The other day, as my mom told me about all the great food she ate that weekend, I felt incredibly jealous and homesick. She started talking to me about Bolivian food, and how she found a group of Bolivian friends in Nicaragua who prepare the dishes that I miss so much from my country.
Yet, aside from the slight moment of depression, my mind suddenly payed attention to the names of our traditional dishes. In particular, I suddenly realized that some of the names are really funny and have nothing to do with the concept of the actual dish.
Then I thought this couldn't possibly be an isolated case in Bolivia, so I decided to do a little research and ask some of my friends from different Latin American countries to see what we could come up with. I was not disappointed by the results.
Pique Macho (Bolivia)
This is probably one of my favorite dishes from Bolivia; there is not a visit that I pay to my country when I don't eat this delicious dish.
According to my sister, legend has it that a group of workers, who were really hungry and drunk, went to this restaurant really late at night. The owner said that she had no food to give them because she was already closing. The workers, however, insisted, so the owner went on to chop what she had left of ingredients in the kitchen and served them with really spicy "Locotos" (hot peppers) in order to help with their drunkenness.
She then said "Piquen si son Machos," which can be translated to "eat if you think you're men enough." This is how the name came up, and I have to say that it could not be more accurate. Pique Macho is served in huge portions, but it's usually up to the person whether they want to make it spicy or not.
In my personal opinion, however, I would not be making this food any justice if I didn't have some Locotos spread all over the place. All in all, Pique Macho is just a combination of slices of steak, french fries, boiled eggs, sausages, green and red peppers, and tomatoes. It doesn't get any better than that.
Gallo Pinto (Nicaragua)
There is nothing more Nicaraguan than Gallo Pinto. If you've ever been to Nicaragua but did not eat Gallo Pinto, then you didn't get the full Nicaraguan experience. The word "Gallo" means "rooster" and "Pinto" is just an adjective that they added on to it.
When I first heard about this dish, I thought that it included an actual rooster. But Gallo Pinto is nothing more than a combination of rice and beans seasoned with onions, peppers, and salt. People in Nicaragua from all economic strata eat Gallo Pinto almost daily, and I can't blame them.
You would think that the dish is quite boring and basic, but it's the simplicity that makes it so damn good. Eat it with fried cheese, fried eggs, and tostones, and you'll show your palate something good.
There are two different versions to the story of how the Chimichanga actually came to be. One of them tells the story of the owner of a restaurant in Arizona who supposedly dropped a burrito into a vat of hot oil by accident. When he saw what happened, he went on to say a Spanish swear, but said "Chimichanga" instead.
The other version tells the story of another chef in Arizona who put unsold burritos into the deep fryer and sold them as "toasted monkeys." The conclusion was that "Chimichanga" meant "toasted monkeys."
Regardless of which version we choose to believe, I think we can all agree that the name of this traditional Tex-Mex dish is nothing short of witty in its simplicity. Furthermore, there is not one traditional recipe for this dish, and this is because the Chimichanga is nothing more than a deep-fried burrito. And I think that we all know how to assemble a good burrito, so I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
Pupusas (El Salvador)
There is great controversy as to where the Pupusa finds its origin. Some people say that it comes from El Salvador, others say it comes from Honduras. People from both countries consume Pupusas wildly, but I was first introduced to Pupusas as a Salvadoran traditional dish.
There is nothing uncommon with the name, except that your mouth makes a funny noise when you say it over and over again (don't judge me). Pupusas are made of thick, handmade corn tortillas, and they are commonly prepared with a variety of fillings. Some of them are filled with a blend of cheese, refried beans and chicharron (pork), while others are filled with quesillo (soft cheese found throughout Central America).
It's not a dish on its own, but an Argentinian sauce with a witty name. The thing that I like the most about this word is that the pronunciation of it varies according to where the person comes from. This is because the "rri" sound at the end is different in almost every country in Latin America.
Chimichurri is an uncooked sauce used for grilled meat, but people don't limit its consumption to meat, because one can literally put it on anything. It is made of parsley, garlic, vegetable oil, oregano and white vinegar. This sauce complements Argentinian beef to a whole new level. There is not a steak restaurant in Latin America where Chimichurri is not present on the table.
Ropa Vieja (Cuba)
"Ropa Vieja" literally means "old clothes." Rumor has it that the name of this dish came from a poor man who had to feed his family but had no food or money. Therefore, he took his old clothes and shredded them in order to cook them; as he prayed over the concoction, a miracle occurred and the clothes turned into a meat stew.
The dish in itself consists of shredded beef cooked with onions, peppers, garlic, etc. and it is usually served with white rice, black beans, and fried plantains. I'm already drooling.
Hormigas Culonas (Colombia)
I don't know if I can literally translate the name of this dish, but it sort of means "fried big-butt ants." I had never heard of this dish before I started doing my research a few days ago, and I was as surprised and amused as you guys are.
These ants have wings, and in order to cook them, one has to take the wings off and sort of tear the ants apart in order to stay with the ants' butts at the end. The butts are then toasted in a pan with a little salt and that's it. I want to say that I would be brave enough to try them if the opportunity ever came up, but you never know. I think this is one of the few cases where the name of the food matches the concept of the food itself.
Scratched your head at least once, folks? I know I did. But do not think for a second that this is the end of it, we're barely scratching the surface here. There are so many dishes with really weird names out there that I can't mention because I don't even know how to describe them. Just remember to keep an open mind whenever you visit a Latin American country, because the names might throw you off, but I assure you that the food won't.