Food and Folklore Fun at the Feria de Mataderos

By Tracey Chandler

Get your dancing shoes on and pack your cowboy hat. The Feria de Mataderos in Buenos Aires has enough food to keep you stuffed for a week and enough Argentine spirit to keep you smiling for a lifetime.

The Feria de Mataderos is a very popular market in Buenos Aires. “Mataderos” is the Spanish word for “slaughter-house,” which is an immediate insight into the history of the neighbourhood where this particular Buenos Aires market is located.

In times gone by, the Mataderos neighbourhood was the place to go in Buenos Aires if you were looking to find a good… wait for it!… “slaughter-house”… who would have guessed that was coming, right? Considering the Argentina is one of the best places in the world to head to if a large, juicy steak is what you have in mind, a trip to Buenos Aires, without passing by the slaughter-house neighbourhood, is really no trip to Buenos Aires at all.

The Feria de Mataderos is best visited by interested sightseers on a Sunday, it’s relatively easy to get to (even though it does take about an hour to arrive when travelling from the center of Capital Federal) and it’s a food lover’s heaven. Make sure you take plenty of cash with you if you are a food fan, because there will be lots of different traditional and artisanal products on sale to tempt your taste buds.

How to get there

When travelling from the center of Capital Federal, it’s a pretty direct route on the 126 bus to the Feria de Mataderos, which you can take from Plaza de Mayo and which will drop you off on the corner of Avenida de los Corrales and Avenida Colonel Cárdenas, just three or four blocks away from the market itself (you’ll be able to say the words “Feria de Mataderos” and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction from the bus stop when you arrive, so it’s impossible to get lost).

Let’s talk meat

The smell of meat on the parrilla (Argentine barbeque grill) will be impossible for meat lovers to ignore, so don’t eat before you arrive and take full advantage of the street food choripan, morcilla and bife de chorizo* on offer.

It’s a lot of fun to be able to watch tons of meat being cooked at the same time on huge coal-fired parrillas. The smell, the smoke and the heat just adds to the authentic fun of a trip to this Buenos Aires market.

* “choripan” is a kind of spicy sausage, served in a hot dog bun and topped with a sauce called Chimichurri (full of vinegary flavor), “morcilla” is a blood sausage which is served piping hot (unlike it’s British breakfast counterpart) and normally as a starter option, and “bife de chorizo” is one of the most typical cuts of beef steak in Argentina… lean, mean and tasty!

And if meat is just not my thing?

For those people who don’t eat meat or don’t really want to get stuffed on half a cow, fear not! The Feria de Mataderos has plenty of other tasty options to get you drooling and most stalls will let you go around tasting the different kinds of produce on offer before you buy too. Yum, yum!

You’ll find cheese, cold meats, homemade liquors, cakes, biscuits, alfajores (Argentina’s traditional sweet snack which suffers from the same personality complex as the Jaffa Cake – is it a cake or a biscuit? Nobody knows!), chocolates, tartlets, dulce de leche and empanadas. If you’re in Latin America and you really don’t know what an empanada is or you’ve not managed to try anything with dulce de leche yet… look them up!

You will want to try everything, you will want to buy many things and you will go home feeling slightly sick. Be prepared.

Equestrian activity

If there’s anything Argentina loves more than meat and dulce de leche, it’s horses. Gauchos (cowboys) are an important part of Argentina’s history and there are many parts of Argentina, in general outside of Buenos Aires, where the Gaucho lifestyle is still very much a way of living for many people.

Argentina is full of working farms from which people earn their living. As testament to this, the Feria de Mataderos every Sunday hosts a number of Gaucho shows throughout the day, with Argentine cowboys in full, cowboy attire, leading some fine-looking horses through a variety of equestrian shows and displays for the crowds who have happened visit the market that day.

Music and Folklore

Get your dancing shoes on. The Feria de Mataderos is also the place to go to watch live displays of folklore dancing which, just like the Gaucho activities, continue to entertain the crowds from dawn to dusk. Costumes are traditional, it’s common to see the general public join in with the dancing from the sidelines and the spirit is tireless. If you have the energy to party way into the evening, there will be plenty of people by your side to celebrate with.

The Feria de Mataderos is perhaps not as “pretty” as the market in Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo, and it’s certainly not as accessible, but it has a lot more spirit and it’s a lot less desensitized by tourism. Give it a try!

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