10 Foods to Bring Home From Your Travels in South America
It’s tempting to seek out the most obscure foodstuffs to remember your travels by. But the best sources of edible and potable mementos are often the humble, everyday places — like supermarkets and convenience stores — which as a tourist, you might overlook. Behold, our favorite everyday foods to take home with you from your next overseas adventure, whether they’re sweet souvenirs for the ones you couldn’t take with you, or a nice way to bring home the flavors of your new favorite place. Here are our top picks from South America.
1. When You’re in Brazil
Snag Some: Yoki Pão de Queijo Cheese Bread Mix from Carrefour.
Locals swear by this baking mix for the gluten-free, rice-flour based cheese bread that’s one of Brazil’s national treats — and is positively addictive.
2. When You’re in Peru
Snag Some: Altomayo Cafe from Wong Supermercado.
Strong coffee lovers, take note: Peruvian expats make sure to bring a few cans of bracing Altomayo coffee back to the States with them whenever they visit — some even say the granulado (instant) version is quite good in a pinch.
3. When You’re in Costa Rica*
Snag Some: Salsa Lizano from Auto Mercado (*Note: We know, it's technically in Central America, but this salsa is too good not to mention)
Think of it as the Costa Rican stand-in for HP or A.1. The savory-sweet-tart brown sauce is a favorite for dabbing on tamales, stirring into rice and beans or splashing on scrambled eggs.
4. When You’re in Chile
Snag Some: Orígen Gourmet Merquén Spice from Origen Gourmet.
Morocco has ras el hanout, Jamaica has jerk and Chile has merquén. The peppery spice blend combines sun-dried chiles, coriander, smoked paprika, oregano and salt to warming, savory effect. Use it as a rub for poultry or meat or as a seasoning for roasted vegetables.
5. When You’re in Uruguay
Snag Some: Yo-Yo Tienda Inglesa from Tienda Inglesa.
South America is swimming in dulce de leche and nearly every country claims the smooth milky caramel as its own. An especially delicious way to enjoy it is sandwiched between two spongy biscuits that are then dunked in chocolate — a.k.a, yo-yos. The ones sold at Tienda Inglesa supermarket, the Whole Foods of Uruguay, are especially good.
6. When You’re in Colombia
Snag Some: La Delicia Bocadillo Veleno from Carulla.
A cross between jam and fruit leather, this versatile tropical fruit paste is enjoyed best with cheese, stuffed into sandwiches, used in baking — or nibbled on its own as a sweet treat.
7. When You’re in Argentina
Snag Some: Rosamonte Yerba Maté from Jumbo.
This herbaceous, ultra-caffeinated tea has a flavor all its own — refreshingly grassy, yet with a pungency not unlike green tea. What may be most fun about yerba maté is the drinking ritual of steeping the loose tea in a dried out gourd and drinking it through a metal straw called a bombilla (both accessories are also available at Jumbo).
8. When You’re in Ecuador
Snag Some: Platanitos Caribas from Supermaxi.
Move over Doritos: Chips made from starchy, banana-like plantains reign supreme in Ecuador. You can buy the freshly fried, salted snacks from street vendors or snag mass-market versions in grocery and convenience stores. While they’re A-OK for munching with a beer, try serving them like the locals do, as a scooping vehicle for ceviche.
9. When You’re in Bolivia
Snag Some: Tableta de Chocolate con Quinua from Chocolate Para Ti.
Pick up a bar of chocolate made in Bolivia from Bolivian beans by Chocolate Para Ti, a factory in Sucre with multiple shops in the city and a store in La Paz. An especially nice souvenir is the chocolate bar studded with puffed quinoa — a South American Crunch bar, if you will.
10. When You’re in Guyana
Snag Some: Guyanese Pride Cassareep from Massy Stores.
The most essential ingredient in Guyanese pepperpot, the national dish of robustly-spiced stewed meat, is cassareep. The molasses-like sauce is made from the sap of the cassava root and spiced with cinnamon, clove and hot pepper, giving pepperpot its distinct flavor and forming the sauce in the stew. Cassareep is also a natural antiseptic and is used as a salve for minor cuts and sores.
What are some of your favorite food items to bring back from South America? Let us know in the comments, below.