Chinese cuisine is becoming increasingly popular with Argentines in Buenos Aires.
“Barrio Chino” (Chinatown) is no longer the only place where you can get access to Asian or Chinese food. Almost everywhere in Buenos Aires, it is possible to get easy access to Chinese food (although it may not always meet my standard because most Chinese food here is customized for the Argentine palette and taste buds.)
Barrio Chino in Buenos Aires
In recent years, small Chinese restaurants have sprouted all over Buenos Aires.
This increase in Chinese restaurants is partly due to the fact that many Chinese immigrants have uprooted from China and migrated to Argentina in hopes of seeking a higher economic status, mostly through setting up “super Chinos”, or Chinese supermarkets (which sell Argentine groceries but are owned and run by Chinese. As of 2009, there were reportedly around 60,000 Chinese Argentines (Chinese with Argentine citizenship or residency).
The Chinese in Argentina came mostly in two waves, according to Wikipedia. The first wave of immigrants arrived from Taiwan in the 1980s and over the years, they have become accustomed to the porteño (referring to people born in Buenos Aires) lifestyle. The second wave came in the 1990s, hailing mostly from Fujian Province. This group is filled with young drifters who came often through the illegal smuggling route originating in Fujian Province.
Recently, there has been a third and newer wave of Chinese immigration who are mostly ambitious and educated members of China’s growing middle-class who are looking to find their place in China’s growing economy. Young employees of Chinese companies have recently arrived to work for at least two years. Today, many Chinese Argentines usually run “supermercados chinos” (Chinese supermarkets), which dominate the second tier of grocery stores in Buenos Aires. Tintorerías (Dry Cleaners) for laundry are also a common Chinese-run business and Chinese restaurants can be found on nearly every street corner.
This large presence of Chinese Argentines and Chinese restaurants in Buenos Aires has led to a larger acceptance of Chinese food by the Buenos Aires locals (who are predominantly of Spanish and Italian descent) who until recently have not been very open to foreign cuisine. As a result of this awareness of Chinese cuisine, there are a few main dishes which have become very popular and are often ordered by the Porteños for delivery or eaten in Chinese restaurants.
At my office, we order Chinese food delivery on a weekly basis, and my colleagues always order the same dishes – Chau Fan (fried rice), Chau Mien (fried noodles), Arrolladitas Primavera (spring rolls), Arrolladitas de Carne (spring rolls with beef instead of vegetables), Pollo Kong Pau (Kong Pau chicken), and a form of Chop Suey (a mix of stir-fried meat and vegetables).
To be honest, I never heard of Chop Suey before coming to Argentina.
I suppose we might have some variant of Chop Suey in Singapore with a different name, like “Stir-Fried XXX”. So you can imagine that I was pretty surprised to find out that Chop Suey was very popular among the Porteños (especially since I had no idea what it meant!).
It is actually a really easy and relatively cheap dinner option, since only the meat is expensive (vegetables are pretty cheap here). And, honestly, it’s a quick fix once you have all your ingredients chopped up and ready to use. Plus, stir-frying is one of my favorite ways to cook since its quick and makes use of my beloved wok.
For all the reasons stated above, I decided to whip up this miracle dish for dinner last night (plus the fact that we had extra beef in the refrigerator). It turned out pretty well, so here’s how you can make it too!
BEEF CHOP SUEY (Serves 4)
1) 1kg of beef tenderloin
2) 1 large onion
3) 1 red bell pepper
4) 1 green bell pepper
5) 2 medium tomatoes
6) 2 carrots
7) Soy sauce and salt to taste
1) Cut beef into small cubes
2) Chop onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and carrots into small pieces
3) Stir-fry cubed beef in a wok for a few minutes until brown, then set aside
4) Stir-fry onions and carrots until carrots are slightly soft
5) Add in chopped bell peppers and stir-fry until peppers are cooked
6) Add in tomatoes and mix
7) Add in browned beef and mix well, pouring in soy sauce and salt to taste
8) Serve hot with a side a rice