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Fast Food of the World. Part III – South & Central America & Mexico.

March 21, 2016 · 5 Comments

Here is the third post of a series we called “Fast Food Around The World”. Today we will take a look at what do people in South and Central Americas and in Mexico eat on the streets. Again, this is not a scientific research and we don’t pretend to list every food in every country. So if you have something interesting to add or if we have made some mistakes, please do not hesitate to comment and share your thoughts.

The countries and foods are arranged in no particular order.


There are plenty of minutas or snacks to choose from. The lomito is a sandwich filled with a juicy slice of steak, often made with pan arabe while the chivito is made with a less tender cut. Other street food includes the choripan, South America’s version of the hot-dog, but made with spicy pork sausages (chorizos), and at cafes a popular snack is the tostado, a toasted cheese-and-ham sandwich, sometimes called a carlitos. Barrolucas are beef and cheese sandwiches, a local variant on the cheeseburger, named after a Chilean president, and very popular in western Argentina, around Mendoza. Empanadas are small pies filled with all types of filling, although ham, cheese and meat are the most popular. During the week before Easter special empanadas are filled with tuna or cod. Milanesas – thin breaded meat, similar to a German schnitzel.

Other street food include garrapinadas, locro, pastelitos, chipas.












In Brazil you can find food everywhere.

  • Acaraje – Black-eye pea cake deep fried in palm oil, then filled with dried shrimp topped with coconut, cashews, garlic, more shrimp and hot pepper sauce
  • Abara – A banana-leaf-steamed Acaraje.
  • Bolinho de Estudante – A dry tapioca pressed into shape, grilled then rolled in cinamon sugar.
  • Pao de Queijo – Savory cheese puffs that goes perfectly with coffee.
  • Pastel de Carne. Fried, filled pasty.
  • Empada or empadinha is a small pie, which has various fillings such as carne (meat), palmito (palm heart), cheese and camarao (shrimp)
  • Kibe – Arabic snack made from deep fried whole-wheat surrounding a spicy ground beef center.
  • Coxinha – Spiced chicken rolled in manioc dough and then fried. There is also version with a drumstick.
  • Bolinho de Aipim – Deep-fried cassava dough with a ground beef center.
  • Cachorro Quente – A variation of the hotdog: bread, hot dog link, tomato paste with onions and peppers, then optionals: corn, string potatoes, parmesan.
  • Esfiha – A tri-folded pizza of Arabic origin – savory pastry stuffed with spiced meat
  • Churros – Deep fried dough filled with doce de leite. Then rolled in cinnamon sugar.
  • Misto Quente – Ham and cheese sandwich, made with stringy mozzarella.
  • X-Tudo – Double cheeseburger with: bacon, fried egg, sausage, pulled chicken, string potatoes, etc.
  • Pastel de Forno – Oven baked folded pie with various flavor fillings.
  • Bolinho de Bacalhau – Cod fish cake in ball format.



Some of the Chilean street food:

  • Empanada de Pino – typical turnover filled with diced meat, onions, olive, raisins and a piece of hard-boiled egg, baked in earthen or plain oven.
  • Empanada de Queso – turnover filled with cheese.
  • Parrillada – different kinds of meat, sausages and sometimes entrails grilled over charcoal and served with potato salad or rice.

Chilean sandwiches:

  • Aliado – ham and cheese sandwich.
  • Ave Mayo – diced chicken meat and mayonnaise.
  • Ave Palta – diced chicken meat and mashed avocado.
  • Ave Pimienta – diced chicken meat and red pepper.
  • Barros Jarpa – grilled cheese and ham on white bun.
  • Barros Luco – grilled cheese and meat on white bread.
  • Chacarero – sliced meat, green beans, chili and tomatoes.
  • Churrasco – beef sandwich.
  • Churrasco con Tomate – thin sliced meat and slices of tomato on white bun.
  • Churrasco con Palta – thin sliced meat, mashed avocado on white bun.
  • Completo – hot dog with all kinds of trimmings: mayonnaise, tomatoes, onions, dilled pickles sauerkraut, etc.
  • Especial – hot dog with tomatoes.
  • Italiano – hot dog with avocado, tomatoes and mayonnaise.
  • Hamburguesa – hamburger patty. It isn’t always served between buns.
  • Lomito Completo – sliced pork meat with sauerkraut, mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup.



Bandeja Paisa. A huge mixture of food on more of a platter than a plate, it consists of grilled steak, fried pork rind, chorizo sausages, on a bed of rice and red beans that is then topped with a fried egg and a sliced avocado and sweet banana (chips). It is arguably the national dish of Colombia.

Bunuelos. Are popular ball shaped fritters and eaten as a snack in many South American countries. The Colombian version is made with dough of curd of white cheese that get fried until golden brown. It is a typical Christmas dish in Colombia.

Empanadas. It is a stuffed pastry that can either be sweet or savory. The savory Colombian empanadas are filled with beef, chicken and/or cheese as well as with rice and coriander. Compared to the Chilean or Argentinean empanadas they are not baked but fried.

Patacones. Green plantains squashed into thick pancakes that are deep fried in vegetable oil until golden brown.

Quesillos. Double cream cheese wrapped in banana leaves.




Bolivian food relies heavily on just a few ingredients such as potatoes, corn, and beef. These are staples of the bolivian diet and found in the majority of dishes in some form or another.

Saltena – Saltenas are the ultimate Bolivian snack food. They are extremely similar to the empanada, but include fillings such as chicken or beef with potatoes, chives, peas, carrots, raisins, chile peppers, or rice. Sometimes they’re sweetened.

Chicharron – This dish favored across the Andes combines small chunks of fried, fatty pork with boiled corn. It’s most often served in small bags in the street.

Humitas – little balls of corn dough, stuffed with cheese and then wrapped in a corn or banana leaf before being steamed.

Charqui – dried meat fried and served with corn and cheese. Various forms and preparations of charqui exist in the Andes and the meat of animals such as llamas, cows, pigs, and horses may be used.

Empanadas – Bolivian empanadas are little bread rolls full of cheese or cheese and onions and other ingredients.


Costa Rica

Sandwiches & Snacks – there’s a large variety of tasty little sandwiches and snacks available on the street, at snack bars, and in sodas. Arreglados are little meat-filled sandwiches, as are tortas, which are served on little rolls with a bit of salad tucked into them. Tacos, tamales, gallos, and empanadas also are quite common





Fondas are one of the most popular places to grab a meal on the go. These small kiosk-type restaurants serve their food from glass boxes heated by a light bulb. Most, if not all of the food served in fondas are fried – rice, hojaldres, pork chunks, empanadas. Fondas also serve a soup called sancocho. Sancocho is a type of chicken soup flavoured with onion and cilantro.

An abundance of street food can be found during Panama’s many festivals. On every street corner you will find someone selling anything from chunks of pineapple to barbecued sausages. One of the common foods is carne en palito (meat on a stick). Brochetas are another street snack. These shish kabobs feature either beef or chicken and pieces of green pepper and onion are alternated on the stick.


All over Peru, but particularly in the large towns and cities, you’ll find a good variety of traditional fast foods and snacks such as salchipapas (fries with sliced sausage covered in various sauces), anticuchos (a shish kebab made from marinated lamb or beef heart – anticucho de corazon) and empanadas (meat- or cheese-filled pies). These are all sold on street corners until late at night. The most popular sweets in Peru are made from either manjar blanco (sweetened condensed milk) or fresh fruits.






Arepas (round, flat buns made of corn dough) are available in different types: filled with chicken, different sorts of cheese, egg, etc.

Empanadas are usually filled with cheese, chicken, shark meat, beans, etc. They are a common snack especially at the beach.

Perro caliente (hot dog): a common snack for the local people.

Hamburguesas (hamburger) cannot be compared to the hamburgers made by the well-known fast food chains. You can order them with whatever you like such as fried egg, sausage, bacon, meat, onions and a big selection of sauces.


Mexican street tacos are called “the most democratic of Mexican foods.” The term taco itself comes from a Spanish word meaning “light snack”, the taco is simply a tortilla wrapped around a filling.

There are differences in the type of tortillas used. Generally, the northern Mexican grilled meat tacos are wrapped in flour tortillas while corn tortillas dominate in the south. The size of the tortillas also vary, small corn tortillas being the most common, with white corn tortillas preferred over the yellow ones for tacos. The large majority of tacos are made with soft tortillas, the exception being tacos dorados, which are fried until crispy.

Tacos are either a morning treat or a nighttime snack. Morning tacos:

Tacos de Canasta or “basket” tacos are the only tacos not prepared on the spot. They are made at home, wrapped in layers of cloth and paper to keep warm, and tucked into baskets. Sold from doorways, small stalls and even bicycles.

Tacos de Barbacoa are most commonly found in the central part of the country. The filling for these tacos is traditionally prepared by wrapping sheep, lamb or goat meat in maguey leaf linings, called pencas.

Tacos de Cabeza, literally meaning “head tacos”. The head of a steer was steamed all night, the bones and gristle removed in the morning, and the meat shredded and stirred with its broth. You choose the type of meat that includes sesos (brains), oreja (ear meat) and lengua (tongue) among others. Toppings for tacos de cabeza are chopped onions and chopped cilantro and red or green salsa.

Nighttime tacos:

Tacos al Pastor. Literally meaning “shepherd’s-style tacos”, most are made with thinly sliced pork, marinated in herbs and spices, and stacked on a vertical spit in the form of a trompo, with the narrow end on the bottom and a slice of pineapple at the top.

Tacos de Carnitas. These tacos are made from pork that has been cut up and cooked in lard with orange rind, which gives the carnitas deep golden brown color. The different “porky parts” are displayed in a glass case resembling an aquarium and kept warm by a heat lamp.

Tacos al Carbon. Also called tacos de carne asada, the meat is grilled over mesquite coals by taqueros who sometimes wear white uniforms and chef’s caps. Thin slices of beef are grilled quickly, removed to the chopping block, cut up and stuffed into tortillas.

Tacos de Fritangas are tacos made with fried meat. Suadero (fried breast bone meat), chorizo and longaniza are among the most popular fried meats for these tacos. Machitos (lamb testicles) and moronga (blood sausage) are also offered.

Tacos de Cazuela. The cazuela is the clay pot in which Mexican guisados, or stews, are cooked. Offerings may include guisados of beef, lamb, pork, goat, chicken, duck or turkey. Vegetables such as nopales, mushrooms, and squash blossoms are often found in the guisados.

Tacos Dorados, also called taquitos or flautas, these differ from other kinds of tacos in that they are rolled around a filling and fried until hard, rather than being made with soft tortillas folded around the filling. Tacos dorados are usually filled with shredded, cooked chicken or beef. They are topped with shredded lettuce, salsa, crema and grated cheese.

Tacos de Pescado. These are the popular “fish tacos” of Baja California and the Pacific coast. Batter-dipped and fried filets are served in a choice of corn or wheat tortillas.

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 erich // May 28, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    i´m proud of our venezuelan fast food. So tasty

  • 2 Arcan3 // May 28, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    This article fails to show the real Venezuelan Fast food.

  • 3 william haddad // May 29, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    abriu meu apetite estou com fome hummmmmmmmmmmmm delicius all

  • 4 Alicia // May 30, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Mexico is part of North america, and also our fast food isnt just tacos we have plenty of food here, like chilaquiles, enchiladas, sopes, gorditas, tlayudas, tamales, churros and much much more, do some research

  • 5 Bia // Jun 7, 2009 at 1:03 am

    I´m from Brasil and the foods pointed out are great. One thing, the most commom empada filling is chicken. I specially love coxinhas!