When in Argentina, devouring a steak or three is inevitable, but which cuts should you choose – and why? Restaurateur and sommelier Pablo Rivero from Don Julio in Buenos Aires, ranked 13 in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list, shares his favourites cuts of Argentine meat.
Entraña or skirt
"Back in the day in Argentina, entraña (skirt) was basically considered an organ. It was a cut that butchers like my grandfather used to give away to preferred clients. Entraña was the butcher’s gift while parsley was the greengrocer’s because Argentines didn’t tend to buy those products; they’d serve entraña after kidneys and other organs but before the main meat dish. It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that entraña became trendy and a dish of its own accord. A longish, thin steak, you should be able to see the juices run. I eat entraña medium rare, right after chorizo sausage, and usually with my family."
Pairing: always a young Malbec.
Bife de chorizo or sirloin/New York strip
"It doesn’t matter with whom you eat a bife de chorizo, the most important thing is how it’s cooked. Good technique has to be applied as this is a thick cut; it needs to be cooked over a high heat then cooled down and rested a little in order to be served rare. You should eat this at a restaurant or at home but it should always be grilled. Bife de chorizo stands out for its texture and juiciness; use a sharp-edged steak knife for your best eating experience. Order it if you’re on a date."
Pairing: a Malbec from Agrelo, Mendoza.
Vacío del fino or flank
"I really like this thin piece of flank that’s found underneath the vacío; it’s also known as zapatilla. It has all the texture or regular flank but you can cook it quite quickly like a bife de chorizo. It’s a large piece that takes centre stage on the dining table and should be shared between several hungry people."
Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon.
Lechón or suckling pig
"In Argentina, we grill a 10-kilo or 12-kilo suckling pig on special occasions such as Christmas or New Year’s Eve – actually, I think we should enjoy it any time of year! I love the fact we share it, eating the whole animal; and I particularly love pork ribs. Suckling pig is a ritual here."
Pairing: a lighter red such as Bonarda or a well-structured orange wine.
Asado de tira or short ribs
"Also known as tira de asado, short ribs are best enjoyed among a group of friends at an asado (barbecue). I particularly like them at the end of a meal, when I’m still a bit peckish and could do with one or two more bones to chew on. They’re also delicious cold! If there are any leftovers from lunch, they are perfect cold later that evening. Best served medium."
Pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon