Travel

7 Uruguayan foods Luis Suárez should bite instead of people

Now that he's suspended for four months, Luis Suárez's bite of Giorgio Chiellini is proving the costliest for an athlete since Mike Tyson went all Pac-Man on Evander Holyfield. It’s unclear exactly why Uruguay’s star striker chomped down on the Italian defender in Tuesday’s World Cup match, but maybe it just had to do with Suárez being hungry.

Uruguayans are known to have a taste for Italian, after all. A large percentage of residents in the South American country claim Italian heritage, and Italy’s cuisine heavily influences Uruguay’s gastronomy. In addition to the Uruguayan take on pizza and milanesas, the country has a number of traditional favorites undoubtedly tastier than any sweaty, salty Italian footballer.

Here are seven standout foods that could have filled up "El Pistolero" and saved him from suspension.

Asado

Beef: It's what's for dinner in Uruguay. Probably breakfast and lunch, too. With swaths of countryside where heifers graze happily, the country counts far more cows than people within its boundaries. In fact, Uruguay recently passed neighboring Argentina as the world leaders in beef consumed per capita.

One of the most popular ways to consume cow in Uruguay is asado, or barbecue. An assortment of cuts from all meaty corners of the cow are slow-grilled to perfection for hours over hot coals on a parrilla, or grill. Uruguayans let their steak moo for itself, and don’t add condiments beyond a dash of salt or chimichurri sauce afterward.

 

Milanesa

Following the rule that frying anything can only make it better, milanesa is a steak filet coated with bread crumbs, dipped in egg batter and fried. Basically, a heart attack in a pan. Uruguayans get creative and present it all sorts of ways that only add to its caloric glory. It can appear on a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, or hot and topped with melted mozzarella cheese, a thin slice of ham, and tomato sauce à la napolitana. Any way you serve it, it's still a delicious, fried cut of beef. And that's a beautiful thing.
 

Choripán

As far as street food goes, choripán is about all Uruguay’s got — but the sausage sandwich is such a golazo (fantastic goal), the country is fine with being a one-trick pony. Street carts (or carritos) grill up the plump pork sausages, slice them in half lengthwise, and stick them in a white baguette to soak up all the greasy juices. Add sauces like chimichurri to your liking, then stick the whole thing in your face. Your best bet is the cart where all the taxi drivers are loitering — locals know what's up.
 

Pizza and fainá

In Uruguay, you replace your Z’s to pronounce the round pie — it sounds like “pisa” or “pitsas”. Dig in with a fork and knife, lest you look barbaric, or dare we say it, estadounidense (American). You can get your pizza by the meter as a rectangular cut, stuffed, or grilled on the parrilla.

To really make like a Uruguayan, order a slice of fainá, a triangular piece of thin, dense chickpea flour bread eaten atop pizza. While it sounds odd to the uninitiated, one go and you’ll be praising the probably-stoned genius (since weed is legal for Uruguayans) who paired chickpeas and pizza for the first time. But don't get too ahead of yourself — weed's still not legal for tourists. At least you'll have the munchies, though.
 

Chivito

It’s impossible not to love a country where the national dish is a steak sandwich often covered in bacon. Chivito, thin-sliced filet mignon topped with mozzarella cheese and sliced tomatoes, comes in a mayonnaise-slathered white bread bun. The “Canadian” variation, chivito canadiense, ups the ingredient and calorie count with add-ons like bacon, olives, and hard-boiled eggs.

While the sandwich seems simple, Uruguayans across the country pride themselves on perfecting the dish — who has the best bread, who cooks the meat most expertly — to vie for top honors. Especially bold chivito makers will throw in extras like red peppers, beets, and cucumbers. But really, it's all about the meat — and lots of it.

Dulce de leche

Uruguay definitely isn’t the only country to produce this ambrosial sweet stuff, which is made from slow-heated condensed milk and resembles caramel (but is leagues better). The country is definitely in the running for producing one of the world’s best versions of it, however: It’s impossibly creamy and light, and hits the right note of sweet without being cloying. Dulce de leche shows up everywhere and at all times of day, from breakfast pastries (bizcochos) to Uruguayan desserts, including the alfajor.
 

Alfajor

Speaking of alfajor... Arabic in origin, but Uruguayan in adoption — though Argentina claims it, too — the alfajor cookie is held on a pedestal as high as the national soccer team, La Celeste. Or probably anyone digging the legal weed, for that matter. The basic ingredients that constitute an alfajor: Dulce de leche, sandwiched between shortbread cookies. From there it’s sprinkled with powdered sugar or coconut, or comes with meringue or chocolate. Essentially, it's Uruguay's direct path to Type 2 Diabetes.