Popular Menu Items in Spanish and Latin Restaurants

5 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Going Out on the Town in Spanish-Speaking Countries

When you’re eating in a Spanish restaurant or a Central or South American restaurant, you may find the menu a little intimidating. But these restaurants feature many tasty and exotic menu items that you won’t want to miss. The following information can help you order with confidence.

Popular foods you may see on the menu include the following:

  • Empanada (ehm-pah-nah-dah) actually means “in bread.” In Mexico, an empanada is a folded and stuffed corn tortilla. In Argentina and Chile, you can get empanadas made out of wheat dough, which is then folded and stuffed. Argentinians like theirs small; Chileans make theirs big. Either way, they’re delicious!

  • In Spain, a tortilla (tohr-tee-yah) is a potato, onion, and egg omelette that’s often served at room temperature.

  • Memelas (meh-meh-lahs) in Mexico are tortillas that are pinched on the side to form a hollow, which is filled with pastes and delicacies.

  • In Mexico, elote (eh-loh-teh) is the name of tender corn, the kind you eat from the cob. The same thing in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Bolivia is called choclo (choh-kloh).

  • Green beans in Mexico are called ejotes (eh-Hoh-tehs). In South America, you find them under names like porotos verdes (poh-roh-tohs bvehr-dehs) and porotitos (poh-roh-tee-tohs). When the beans are dry, they’re called porotos (poh-roh-tohs) in most of Latin America, except in Mexico, where they are known as frijoles (free-Hoh-lehs).

  • Called aguacate (ah-gooah-kah-teh) in Mexico and palta (pahl-tah) in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, it’s still the same “avocado.”

  • In the south of Mexico, when you say pan (pahn), meaning “bread,” people usually think of something that the baker made to taste sweet. In South America, pan is closer to what you eat in the States.

  • Torta (tohr-tah) in Mexico is a sandwich on a bun. But most everywhere else in Latin America, torta means “cake,” and sandwich means , well, “sandwich.”

  • Gazpacho (gahs-pah-choh) is a chilled vegetable soup from Spain flavored with olive oil, garlic, and vinegar.

  • In Chile, filete (fee-leh-teh) is the cut of beef called sirloin in the United States. In Argentina, the same cut is called lomo (loh-moh).

  • The basic Argentinean meal is bife, con papas y ensalada (bvee-feh kohn pah-pahs ee ehn-sah-lah-dah), which translates to “grilled steak, with potatoes and salad.” On an Argentinean grill, you’re likely to find a number of meats familiar to you, along with others that you probably never have eaten. Among the more exotic are chinchulín (cheen-choo-leen), which is braided and grilled beef bowels. ¡Delicioso!

  • An Argentinean delicacy is molleja (moh-lyeh-Hah), which is the thyroid gland of a cow. In Mexico, molleja (moh-yeh-Hah) is chicken gizzard. In Chile, the same chicken gizzard is contre (kohn-treh).

  • The liver that you eat in Chile is called pana (pah-nah); in most other places in Latin America, liver is hígado (ee-gah-doh).

  • In Spain, jamón serrano (Ha-mohn seh-rran-oh), salt cured ham typical of the mountain regions, is a great delicacy.

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The Essentials of Going Out on the Town in Spanish-Speaking Countries

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