the influence of immigrants

Traveling around, we’ve tried a lot of South American-based food – manoic-based dishes in Paraguay, empanadas and locro in Argentina, lots of quinoa and potatoes galore in Bolivia, guinea pig in Peru – but a few words have to be said about food from other places that is here. The delicious tastes of the world that seem to show up in the strangest places on this continent.

South America has often been a haven to those fleeing somewhere else. Germans – both persecuted and persecutors – came after World War II, Chinese and Japanese came to work and build Peru and Bolivia decades ago, the Mennonites came to Paraguay, continuing their 400-year-long search for a place of their own, Arabians came over for reasons I don’t know, the Welsh left the harsh mine life of their country for Argentina….the list goes on and on. And they all brought their traditions with them.

In Northern Argentina (both west and east, we found), Arabian food is not hard to find. There are a lot of Arabians up here – the ex-President who pretty much messed up the country (long story), Carlos Menem, was of Arabic descent and from the northern half of the country. The food is as good as one could hope for, especially stranded in a city with fries, pizza, and milanesas all around. Baba ghanoush, shwarmas, hummus, sfijas, keppe – it’s all there. We ate rather happily in Posadas watching the traffic go by and as well in Salta, where they served us all that we could eat. Also in Tucumán, and I’m sure you can find it in numerous other places in the area.

Crossing into Paraguay, our hostel owner in Encarnación (whose wife was Japanese) told us that we had to go to the main Japanese restaurant in town. In his opinion, it was the best in the country, maybe even on the continent. I can’t speak to being the best, as I didn’t visit every other Japanese place in Paraguay and there are a lot on the continent, but it was some damn good Japanese food.

Continuing in Paraguay, we found some absolutely delectable Korean in Ciudad del Este (also some Taiwanese). Lots of Eastern Asian immigrants in this town. The restaurant we found was so authentic there wasn’t actually any written Spanish in the place except for the health certificate – everything was Korean! Good thing we knew what we were ordering, more or less.

In Peru (and Bolivia to a lesser degree), chifa restaurants dot the cities. These are Chinese restaurants set up by immigrants, though they’re better Chinese than I ever had in Buenos Aires. It’s closest to American Chinese food – I’m still aching for a good Taiwanese meal. Soon, I hope.

Though I love experiencing the food down here, finding out what the next new taste is, it’s nice to take a break now and then from potatoes and corn and beef and get a new taste. We both look forward to more odd dishes in odd places.

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