In Australia, we take barbecues pretty seriously. It might look like the simple act of grilling meat, but not being able to work a barbie is like not being able to tell your Nick Riewoldt from your Nick Farr-Jones, or not playing two-up on Anzac Day: unAustralian.
Things on the Aussie barbie front might have progressed lately from the old sausage in bread to fancy schmancy products like haloumi, but the central tenant is the same: we know how to barbecue.
At least, I used to think so. Then I went to Argentina.
Now, these guys know their way around fire and meat. Think you’re going to get away with a gas barbie in Argentina? No chance. It’s hot coals all the way, not even flames will do the trick.
It’s one thing to get a good steak at a restaurant, but you can almost guarantee that every backyard in Argentina is serving up better meat than you’ll find in Oz.
I had my first proper backyard asado at my mate Nick’s house in Mendoza. Nick’s garden houses the same pyramid-shaped brick apparatus you’ll find at every self-respecting Argentinean’s place: the asado.
It’s big, it’s ugly, and it’s not the kind of thing you’ll be able to lug down to the park to grill some souvlaki on on a weekend. It does, however, do amazing things to meat.
First things first: start the fire. This is done with newspaper, kindling, and some wood bought from the local servo. While Nick plays the waiting game as it burns down to hot coals, he grabs the meat – giant slabs of beef bought from the butcher around the corner – and douses them in special “parilla” salt.
With the coals ready to go, he scrapes a few of them under the grill, then slaps on the steaks. It’s a long process – the steaks slow-cook for 20 minutes or so – but the results…
Nick slices the meat on a wooden board sprinkled with chopped herbs and red wine, then dishes little bits out to everyone in the backyard as they hit perfect eating temperature. They’re salty, smoky, herbacious and meaty. In other words: freaken awesome.
Give up Aussies, we’ve got nothing. The Argies are the Barbecue Kings.