Latin America is host to every kind of ecological environment imaginable: rain forests, dry forests, swamps, snow-capped mountains, active volcanoes, coral reefs, and dry plains. With this type of biodiversity, Latin American culture is riddled with delicacies that, though delicious, make you wonder how they became delicacies in the first place!
In the spirit of adventurous foodspotting, check out these acquired tastes of Latin American cuisine. Just promise you won’t knock it until you try it. From tongue to ear to corn fungus to iguana, Latin America has it all!
Just for the sake of easing you into this, let’s start with lengua, aka cow tongue! Packed with protein and vitamins, this body part, though often disregarded in the USA, is used throughout all of Latin America in recipes from stews to tacos.
Latinos do not waste food, that's for sure! We work with what we’ve got and make it delicious. Case in point: patitas. Pork feet add great flavor to whatever you cook them with. In Puerto Rico, they are commonly boiled with chickpeas and spices and served with rice. Hearty, meaty, and saucy, it’s just what the doctor ordered on a gloomy day.
Yep, grasshoppers. These tiny little guys are commonly eaten in Mexico, especially the state of Oaxaca. Available all year round, they're most popular in summer and autumn months. Crunchy, smoky, high in protein and low in fat, chapulines can be dressed up with fine cheeses, dressed down in tacos, or eaten straight up as a quick snack.
Huitlacoche, or corn smut, is a yeast-like fungus that grows on corn in Latin America. It sounds odd, and doesn't look all that appetizing, but stay with us. Huitlacoche is a delicacy in Mexico; it's preserved and often used as filling in tacos, quesadillas, and tamales.
Whether in Nicaragua, Colombia, Dominican Republic, or Puerto Rico, you can fine mondongo throughout Latin America. A rustic, stick to your ribs, feed a crowd, one-pot-wonder, this tripe stew is jam-packed with protein. Tripe isn’t all that common in the USA, but keep an open mind, this one will surprise you.
If you’ve ever been to the Caribbean, you know that iguanas are everywhere, often straddling the road, causing potentially fatal accidents. But, iguanas are also part of the Latin American diet. Usually served grilled, iguanas are not unlike alligator or crocodile meat.
Waste not, want not. Orejitas, as they are known in Latin America, are pig ears. Deep fried, pan fried, stewed, or made in escabeche, we eat these every which way. They can be a little gummy, but if cooked right, the ears are tender and succulent.
Known in English as sweetbreads, “mollejas” usually refers to chicken stomachs or other internal organs. They are commonly used throughout the Latin America in nutritious stews, rice dishes, and even turkey stuffing to give dishes an earthy taste.
Called morcilla in Spain and Puerto Rico, rellena in Colombia, prieta in Chile and even blutwurst in Germany, people enjoy blood sausage all over the world. These intestines filled with pork or beef blood, rice, and spices are served up on its own or added to beans and stews for a richer flavor.
Yes, it looks a little frightening, but once you get over the initial shock and savor the tender charred meat of cuy, you'll understand this Andean obsession! Usually prepared roasted, guinea pig is served as any pernil or roasted pork shoulder.