South American cuisine leads in new restaurant menu trends

To get ahead of a fast-growing trend, you should familiarize yourself with some of the key culinary traditions of South America and how these foods are prepared in U.S.

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March 26, 2018 4 min read

When you’re a Boulder culinary arts student, you have extensive opportunities to learn about foods from all around the world. In the process, you may find that many chefs are looking to the southern hemisphere to inspire their dishes. That’s because American diners increasingly crave the bold flavors and the variety of irresistible ingredients found in South American cuisines.

The tasty items making their way north have their roots in various countries and the mingling of many different cultures. To get ahead of this fast-growing trend, you should familiarize yourself with some of the key culinary traditions of South America and how these foods are prepared in U.S.

How Brazilian rodizio swept the nation

“When you eat at a rodizio, bring your appetite.”

The rodizio, or Brazilian-style steakhouse, is one type of South American dining that has already carved out a special place in U.S. diets. When you eat at one of these establishments specializing in grilled meats, it’s important to bring your appetite. For a fixed price, waiters keep bringing out pieces of beef, pork, chicken and other varieties of meat for diners to enjoy until they finally signal they’ve had enough.

According to Eater, there are many restaurants that claim to have invented this indulgent way of feasting on a hearty meal. One common legend tells that a waiter at a restaurant called in Rio Grande do Sul accidentally created the style by delivering a meat skewer to the wrong table. Wherever it may have originated, rodizio spread from southern Brazil. After gaining popularity in its home country, the steakhouses expanded to the U.S., thanks to the popular chain Fogo de Chao.

Rodizios prepare meat in the churrasco style, inspired by the traditions of gauchos, the horsemen who wandered parts of Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. This form of barbecue involves preparing the meat with a simple seasoning of sea salt and then grilling on a skewer. The rodizio offers guests the opportunity to dig into the great tastes of several different kinds of painstakingly roasted meat until they just can’t have anymore.

The power of Peruvian

Peruvian food is on the rise in the U.S. In the National Restaurant Association’s annual culinary forecast for 2018, 60 percent of the chefs surveyed said that food from the western South American country was a hot trend. There’s good reason for Peru’s mounting culinary reputation, and it lies in the way these dishes fuse inspiration from indigenous cultures with worldwide influences.

First and foremost, there’s ceviche, widely acknowledged as the national dish. While there are countless variations, the classic version consists of sea bass marinated in lime juice, onion, salt and aji chilis. The fish is then served with red onion, sweet potato, cilantro and dry-roasted corn kernels called cancha.

If you love street food, than anticuchos de corazon will likely find a place in your heart. A beef heart is marinated in vinegar, garlic, cumin and aji before being grilled. It’s then served on a skewer with onion or potato and a drizzle of lime.

TamalesAmerican chefs can discover many amazing tastes in South American cuisine.

The fire-roasted tastes of asado

Argentinian asado is another form of barbecue that’s hitting the big time in the States. As Zagat noted, establishments serving fire-roasted beef and sausages in this style have appeared all over the country. Argentine chef Francis Mallmann leads the way in Miami with Los Fuegos, specializing in items such as grilled ribeye and lechon roasted in a wood oven.

At New York City’s Metta, chef Norberto Piattoni puts a different spin on cooking over an open flame by emphasizing local produce. The menu features vegetarian-friendly options like a freekeh risotto with mushrooms. Meat-eaters still have plenty of choices, however, including distinctive plates such as a crispy lamb neck with squash, creme fraiche and caraway.

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