Navigating my way through the culinary offerings of Montevideo

Hello from Uruguay! Its been a great first two weeks since we’ve been here. We got lots of needs assessment work done, and still had ample time over the weekends to explore the city of Montevideo. Uruguay is very similar to Qatar in many aspects: there exists a very apparent consumer culture and a huge portion of its population lives in the capital (Montevideo). Most strikingly, there is a beautiful Corniche lined with lights! Indeed, very reminiscent of Doha.

Anyways, about the culinary offerings.  Any blog post about Uruguayan food would be incomplete without the mention of Dulce de Leche. This caramel-like milk-based sauce, pictured on the left, is an integral part of the Uruguayan diet. Till now I have lost count of the number of ways I have seen this ingredient being consumed. It is almost hard to have any snack or sweet dish with the absence of the very sugary Dulce de Leche. It is consumed with bread, inside Empanadas, inside pastries, on top of flan, with Alfajores, and in many more ways.

This brings me to the other local fascination of Uruguayan cuisine. Because early settlers of Montevideo originate from different parts of Italy, Spain, Portugal, the restaurants here present a variety of offerings that include things out of traditional Italian and Spanish cookbooks Also apparent is the large variety of  grill, thanks to the local fascination of having beef in its many forms over dinner, lunch, in sandwiches, in the forms of steaks, within Empanadas, and through almost any other form of food consumption. With the spirit of Pasta around, I set to prepare a few varieties myself. Notice the progress in the texture of the sauce with successive iterations 🙂

Gnocchi and Bechamel Sauce with Cheese

Pasta with Alabach Suace

I had my fair share of pasta. However, with ever-enticing grills around me all the time like the following one, it is hard to maintain a Halal diet for a meat-lover like me, and I had been vegetarian for 12 days already!

Thus last weekend I set out on a conquest to fulfill my carnivorous side. I got in touch with the local Jewish Community Center, the Hillel of Uruguay, who were kind enough to direct me to the very few places in Uruguay where Kosher diet could be found. Next I got myself a Map, and traced my way to a nearby butchery which offered Kosher meat. The people over at the butchery seemed excited to receive me and offered, in their broken English, the different types of meat. From my limited knowledge of Uruguayan,  out of the the Grill selection shown above, I was able to find myself many of the items, including Chorisos, Asados and Hamburguesas . It was a pleasant relief. I quickly made purchases and got back to our apartment. For the next lunch and dinner, I had premium Uruguayan meat in the form of delicious hamburgers. I even packed one for work the next day. Never in my life had beef tasted so good!

Triumph, at last!

– Afnan

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6 thoughts on “Navigating my way through the culinary offerings of Montevideo

  1. Afnan!

    Loved the post! I’m glad you’re exploring the city. They say that observing and enjoying the food is one of the best ways to learn about a new culture. Its interesting to see how food can reveal so much about the history of a place.

    Another great way is people watching … which is staring at people leading their lives in a cafe or a restaurant. If done with disgression, it can actually be a lot of fun 🙂

    Ok that was a bit creepy.

    Anyway, continue to enjoy and learn about the place while you do your work. Good luck!

    • Waleed!

      Thanks a lot for the feedback man!

      I’m going out for dinner tonight at a local restaurant. Lets see how much your strategy works! I’ll let you know how it works out, and more importantly, if I creep people out or not 😀

      I’m waiting for your blog posts as well this summer 🙂

      -Afnan

  2. good stuff afnan! i’m kind of scared of trying out new food because i’ve always had bad experiences for some reason 😛
    It’s good to take that step and learn more.. and good stuff finding that kosher butchery! i couldn’t find one in 5 months of pittsburgh… oh well 😛

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