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Salta: a journey through the best flavors of the province

28 de mayo de 2017

Silvina Beccar Varela | PARA LA NACION


Roadmap for the richest dishes in Salta; the recipes, the secrets of the experts and where to try them

There is no book more beloved than the family recipe notebook written by hand, stained with eggs and flour, used a thousand times, which keeps formulas dictated from grandmother to granddaughter and from mother to daughter.

Platos, ingredientes y condimentos de una provincia con buen gusto

In the same way, each place treasures its own recipes, in which the imprint of the peoples who inhabited it can be read. As in the province of Salta, one of the places where the amalgam between pre-Hispanic influences and Spanish cuisine is most noticeable in the mixture of sweet and spicy flavors, with chili turned paprika as an omnipresent condiment.

Eternally sooty pot stews that are cooked for hours over embers on shells (stones). Women tend to be the ones in charge of jealously hoarding the formulas. Like Dominga Díaz, from the Yacochuya area. Or Juana Bordón, from Cafayate. Or Margarita Mamani, from Animaná. Ladies who always cook this way both at home and for large gatherings called by the government or other institutions.


The traditional cuisine of northern Argentina is not light, with its hyperfatty broths and the use of pella fat instead of oil in many preparations. It is a kitchen from another time, which rescues the enjoyment of eating without worrying so much about health. Slow, provincial times, long elaboration and cooking processes and prolonged after-meal conversations, with regional wines such as Torrontés and the guitar that reels chacareras, coplas and zambas, for desserts. The next day the chicken broth is served in its fat, to raise even the most crushed.

This note rescues some unmissable recipes with recommendations of typical dishes and Salta fusion.


Locro. the patriotic stew

Different sources agree that locro comes from the Quechua language and that it was eaten by all the Andean peoples of pre-Inca descent. It carried pumpkin, vegetables and grains; with the arrival of the Spaniards, meat was added. Every May 25 this dish is prepared in almost all the provinces of the country; in Salta, on the other hand, you can always eat it.


It is a stew of white corn or locrillo that is soaked the night before along with aluvia or Pallares beans. It carries pork skins and bones, fat tripe, jerky or some soft meat, which in Salta they call queperí; sometimes red chorizo. The meats are also cooked separately and then everything is mixed together and thickened with the lead or creole squash, seasoning it with cumin and paprika. Don't miss the brushstroke of red fat, paprika fried in pork fat with a touch of hot pepper and green or green onion, to refresh the palate.

Una tradición que se transmite por generaciones

The almost locro or guaschalocro is made with shelled fresh corn. Dominga Díaz, from the Yacochuya area (8 km from Cafayate), says that both the guascha locro and the carbonada de choclo are made with fresh corn grated in two cuts, the secret to making it juicy.

At the Peña Doña Argentina, in Cafayate, Tupac Guantay, 30, prepares a locro with ingredients from the hill above, from small producers, accompanied by the music of guitars and a vallisto red wine always ready to put out the fire. Guantay also looks for the original flavors on his bicycle, with which he toured the Calchaquí Valleys filming the Kitchen in Motion micros, which can be seen on YouTube.


Humita. wrapped to eat

It consists of a cream of manually grated corn that can be cooked in a pot, preferably clay, or wrapped in chala and assembled in a small package. In the valleys of Salta it has onion, goat cheese, yellow squash, milk. But there are nuances in the different regions: it depends on the type of corn, whether or not it has basil, bell pepper, carrot, Creole cheese. There are with tomato sauce or llasjua.


The humitas are simple; only the hot pepper manages to excite the taste. The package is placed on each plate and eaten like this or standing up at fairs. It is the diners who are in charge of undoing them. In theory, paprika should be spicy. That is to say that a fiery horizon must prevail over the sweet bottom of the sugared corn.

Darío Escobar, Salta chef of regional cuisine and signature fusion at the Alejandro I hotel in the city of Salta, maintains that "corn is the common thread that unites the cuisines of all of Latin America."


Tamales. not just any flour

Tamales require even more time and skill than humitas; They carry cornmeal and meat in their preparation. But not just any corn flour: Tupac Guantay explains that you have to boil water with ashes. Then strain it and add the capia corn and boil, always mixing. Let the mixture soak for two days, changing the warm water twice a day. Finally, dry well and grind; only there is this flour obtained. Although the books indicate that it can be replaced with polenta mixed with pumpkin and other variants, such as buying it in the markets of Salta, Guantay assures that it is not the same: "That is why it is good to eat them here."

The recado or picadillo is made of pork or beef and even lamb, which may or may not come from the head with or without tongue, tongue alone, jerky or simply jaw. There are some with meats such as roast beef, stuffed with hard-boiled eggs and raisins, seasoned with cumin, paprika, chili, green onion. They are made just like the humitas, in dry husks and forming the packet.

Salta residents recommend stopping at La Merced, on the way to Cafayate, in the Lerma Valley, where corn grows very well and the best tamales in the province are made.


Empanadas. the traditional

"The traditional empanada from Salta, says Claudia Bachur of the ArgenINTA Foundation, has some differences with those from other provinces: its smaller size, the use of pella fat, the cutting of meat with a knife, which can vary between roast beef, roast tapas, armpit, matambre, jerky, tripe and even vizcacha; also the addition of the potato, the light spice given by the chili, paprika, sometimes cumin, cooking in a clay oven, tomato sauce or llasjua, inevitable. Hot and very juicy. I have seen up to 10 eaten per person. A good average would be four for each."

Annual contests are held between empanaderas from different towns and the prize is a place to sell the delicacy in the capital for a year.

Legend has it that the first person who became a baker to survive was the mother of the first Argentine writer, Juana Manuela Gorriti, also from Salta. His family exiled in Bolivia for political reasons, his mother dedicated herself to selling empanadas.

Juan Guantay, a driver for the Salta Ministry of Culture and Tourism for more than 10 years, recommends D'mi Tata empanadas on the way to Cafayate. And also the tripe from the stall on Calle 10 de Octubre and San Martín, in the capital of Salta. "They are from a lady from San Carlos, special for mid-morning," he says.


Casuela. Cabrito, llama or lamb

"The Cabrito Casuela can vary according to the vegetables that are found in the highland communities in each season," explains Tupac Guantay. To season it, the essential thing is paprika, which can come from Cafayate, Molinos or Cachi.

The llama cazuela comes from the puna of Salta, but it can only be tried in small communities for family consumption because otherwise it is prohibited; not so in Jujuy. As well as lamb stew and spicy belly, there are other dishes to explore in this inexhaustible source of flavors that is Salta.


Sweets and jams from the Valley

Gaznates or handkerchiefs of dulce de leche covered with icing; sweet grape or cayote dumplings; candied walnuts; caramel cookies; nougat alfajores and the nougat itself.

Juana Bordón, an artisan pastry chef from Cafayate, tells us that the salteño nougat (pronounced tuyón) has egg whites, hard thread syrup and grape syrup. It is beaten for a long, long time and is eaten alone, with chocolate, with coconut, between two dumplings like alfajor, in the María Luisa cake, in the nougat from Cache that has flour tortillas, honey, cream and nuts in addition to the paste called nougat. .

The empanadillas can be made from any sweet fruit from the orchard or from the patio of the houses, from cayote if you visit the Puna of Salta; Cuaresmillos, those little fleshy peaches with an excellent flavor. The fruit of the valley is distinguished by the meltwater of the rivers that irrigate it, forming those unique and singular flavors.

The mazamorra consists of corn cooked with sugar for many hours, better with a wood fire: it can be white or purple and with honey.


Useful data

Empanadas d'mi Tata: the people of Salta go to look for them from the capital and take them frozen to heat at home, they are so good.

Route 68, Km 164, El Carril, Salta.


Patio de la Empanada: there are ten stands attended by empanaderas.

The Esteco 299, esq. San Martin, Salta.


La Tacita: a small inn where locals go in search of their empanadas.

Caseros 396, and Deán Funes, in front of the San Francisco church, Salta capital; tel.0387 431-8289.


Doña Argentina: cuisine of stews and tapas made by chef Tupay Guantay. Good music from the rock that always has shows. Outdoor patio to admire the Cafayateño sky.

Colon 124, Cafayate; phone 03868 42-2083.


La Casona del Molino: delicious kid casserole and very good folk music. A little far from the traditional Balcarce street, an excellent proposal with the flavor of the authentic.

Luis Burela 1, Salta; tel.0387 434-2835.


El Mesón de la Plaza: the Alejandro I hotel restaurant offers a fusion of regional and contemporary cuisine by Darío Escobar. Salta products such as spicy goat cheese pâté with raw ham and quinoa jelly; warm salad of beans and roasted bell peppers as a garnish for a loin with teriyaki sauce al chañar with mashed potatoes, cheese truffles.

Balcarce 252, Salta; phone 0387 400-0000.


Bad Brother: incredible place in the center of Cafayate where the local chef, Walter Michel, prepares a duo of empanadas; one, delicious, fried, of quinoa with goat cheese, dried tomatoes and green onion; the other, clay-oven dough with knife-cut entrails, onion, bell pepper and greens. Sunal wines from Agustín Lanus accompany the proposal.

Camila Quintana of Child 63, Cafayate; phone 03868 42-6039.


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