This leg of my journey has come to an end and if you are looking to learn more about Asado, the Argentine culture, or my journey please take a look at Asado: A Journey Through Argentine Cuisine. This book is the culmination of all my experiences, writings, recipes, learnings while exploring Argentina and I am both very excited and proud to share it with our readers.
Words to Know
Pescaderia = Fish store
Pescar = To fish
Subte = Subway
Ceviche = Fish cooked by acidity rather than heat
Papillon = Culinary technique, Papillote in French cuisine
I headed over to Palermo to begin my series of random, happen-chance reach outs to people (which was excruciatingly painful and awkward for me) across carniceros, parillas, & hole-in-the walls. My “target” butcher was AMICS, a high end butcher that had come to prominence in the food scene in BsAs over the past couple years, now supplying some of the best restaurants in the city. I had gotten there right before they closed for what I understood as either a really long lunch or siesta. I didn’t want to head back home and have to come another day, but also I had just eaten some empanadas and didn’t want to head over to a coffee shop to wait; so I just started to pace. To the left of the building, look in. Read a sign or two. Then back to the right of the building. Repeat. There was also a truck unloading vegetables on the street that I kept making awkward eye contact with.
During these paces, I noticed a Pescaderia one shop away and started to extended the length of my paces to get a better view. As an aspirational chef, I was disappointed in myself that I had failed to consider exploration of the entire food culture here and was limiting myself to the red meats of Asado. I had done absolutely no research on fish up until now but decided to go ahead and give it a shot with the pitch I have been practicing:
Me: Hola! Como estas? // Hi! How are you?
Person: Muy bien. Vos? (“Vos” is more commonly used here than “tu”.) // Very good. You?
Me: Bien bien. Cual es tu nombre? (I realize now that “Cual es tu nombre” is a bit formal and will be switching over to “Como te llamas”) // Good, good. What is you name?
Person: Dante. // Dante.
Me: Hola Dante! (And here is where I ramble on for a bit and hope he understood me.) Yo tengo una pregunta. Estoy de los Estados Unidas y aqui (“Aca” would have been the correct word in BsAs instead of “Aqui”) para estudiar la cocina de Argentina. Yo quiero aprender un poco de las pescadas, y mi pregunta es que, tu tienes tiempo, no neccessario hoy, pero un dia para ensenar me // (Paraphrasing) Hey, can you teach me about fish?
Dante: (Looking confused, takes a moment, looks down, looks back up) Dale, vas a Sabado a nueve y yo puedo un poco. // Sure, come back Saturday.
Me: (An inner Wooohoo!) Muchos muchos gracias. Hasta luego! // Thanks. See you soon!
And Saturday came. I hoped back onto the subte and walked over to Palermo, shivering from both the chilly morning air and nervousness.
Dante is one of those guys that has a resting mad-face and constantly looks intense with concentration (which actually sounds kinda like me; it makes sense now when people tell me that I’m not the most approachable and can look like a douche). But after engaging him in a conversation (and getting the chance to hear my broken Spanish) he started to show some more positive emotions. Among the knowledge transfer, I got the chance to chat a bit about his history.
Dante actually started as a server and found himself loving the world of food, especially cooking. After a while, he had to make a decision what was going to be his next step: continue in this stream or try something new. 10 years ago he decided to start learning about fish—types, preparations, cuts, etc. And 6 years ago, he opened his own place: Pescaderia – Delicias del Mar.
Most of the fish that is sold and caught in Buenos Aires comes from the Mar Del Plata region (map below), excluding Salmon which comes from Chile. Mar Del Plata (or “Sea of the Plate Region”) is the second largest city in the BsAs province and in right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, this position has created it into one of the main fishing ports.
After getting a bit of a background, Dante told me a bit about the different fish. It was remarkable to me as I was not excepting such a stark contrast to the fish that we usually see in the States.
Lenguado = Sole
– Delicate, light fish
– Suggested use in ceviche
Filet de Atun = Tuna
– Strong, fatty fish
– Personally love it raw, but most common grilled or roasted in horno
Cazon = School Shark
– Popular in Andalusian cuisine as cazon en adobo; also sometimes used in British fish and chips
Gatuzo = Houndshark, Dusky smooth-hand
– Not too common of a fish
Merluza = Hake
– Cod-like fish; mild flavor and flaky white flesh
– Very popular in BsAs
Pejerrey = Chilean silverside
– Small, boney fish
Brotola = Phycidea
– Great baked in the horno with lemon
Mero entero = Grouper
– Mild flavor and firm flesh
– Gret for a whole roast
Calamar = Calamari, Squid
– Very commonly seen in seafood salads, common to see fried in the states
Pezanger = Angler fish (?)
– Not too sure about this one
Salmon = Salmon
– Only fish not from Mar Del Plata
Merluza (Hake) is a very popular fish in BsAs, but his favorite was Lenguado (Sole) which he suggests for use while cooking Ceviche.
Ceviche de Dante
Most important was to keep it simple, but get great, fresh fish.
– Lenguado cut into 1 inch squares
– Limon // Lemon
– Picante Aji // Chili Pepper
– Sal y Pimiento // Salt & Pepper
– Apio // Celery
– Cebolla // Onions
Mix together and let chill in the fridge for 4 hours up to overnight.
Other than the usual grilling or baking of the fish, another common preparation that Dante recommended was Pappillon.
Papillon is a technique (most probably derived from French techniques of a similar name) in which the fish is cooked wrapped and retains all it’s juices.
– Filet of Merluza
– Vino Blanco // White Wine
– Spices that you desire
Wrap in foil, and throw it in the horno for about 12-15 minutes, depending on desired done-ness.
Other preparations: Horno (for example the Brotola pictured below), Plancha, or Fried (for example the Merluza pictured above). You can also make delicious empanadas using fish (Atun pictured below) or delicious salads from seafood (Calamar below).