An asado in Argentina is not so much a dish as a feast; in fact, not so much a feast as a fiesta. Asado – traditional Argentinian barbecue – is a meat-fest that is always shared among friends, used as a reason to get together, a reason to celebrate. It's about family, and friends, and most importantly of all, it's about steak. You can expect the wood-fired "parrilla" grills at any Argentinian asado to be loaded up with a progressive, groaning feast of chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage), sweetbreads, short-ribs, sirloin, skirt steak, rib-eye and more, all served with chimichurri. And maybe a small salad.
Argentina owes its asado heritage to a mix of traditional Mapuche cooking culture native to the country's south, as well as to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, in particular the Basque migrants who came to farm and who brought with them their berets – now the traditional headwear of the Argentinian gauchos, or cowboys – their cattle-herding skills, and their love of fire-roasted meats.
The best asados in Argentina are served in people's homes, where an entire day is made of the cooking and consumption of truly frightening amounts of meat. For visitors to the likes of Buenos Aires, meanwhile, there are almost innumerable "parrillas", or grill restaurants, serving asados. Check out BA steak havens such as Lo de Jesus (lodejesus.com.ar), La Cabrera (lacabrera.com.ar), and Don Julio (parrilladonjulio.com).
There's sensational Argentinian barbecue – as well as an extensive list of local malbec wine to pair it with – at San Telmo, as well as its sister restaurants Palermo and Asado, in Melbourne (santelmo.com.au).
ONE MORE THING
Though the Argentinian asado has its roots in Basque culture, the modern-day residents of northern Spain will tell you that their southern-hemisphere compatriots seriously overcook their meat. Beef in Argentina is cooked "low and slow", all the way through – if you'd like your steak a little rarer when you visit a parrilla, ask for "jugoso" (juicy), or "muy jugoso" (very juicy).