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Your Favorite South o' the Border Dishes (Non-Mexican)

It's amazing how much Mexico dominates the south-of-the-border (Caribbean inclusive) segment of the culinary scene in the US. Now I'm hardly complaining, because I love the stuff, but I'm also very curious about other cuisines and their dishes from down that way.

Have you got any of which you're particularly fond? If so, I'd like to hear about them.

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  1. I had aunties from Cuba, and from my childhood, I have VERY fond memories of black beans and rice (with fresh oregano), and Cuban coffee cooked on the stovetop, sweetened liberally with sweetened condensed milk. I felt so grown up drinking it but it was probably 80% milk/condensed milk and 20% coffee.

    7 Replies
    1. re: pinehurst

      I would love to explore Cuban cuisine. Alas, the Cubanos are not heavy on the ground in west Texas.

      But I did recently made a Dominican dish. It was spaghetti with a tomato sauce seasoned, in part by Badia Seasoning, and instead of meatballs or ground beef, sliced franks. Reminded me of the Franco-American Spaghettios with Franks that I used to eat back in the 70s, but much better.

        1. re: pinehurst

          Will post it later. Tonight, if I get the chance.

          1. re: pinehurst

            At your service, ma'am.

            1 lb. spaghetti
            6 franks sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
            Salt to taste
            1 T. olive oil
            3 T. olive oil
            1/2 green bell pepper diced
            1/4 red bell pepper diced
            2 cloves garlic minced
            1/3 onion minced
            1/2 chicken bouillion cube
            1/2 T. Badia Complete Seasoning (or other Latin seasoning blend)
            2 cups jarred pasta sauce (I use traditional Ragu)
            3/4 cup water

            1. Sautee franks, peppers, garlic, onion, bouillion cube and Latin seasoning in 3 T. olive oil for nine minutes.

            2. Add pasta sauce and 3/4 cup water. Mix well.

            3. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes uncovered.

            4. Cook spaghetti in salted water with 1 T. olive oil. Drain and serve with sauce.

            1. re: Perilagu Khan

              H. is away this weekend at his brother's. I'm making a mess of this for me. Might sub a diff. kind of pepper for the bell...cubanelle, which I can eat by the bushel with no ill effects.
              THANK YOU!

              1. re: pinehurst

                If you really want to put on the ritz, you could use that Rao's that so many around here go on about. Then again a fine sauce like that might undermine the kitschy nature of the thing. At any rate, bon appetit!

          2. re: Perilagu Khan

            Same thing here in the Bay Area: I loved the tostones and Cuban black beans and rice I had in Florida, but if I want them where I live I have to make them.

            I've recently had some interesting Peruvian dishes and would like to try more. We do get some Salvadorean food around here, but Mexican - especially Michocoan- food dominates around here.

        2. Costa Rican gallo pinto with a couple of over easy eggs and some Salsa Lizano. Yum!

          3 Replies
          1. re: seamunky

            We were in Costa Rica for a month awhile back, and we had gallo pinto at pretty much every meal. I liked it for breakfast better than for dinner.

            1. re: jeanmarieok

              Breakfast in Costa Rica is the best! Gallo pinto, fried eggs, and banana con leche!

            2. re: seamunky

              When I lived in Costa Rica for 7 months and ate gallo pinto for every meal (with little else b/c I was living with a relatively impoverished family), we got to calling gallo pinto "Crime and Punishment". I would have daydreams about what I would eat when I got back home. But now gallo pinto has returned as all-time favorite, especially with some beloved Salsa Lizano poured on, and a batido on the side!

            3. I like Cuban foods in general. I also like Jamacian jerk -- especially good jerk pork.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Yet another that I've actually not tried, although it is in my recipe rotation and should be coming up soon.

                I also loved the fresh, grilled snapper I had (frequently!) while in St. Kitts.

                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                  I think you will like jerk pork. It is not super healthy, but it is not super unhealty neither. I prefer it get done using the pork shoulder, but you can use tenderloin if you want a leaner cut.

                  You may want to try it from a local Jamacian restaurant if it offers jerk pork. I think you will like it.

              2. Ropa Vieja – Pan Caribbean
                Feijoada – Brazil
                Beef shanks con mani - Peru

                Quiet a bit out there that's tasty and easy to prepare if one is willing to explore a little.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mike0989

                  Add to this Moqueca capixaba, a lighter cerviche like version of Bahian fish stew.

                2. Peruvian empanadas - meat, fish, cheese, or fruit

                  Uruguayan smoked sweetbreads (mollejas) w/chimichurri

                  Brazilian bauru sandwich (feijoada has been mentioned)

                  Costa Rican black bean soup w/ poached egg

                  The daily black beans and rice throughout Central America and parts of the Caribbean becomes tiresome like groundhog day.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Veggo

                    I expected you'd weigh in at some point, Veggo. :)

                    1. re: Veggo

                      Seems every dish in Rio comes with black bean, rice AND French fries. But I honestly don't tire of it.

                      Attached is a picture of a Bauru that Bob and I shared for breakfast in Rio one morning.

                    2. Had a very nice time eating my way around San Salvador. Can't get enough of that curtido either. After "Mexico," El Salvador would get my vote in Central America for stopping over to eat. Too bad the airport is so danged far from the city.

                      1. Argentinian steak with chimichurri sauce, which I can drink like water.... Pollo ala brasa, Peruvian chicken & empanadas.

                        Caribbean too? Well, then most certainly medianoches, Cubanos, black bean soup and arroz con pollo Cuban style...Jerk anything, conch chowder, conch fritters.

                        11 Replies
                          1. re: pinehurst

                            That's what we had when we had an open house for our new home... My absolute favorite by far....

                            1. re: pinehurst

                              Indeed. Good call on the chimichurri.

                              Anybody actually try their hand at preparing empanadas? I'm guessing they're a pain in da' tukhas.

                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                Here's a gringo shortcut. Take small low carb flour tortillas and press out approx. 4" circles with a can or whatever. Top with your filling- I have used flaked salmon with diced onion and red pepper flakes - moisten the edge and you will be able to get a decent crimp when you fold it. Brush with an egg wash and bake a while. Nothing authentic, but better than nothing.

                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                  A quick google brought me this:


                                  Sounds super easy. Too bad I don't care for empanadas :)

                                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                    I'm pretty sure I have made them before, but it's been a while. Here's a CHOW recipe :


                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                      I have made them. They are wonderful homemade. I did braised shredded beef and I can't remember all of the spices. Raisins. I skipped the olives. I fried them.

                                  2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                    Just out of curiosity, how close to chicken jambalaya is arroz con pollo, flavor-wise?

                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                      Jambalaya has a lot more flavor as in the spices used, and the trinity of the celery, onion & bell pepper. Most arroz con pollo has minimal spices used, maybe some sazon or even achiote used, but most dishes are not as flavorful as any Cajun prep, IMHO.

                                  3. Seafood Enchiladas with green sauce !!!

                                    12 Replies
                                    1. re: CaeAtPlay

                                      What country are they from? I've only heard of enchiladas as a Mexican food.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I wouldn't know. The person that made them was Puerto Rican but cooked any and all Latin Dishes.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Just as a point of interest, here in Guatemala an enchilada is a fried corn tortilla (tostada) topped with lettuce or cooked grated cabbage, grated pickled beets, maybe ground beef and tomato sauce, a sprinkling of queso seco, and sometimes a slice of hardboiled egg. I've also seen them with the vegetables on top of a good smear of guacamole. Messy as hell to eat, but very tasty.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            I love pickled veggies. I totally see the appeal on a fried tortilla. I think I would like it because I really love the taste of all kinds of vinegar in foods.

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              Holy moley, Joan, that looks amazing!

                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                  HA! Do you ever make this or just go out for it? That's one gorgeous picture, for sure.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    I don't make it, but my friends do. They put all the components on the table and you build your own with the ingredients you prefer. Most of the local taquerias offer some version of it. And on Sundays, when there are lots of food carts and tables set up in the park in front of the church, there are usually at least two or three families making some form of enchiladas. It's a very common snack.

                                                    1. re: JoanN

                                                      Is it too crisp to be folded? That picture (looked at it yet again!) has my stomach rumbling.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Thought I replied to this, but I guess not. It is most definitely too crisp to be folded. In fact, it's hard to keep the tostada from shattering when you first bite into it. One of a number of reasons it's so messy to eat.

                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                That looks so tasty. I find it interesting that they call it "enchilada" when there isn't any chile component

                                                1. re: seamunky

                                                  What an clever observation. Never occurred to me. In general, Guatemalans don't like spicy food. There is often a bottle of hot sauce or a homemade salsa picante somewhere within reach, but that's very much a do-it-yourself option.

                                          2. I think all of my favorites have been mentioned here except for one - Cassava/yucca fries with Caribbean shado beni garlic sauce for dipping.

                                            1. Depends which border you're talking about!

                                              I live in Canada, so my favourite south o' the Border dishes include Jambalaya, Crab Louis salads, crabcakes, Cobb salads and Philly cheesesteaks.

                                              For south of the US border favourites, I love moqueca, Peruvian seafood stews, roti, pholourie, doubles, Jamaican patties and Pina Coladas. I haven't had a proper pernil, but I've liked any pernil-ish pork I've prepared in the kitchen, using the recipes I've seen on the home cooking board.

                                              1. Peruvian lomo saltado and Colombian bandeja paisa

                                                1. Pupusas with curdito= SO divine. They are Salvadorian. I also love plantains and fried yucca.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                    1. re: seamunky

                                                      Si! Si! I have friends who make a fondue with loroco and it, too, is marvelous. Sadly, loroco isn't in season the two months a year I'm here so I don't get to have it anywhere near as often as I'd like.

                                                  1. I am very partial to Mexican food. It's hard for me to get beyond that, especially since where I live (DC area) there is a dearth of good Mexican food (there are some stellar places, but none within 40 mins to an hour of me) but a plethora of Central American and Peruvian places. I am originally from TX with dozens of great taquerías, Mexican bakeries, MX seafood places, torta stands, and more all within minutes of my home. So yep. I feel depressed about it.

                                                    Your query really covers too vast an area. I don't know where to start.

                                                    BUT: I do love pupusas and there are tons of pupusa places every where I am. I love the taste of nixtamalized corn. I love the crispy exterior and soft inside, filled with oozing, flavorful stuffing. I love curtido and have even made it at home a few times. It's all great stuff! I also always order yuca frita. Mmmmh. And I enjoy the thick Salvadoran style tortillas. I have found that some Salvadoran sopas are similar to/the same as MX caldos and I order them sometimes, too. Oh, and Salvadoran tamales are really really good! I love exploring Salvadoran cuisine. Great food!

                                                    I have liked other Latin American cuisines and Caribbean cuisines that I have tried. I love Jamaican food, love Indian influenced Trinidadian dishes. I am partial to spicy food, and go for the LA and Caribbean cuisines that offer chile heat and flavah. There is a lot to love going on south of the border.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                                      Since I've been to San Salvador more recently than my last DC spell, which parts of the metro area have the most Salvadoreños? I used to think Wheaton, but maybe not now.

                                                      1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                        They are all over, and also mixed into multiethnic neighborhoods (like mine, my neighbors are Salvadoran) but Herndon and Manassas areas are said to have the highest numbers.

                                                    2. Colombian favorites:

                                                      Ajiaco bogotano (soup - chicken, corn, potatoes, avocado)
                                                      Arepas con huevo (cornmeal cakes, egg on top)
                                                      Arroz con coco (a savory, not sweet, coconut rice)

                                                      Chilean favorites:

                                                      Pisco sour!
                                                      Empanadas de pino (spiced meat/olive/raisin pies)
                                                      Pastel de choclo ("shepherd's" pie - a top crust of sweet corn puree covering spicy chopped meat)

                                                      And beans and rice - can't get enough. As essential as water.

                                                      1. PK, whenever I click on this - and it's had some great foods mentioned, hasn't it - I see your "It's amazhing how much Mexico dominates...." But it seems perfectly reasonable to me and *I* would be amazed if it were otherwise. When you look at a map and see the shared border and the sheer size of Mexico, it seems like such a slam dunk. The other Latin American countries, with the exception of Brazil, Argentina and maybe Peru are significantly smaller and, of course, MUCH farther away. Just thought I'd toss that out :)

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Eh. Perhaps it's not so amazing then. I'm just interested in learning what's out there, culinary-wise, south and east of the big Mex.

                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                            You might want to take a look at a book called "Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America." http://www.amazon.com/Gran-Cocina-Lat...

                                                            I bought it just before leaving the US for a couple of months so have not had a chance to cook from it. But I did get to spend some time with it and looks to be an excellent book. And it's garnering almost uniformly excellent reviews.

                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                              Thank you. May have to snap that one up.

                                                        2. There are certain Mexican dishes that are staples at every restaurant. Ignoring that
                                                          facet of your question, cochinita pibil has been my greatest discovery. Had it first near Chichen Itza, want it again...and again.

                                                          1. What a fun topic, I'm really enjoying reading the responses so far.

                                                            I second (third? fourth?) the mentions of pupusas with curtido. Fabulous.

                                                            I'm also very fond of Peruvian ceviche, anticuchos, and chicha morada.

                                                            I often make Brazilian Pão de Queijo when I have bits of random leftover cheeses from a cheese plate.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: greymalkin

                                                              There's actually a Salvadoran restaurant in my city, and I've never been to it. Dadgumit, it may just be time to do so!

                                                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                Ha! That's hilarious! :) Claro que si, a mi me gustan las pupusas. Dang, now I'm hungry.

                                                              2. If we're including the non-Spanish speaking countries of the Caribbean, I'd have to include Jamaican beef patties, cod cakes, and jerk chicken on my list.

                                                                For the Latin American countries, I'll throw in:
                                                                Cuba: ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, lechon
                                                                Argentina: morcilla, empanadas, asado
                                                                Uruguay: chivito

                                                                1. Argentina - empanadas, Matambre, Sandwiches de Migas, Alfajores
                                                                  Brazil - Feijoada (I never really liked black beans until I had Feijoada), pao de quiejo
                                                                  Chile - Congrito - fried conger
                                                                  Colombia - Bandeja Paisa, Lechona, Papa Relleno, actually just about anything including Colombian chorizo - most places around here claim to make their own and I’ve never had a bad one
                                                                  Peru - Ceviche, pollo rostizado
                                                                  Venezuela - empanadas, Patacones, hallacas

                                                                  Guatemala - Kak-iq, Pepian de pollo
                                                                  Honduras - Tacos Catrachos, Baleadas.
                                                                  Nicaragua - Nacatamal, Cacao, Indio Viejo
                                                                  El Salvador - tamal de elote, riguas, curtido, tamal frito, empanada - I’m not a big fan of pupusas but I love the silken textured Salvadoran tamales, especially the tamal de elote con crema Salvadorena.. Salvadoran meat pies are called pastelitos and are nothing special in my experience but what they call an empanada - a ‘milk cream’ stuffed plantain, deep fried, is awesome.

                                                                  Cuba - Pernil, Media Noche
                                                                  Jamaica - Jerk Chicken, patties
                                                                  Puerto Rico - pasteles (Puerto Rican tamales), pernil, arroz con gandules

                                                                  General: plantanos maduros

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: brucesw

                                                                    Bloody hell. You're a walking cookbook o' the Americas!

                                                                    Lots of grist here--and in the thread, generally--for my research jones.

                                                                  2. Jerk chicken, the hotter the better.

                                                                    1. Chiles Rellenos, Chilaquiles, I used to get a very good Paella at a Cuban restaurant in Miami, Cuban Sandwiches, Fejoada,

                                                                      1. Calalloo stew from the caribbean island Kinja. Also known as King George island. Rarely see the leafs here in Florida.

                                                                        Souse from the Abacos. Chicken water, corn, hot peppers, greens. Great for the morning after.

                                                                        Another morning after remedy is pizzle water from Antigua. Various greens, green bananas, and a part of the bull that I will leave to your imagination.