Here in Buenos Aires, the idea of an English-speaking expat craving for some food from his home country reminds us of the unnamed protagonist in Cormac McCarthy’s novel ‘The Road’: pushing ahead the cart of his own misery through a grim wasteland, trying to score a paltry tin of peanut butter on the shelves of a stormed supermarket.
Maple syrup on your pancakes, vinegar-flavoured Kettle crisps, mature cheddar cheese, cider, tea bags, gravy, mustard, HP sauce, Heinz baked beans, Marmite, Vegemite, Worcestershire sauce or Lucky Charms…
How many times have you ever dreamed of them, while staring at a half-eaten empanada forgotten in a dark corner of your fridge?
Thou shalt not despair in this ‘hostile’ foreign land, nor listen to rumors spreading panic among the expat population: at the Argentina Independent we have made a vow of holding your hands and guiding you through the desert, never letting go.
That’s why we’ve rounded up a few of the best options in town for your nostalgic shopping. May the midnight homesickness of your guts be cured.
Located in the posh neighborhood of Recoleta, this tiny Italian-style deli is the stereotypical “hidden gem” of the city. Unknown to many, Reale Productos Gourmet has so far revealed itself to only a few lucky initiates.
Shop assistants welcome you with a finely-cut slice of jamon Serrano and, though its import is now theoretically banned, they assure you that “God will always find a way…”
Did we mention maple syrup, ey? Here you will find the pure one, imported from Quebec, coming in at $180 for a big glass bottle and $96 for a small Brien one.
Besides the classic items you can find almost everywhere (peanut butter – known as ‘pasta de maní’ here in Argentina – and Maille mustard), they also sell Alwadi hummus, sweet mango chutney, coconut milk, tartar sauce, black bean garlic sauce, basmati rice and smoked salmon.
Check out the seasoned $12-per-100g cheddar cheese and the varied ham and bacon range. Real absinth and Illy Coffee liqueur are also available there, on the shelves – a ray of light in the dark.
A similar variety of wonders are on sale also at Valenti, a branch specialising in Italian hams and cheeses but wise enough to have Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce and Ponti balsamic glaze to go with them.
Tucked in the heart of Palermo, a few blocks from Plaza Italia and Plaza Serrano, Malambo is the kind of high-class deli and wine shop you’d expect your rich grandmother to do her shopping.
Given the circumstances, though, this fascinating corner shop has become a lifesaver for any expat jam-packing the neighbourhood.
Despite its pricey appearance it turns out to be quite affordable. The staff speak English and the service is incredible. They consistently have products like Campbell’s soup, Tabasco and a few other goodies like Maille mustard, Twinings teas, and the classic Heinz ketchup, A1 sauce (for just $22) and all kinds of cheese, including a rare Provolone Magnasco.
The alcohol rack will make you shed some tear of joy: a real bottle of Baileys, black Sambuca, angostura, 12-year-old Highland Park Scotch or the most classic Whyte & Mackay.
Astoundingly, they also have Heringsfilets Richter for our Scandinavian followers and really good imported chocolates.
Nearby, the famous organic shop Nonna Sapori (Borges 1805) also sells a few foreign delicacies such as an affordable $12 couscous, peanut butter, chutney and Caesar salad dressing.
Malambo, Thames 2098, Palermo
If you’re looking for imported luxuries, the chaotic and small Barrio Chino should be your number one stop.
Ichiban is perhaps the most famous supermarket found there, where people from every ethnic background join the queues with carts so full of Asian and western products you’d think they had to survive the longest winter of famine.
Here you can find shady brands of peanut butter, Heinz ketchup, Maille Mustard, Tabasco sauce, (almost real) Feta cheese, ketchup-flavoured kettle crisps (if you’re lucky), smoked salmon-flavoured Philadelphia, Coleman’s mustard powder in 1/2kg tubs and even wasabi for your sushi.
Although the mood is a completely different one from the smaller shops mentioned above, the cheapness of it all makes the shopping frenzy even more exciting.
Arribeños 2225, Barrio Chino, Belgrano
We love take away, don’t we? As our sister blog pickupthefork suggests, there are websites at hand where hungover foodies can order 1Lb packs of American style bacon (Baines Best Bacon) or bagels as though they were still in New York City (Quiero Bagel).
And since a friend from the US recently told us the thing she was missing more and more from home was enchiladas and tacos, we thought we’d include where to rekindle your love of Tex-Mex food too.
Panchovilla Tortillas is perfect for great corn and flour tortillas, black beans and Mexican hot salsas. For similar cravings, you better check out El Tejano’s page, the master of Tex-Mex homemade salsas, and Itacate, providing Mexican products and catering services.
Last, but not least, your local grocery store – how could we not mention supermarkets in this crazy globalised world?
Despite the protectionism regime getting stricter, and despite stocks sometimes get tied up in customs for months, something still arrives across the ocean – including the long-awaited jars of Nutella spread.
Although our first piece of advice would always be to check the expiration date on everything, most of the things you’ll find on the shelves are good to go.
Jumbo’s international section has been known to carry Dr. Pepper, Cranberry juice, decent hard taco shells and other randomly imported items. According to blog rumors on BA Expat, the small Carrefour on Austria and Beruti also carries a good variety of imported items.
Still randomly available at Disco and Carrefour are De Cecco pastas from Italy, La Costena jalapenos and black beans, Heinz ketchup, French mustard actually from France and Mamminger gherkins from Germany.
The suggestion is therefore, check your local supermarkets first before spreading your wallets wide open in more expensive deli shops.
Last, but not least, bad news for all British and Australian fans of Marmite and Vegemite: “the black substance with the consistency of bilge oil scraped from the bottom of a brewery vat”, as it’s described somewhere on the internet, is almost impossible to find.
Those who dared ask for it in expats’ blogs received these kinds of answers: “Te gusta el vegemite, en serio????”