(CNN): While beef is the backbone of Argentina’s daily diet, there are plenty of other tasty treats awaiting you in the world’s eighth-largest country.
Besides taking inspiration from Italian and Spanish migrants, Argentina’s dishes also feature ingredients from the Andean northwest as well as Patagonia in the south.
Ready to start eating?
Here are 10 of the top dishes every visitor to Argentina should try.
Argentina’s favorite street food, these stuffed dough pockets are similar to Puerto Rico’s empanadilla or a Cornish pasty.
Translating as “wrapped in bread,” empanadas come baked or fried and can be veggie or carnivorous.
Common fillings include chicken, cheese and ham, sweetcorn, caprese or blue cheese.
Beef – either chopped or sliced by hand – is always a popular option, though seasoning such as cumin, spring onion, boiled egg or potato depends on the province of origin.
Look out for regional specialties, too: quinoa and goat’s cheese in the northwest province of Jujuy, or lamb in Patagonia.
So how to tell the difference between flavors?
Most empanaderías provide a handy repulgue (a term used to describe the method used to fold the edges of the dough) map as a guide through the different crimped edges, which denote flavors.
Another cheap and cheerful street food hit, choripan is usually served as an entree at an asado (barbecue).
But thanks to its hands-on shape, this sausage sandwich (where chorizo or sausage teams up with pan or bread) is an ideal snack for travelers on the go.
You can slather it in chimichurri, a spicy sauce made from oregano, parsley, garlic, chili flakes and red wine vinegar – or salsa criolla, a tomato, onion and red bell pepper variant.
While chorizo is usually made from pork, boar sausages can also be found in some restaurants.
While Argentinian pies might share some physical resemblances with their Neapolitan cousins – they have a circular form and dough base.
That’s where the similarities end.
Inch-high crusts tend to go light on tomato sauce while overcompensating with so much Argentinian-style mozzarella cheese, it drips down the side.
Garnishes include green olives, oregano, or dried chili flakes.
An entire cheese-and-tomato pizza is often simply referred to as una muzza.
Some traditional pizzerias in Buenos Aires sell by the slice, designed to be eaten standing at the bar.
Customers can also order faina, a filling slice of chickpea pancake, to soak up the gooey cheese.
Another Argentinian dish with Italian influence is milanesa, known as escalope in the rest of the world.
Usually made from silverside – a round of beef from the outside of the leg – or chicken breast, the meat is hammered down to a thin cut before being bathed in breadcrumbs, then either fried or baked.
Toppings, however, raise this dish’s excitement levels.
A caballo (on horseback) means topped with a fried egg, a la napolitana ups the ante with cheese and tomato sauce, while a la suiza uses gruyere.
Larger appetites should order completa, with ham, cheese and tomato sauce. Best accompanied with French fries and a token salad.
This soft, round, provolone cheese is a fairly bland eating experience – until it’s slapped on the grill.
Provoleta, made from cow’s milk, then turns into gooey goodness and is a classic starter to an Argentinian asado, or barbecue.
Grilled in a specially sized skillet or a simple foil dish, provoleta is often topped with oregano and should be slightly crisp on the outside yet melted on the inside.
For a creamy yet acidic taste, try the goat’s milk provoleta.
Beef’s so tempting in Argentina that even vegetarians have been known to succumb to its wiles.
The best way to sample it is at an asado, which refers to both a barbecue as well as a traditional way of grilling beef.
It’s the most important social event in Argentina, bringing together friends and families every weekend.
A multi-step meal that can last several hours, entrees include choripan, morcilla (blood sausage) and provoleta before moving onto organ meats such as mollejas (beef sweetbreads), chinchulines (chitterlings) and rinones (kidneys).
Building up to the main game, we recommend trying matambrito de cerdo (pork flank steak) drizzled in lemon juice before tucking into one of several cuts such as tender ojo de bife (ribeye); bife de chorizo (sirloin), which comes with a strip of fat; tasty asado de tira (short ribs); and full-flavored entrana (skirt steak).
While an asado at an Argentinan’s home is the most legitimate experience, some restaurants serve the next best thing – a parrillada, which is a small portable grill complete with glowing coals that keeps cuts warm.
Eating llama steak is the norm in Argentina’s northwest, given that the camelid is well adapted to the Jujuy province’s 2,000-plus meters above sea level altitude.
While its flavor is more rustic and earthy than beef, fat levels are lower, which makes it a healthy alternative.
It can be sampled in empanadas, a stew or as a standalone steak. Some swankier restaurants even use it in carpaccio or tartare.
Eaten as a savory snack or a main course, humita is the ultimate corn tribute. Leaf packages are untied to reveal the corn mash inside.
The whole package is either steamed or boiled.
Dating back to pre-Columbian times, humita is eaten around the Andean region, including Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
Made with fresh corn and milk, onion, spices and sometimes goat cheese are added to pep it up.
A hearty stew, locro is a national dish traditionally served on May 25, the date marking Argentina’s May Revolution.
Made from white corn, beef or pork, tripe and red chorizo, as well as other vegetables including white beans, squash and pumpkin, and seasoned with cumin and bay leaf, this tasty meal in a bowl is an ideal winter warmer.
It can be ramped up with a dash of quiquirimichi, a hot salsa made from paprika, spring onion and chili.
Also worth a trying, carbonada is a similar dish that includes sweetcorn that’s served inside a baked, seasoned pumpkin.
Dulce de leche
Some Argentinians would argue that licking dulce de leche (caramelized milk and sugar sauce) from a spoon is a meal in itself.
However, this sweet and sticky salsa usually accompanies desserts such as flan.
A better invention is dulce de leche-flavor helado.
Any ice-cream parlor that didn’t stock it would soon go out of business; the bonus is that Argentinian ice-cream is thick and creamy, giving Italian gelato a decent run for its money.