Argentina’s smoky style
For the people of Argentina the very idea of the gas barbecue found in so many Kiwi backyards is almost repulsive.
What’s the point of scorching a few snarlers and meat patties on a smokeless grill?
As El Sizzling Chorizo head chef Alejandro Garcia says ‘‘the magic is in the smoke’’.
El Sizzling Chorizo opened in Ponsonby Central in 2012.
In Argentina these restaurants are commonplace, casual places where families get together. The focus is straightforward – it’s all about meat.
‘‘The most important thing is how long you cook the beef and what kind of beef it is,’’ Mr Garcia says.
‘‘The wood is important too because the most flavour comes from the smoke and the smoke is the secret.
‘‘So you need really good wood and a really good, slow cooking time.’’
When cooked, beef and lamb are sprayed with a brine of salt and water while chicken and pork get a solution of lemon juice and water.
A herby chimichurri sauce accompanies everything.
But the simplicity does not translate to ease. It’s hard work because a fire has to be lit at 8am and kept burning until closing some 14 hours later. Some cuts can take up to six hours of cooking.
‘‘You can find this kind of place everywhere in Argentina,’’ manager Mariano Bavassa says.
‘‘These places are for the casual people, for anyone.’’
The barbecues, or asado, are also popular in Argentinian homes and become the focus of gatherings.
‘‘You start with a glass of wine and hanging out around the barbecue with friends.
‘‘It’s the same concept as a hangi – family and time.’’
Fire pit: The barbecue or asado – a charcoal enthusiast’s dream.
Magic smoke: El Sizzling Chorizo head chef Alejandro Garcia.