beef), wheat, corn, milk, beans, and since the 1970s, soybeans. Given the country's vast production of beef, red meat is an especially common part of the Argentine diet. Due to the very large number of Argentines of Italian ancestry, pizza and especially pasta are also very popular, but there are food traditions from other European nations as well, including the English afternoon tea.
The cuisine of Brazil, like Brazil itself, varies greatly by region. Brazilian cuisine can be divided into several distinct locations. From the north of Brazil through the Amazonian jungle, and directly down the Brazilian coastline.
This diversity reflects the country's mix of native Amerindians, Portuguese, Africans, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Syrians, Lebanese and Japanese among others. This has created a national cooking style marked by the preservation of regional differences.
Chilean cuisine stems from the combination of traditional Spanish cuisine with indigenous ingredients.
European immigrants also brought with them various styles and traditions in cooking, heavily influencing the cuisine of Chile, including Italian, German, and French influences as well as the English afternoon tea. These mixtures have created a unique fusion. Seafood is widely used and an array of produce which historically has grown throughout the region have been implemented into Chilean gastronomy. Many recipes are accompanied and enhanced by Chilean wine such as Curanto.
The cuisine of Colombia consists of a large variety of dishes that take into account the difference in regional climates. For example, in the city of Medellín the typical dish is the bandeja paisa. It includes beans, rice, ground meat or carne asada, chorizo, fried egg, arepa and chicharrón. It is usually accompanied by avocado, tomato and sauces.
Inland, the plates resemble the mix of cultures, inherited mainly from Amerindian and European cuisine, and the produce of the land mainly agriculture, cattle, river fishing and other animals' raising. Such is the case of the sancocho soup in Valledupar, the arepas (a corn based bread like patty). Local species of animals like the guaratinaja, part of the wayuu Amerindian culture.
The food in Ecuador is diverse, varying with altitude and associated agricultural conditions. Pork, chicken, beef, and cuy (guinea pig) are popular in the mountain regions and are served with a variety of grains (especially rice and corn or potatoes). A popular street food in mountain regions is hornado, consisting of potatoes served with roasted pig. Fanesca, a fish soup including several types of bean, is often eaten during Lent and Easter. During the week before the commemoration of the deceased or All Souls' Day, the fruit beverage colada morada is typical, accompanied by t'anta wawa which is stuffed bread shaped like children.
Most regions in Ecuador follow the traditional 3 course meal of sopa/soup and segundo/second dish which includes rice and a protein such as meat, poultry, pig or fish. Then desert and a coffee are customary. Dinner is usually lighter and sometimes just coffee or agua de remedio/herbal tea with bread.
Some of the typical dishes in the coastal region are: a variety of ceviches, pan de yuca, corviche, guatita, papas con queso, encebollado, empanada de viento (deep fried flour cover and cheese/scallion fillig, served sprinkled with sugar) or empanada de verde (green plantain cover and cheese filling), mangrove crab, arroz con menestra (lentil or bean stew) y carne, caldo de bola (beef soup featuring a green plantain ball filled with meat, egg, and spices); in the mountain region: hornado, fritada, humitas, tamales, llapingachos, lomo saltado, and churrasco.
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Peru has a varied cuisine with ingredients like potato, uchu or Ají (Capsicum pubescens), oca, ulluco, avocado, fruits like chirimoya, lúcuma and pineapple, and animals like taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis), llama and guinea pig (called cuy). The combination of Inca and Spanish culinary traditions, resulted in new meals and ways of preparing them. The arrival of Africans and Chinese immigrants in the 19th century also resulted in the development of Creole cuisine in the city of Lima, where the vast majority of these immigrants settled.
Some typical Peruvian dishes are ceviche (fish and shellfish marinated in citrus juices), the chupe de camarones (a soup made of shrimp (Cryphiops caementarius)), anticuchos (cow's heart roasted en brochette), the olluco con charqui (a casserole dish made of ulluco and charqui), the Andean pachamanca (meats, tubers and broad beans cooked in a stone oven), the lomo saltado (meat fried lightly with tomato and onion, served with french fries and rice) that has a Chinese influence, and the picante de cuy (a casserole dish made of fried guinea pig with some spices). Peruvian food can be accompanied by typical drinks like the chicha de jora (a chicha made of tender corn dried by the sun). There are also chichas made of peanuts or purple corn, known as chicha morada.
The cuisine of Uruguay is traditionally based on its European and Mediterranean roots, especially from Italy, Spain, France, Lebanon, Portugal, Germany and Britain. Many foods from those countries such as pasta, sausages, and desserts are common in the nation's diet. The Uruguayan barbecue, asado, is one of the most exquisite and famous in the world. A sweet paste, Dulce de Leche is the national obsession, used to fill cookies, cakes, pancakes, milhojas, and alfajores.
Due to its territory, its diversity of agricultural resources and the cultural multiplicity of the Venezuelan people, Venezuelan cuisine often varies greatly from one region to another but its cuisine, traditional as well as modern, has strong ties to its European ancestry (Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French) and indigenous ancestry.