Much of India has grown up admiring Maradona and Messi, but beyond that – because Indians rarely travel to South America even now – the cuisine of Argentina has been largely an unknown quantity to us. To showcase the best of this ‘exotic’ fare, Daniel Godoy, Executive Chef at Alvear Art Hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is in India to collaborate with the Taj Hotels group.

 The Argentine Food Festival is hosted by Machan, Taj Mahal hotel, on Mansingh Road in central Delhi, from September 23 to 26. In Mumbai, the Argentine Food Festival runs from September 27 to October 2 at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel, near the Gateway of India.

 The Argentine promotion at Machan spans both the lunch buffet and dinner. The special dishes presented at the lunch buffet are marked by an Argentina flag. For dinner, there is an a la carte menu with some dishes that overlap with the lunch buffet.

Our general impression of Argentine food is that it is very meat-heavy and that beef figures in every meal in Argentina. This turns out to be partial ignorance. The food festival does include beef and lamb – filet mignon is a part of the a la carte menu, and the lunch buffet includes lamb empanada and lamb chop, the latter praised highly by red meat lovers. At the same time, there is an exceptionally good, flavourful quinoa and forest mushroom risotto. Brought specially from Argentina, the ingredients are mote corn, red, white and black quinoa mixed with assorted cherry tomatoes (black, red, yellow and green) and lime vinaigrette.

There is also a lovely humita (fresh corn, pumpkin, onion, red bell peppers, paprika from Cachi in Argentina, and fresh goat cheese crumbles), sort of an Argentina version of the more familiar hummus, with the South American staple corn replacing the Mediterranean staple chickpea.

“The array of [Argentine] flavours is mainly oriented around corn, cumin, lime and beans, and all of them are being used at this food festival,” says Chef Daniel Godoy. Incidentally, the empanada, though fried – it can also be baked – is not artery-choking, as the cooking medium for this Argentine food festival is pomace olive oil.

A forest mushroom escabeche, served as a canapé, is a tiny thing that holds its own against the showpiece dishes, its distinctive flavour demanding that you take time to savour the taste.

The a la carte desserts section includes the Alvear special mille feuille, the famous French puff pastry. The lunch dessert, a crème caramel, tastes different from the tried-and-tested variety for its ‘three milk vanilla’, in which vanilla and coconut milk flavours are predominant. Also in the desserts is a sweet ‘kebab’, a skewered cube of jelly decorated with a sculptural display of cream and red jelly.

The Delhi leg of the Argetine Food Festival shows that this cuisine has been received very well in India. No wonder, as people in both the countries are happy to bond over eating. As Godoy says, “[In Argentina, dinner at home is generally viewed as a symbol of friendship, warmth and integration.”

To complete the mood, the Argentine Food Festival in Delhi was inaugurated with a tango performance and Argentine diplomats in Delhi set up a ‘collectibles’ counter.

Address: Machan, Taj Mahal hotel, Mansingh Road, Delhi (Sept 23 to Sept 26, 2014); Taj Mahal Palace hotel, Gateway of India, Mumbai (Sept 27 to Oct 2, 2014)
Contact: +91-11-2302-6162 (Machan, Delhi); +91-22-6665-3366 (Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai)
Cost for two: Rs 5,000 (approx)