One continent. So much flavor. South America holds so many cultures within all of its twelve countries. Although most of the countries situated in the continent are Hispanic/Latin, there are other cultures that have influenced their way of living and culture.  From Italian influence in Argentina to Portuguese influence in Brazil, it's no surprise that there's so much variety in South American cuisine. Whether you're a student studying abroad or a world traveler, to make sure you get the best out of your experience, here's a guide to the one dish you should try at these South American countries.

1) Colombia: Bandeja Paisa

Bandeja Paisa

Chun's Pictures on Flickr

Bandeja paisa is the most popular dish in Colombia. Having this is a no brainer. It has everything you could possibly want to try in one plate: beans, rice, chicharron, plantains, a fried egg, arepa, and meat. You may need a partner to devour this with.

2) Argentina: Parillada

Parrillada mixta @Camino Canary Wharf

eatingeast on Flickr

Argentina is known for its renowned meat. Cows are purely grass-fed and plentiful throughout the country (there's actually more cows than people). It would be a sin to go to Argentina and not have meat. A parillada varies in different restaurants and places, but is simply grilled meat, usually an assortment. Don't forget to drench it with chimichurri.

3) Peru: Aji de Gallina

File:Ají de gallina 02052010.JPG

Image from WikiCommons

I'm a little biased on this one because of my Peruvian heritage. Aji de gallina is the most traditional dish made in in households all over Peru. It's essentially stripped chicken with rice and potatoes covered in a spicy creamy sauce made with special yellow aji peppers. It's a basic dish served in nearly all Peruvian restaurants. No one makes it better than my Abuela though.

4) Brazil: Feijoada


obvio171 on Flickr

A mixture of black beans and pork or beef chunks. Usually served with white rice or greens on the side. This dish was created by slaves in the 1800s with the scraps that they were given by plantation owners. Now, it's turned into the national dish and is typically enjoyed at family gatherings.

5) Ecuador: Ceviche


stephen velasco on Flickr

The origin of ceviche has always been debated between Peruvians and Ecuadorians. However, the two countries prepare them in their own unique ways. The seafood in Ecuadorian ceviche is usually cooked, less spicy, and served in bowls because of its soup-like juices.

6) Chile: Pastel de Choclo

File:Pastel de choclo.jpg

Image from WikiCommons

Similar to a corn casserole, but nothing beats choclo, a sweet corn found in Andean regions. The choclo is mashed into a puree, seasoned, and baked. Different meats, usually ground beed, is added. 

7) Venezuela: Arepas

Shredded Beef Arepa - Cruzao Arepa Bar AUD9

avlxyz on Flickr

Another dubious origin. Arepas are common in both Colombia and Venezuela, but typically prepared differently. The main difference being that Venezuelan arepas are usually stuffed with meats or other toppings. The variety of fillings is what makes it such a popular choice. Arepas are found all over restaurants and street vendors in Venezuela and the U.S. as well.

8) Bolivia: Picante de Pollo

Pollo Picante (or Picante Pollo?)

secretlondon123 on Flickr

Considered the national dish, picante de pollo is simply translated to spicy chicken. So basic, but so traditional. You can't go wrong with a simple chicken dish prepared with Bolivian spices.

9) Uruguay: Gnocchi

File:Happy 29th in Uruguay, with gnocchi.jpg

Image from WikiCommons

An Uruguayan professor I had once told us about the significance of gnocchi to the country. The 29th of the month is considered gnocchi day because by the end of the month, money is considered low, so a simple pasta made of potato, flour, and egg is optimal. 

10) Guyana: Pepper Pot


FlySi on Flickr

Caribbean influences are evident in this seasonal dish. Pepper pot is one of the most traditional Guyanese dishes – typically eaten around Christmas. It consists of a beefy stew with Caribbean peppers and a sauce made from cassava root. This would be your best bet if you're looking for the most authentic dish.

If you ever to travel to South America, you know what to do now. Get out of your comfort zone and get what the locals are having. With any of these dishes, you know you're having the most traditional, popular dish in these countries.