Sushi in South America: an Unlikely Love Story

I don’t like fish. They are slimy and smelly and bony and weird. Given the choice, I’d rather eat just about anything else (this does not extend to shellfish which will I inhale, I only loathe the suckers with scales).

Yes, even sushi. I’ve always been kind of ambivalent about the stuff. Even after eating a legitimate sushi breakfast (link) in Japan, I still didn’t really get the appeal. Oddly enough, it took a trip to South America to get me to warm up to raw fish.

Surprisingly, sushi is pretty popular down south. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s all that rice? Buenos Aires in particular is experiencing a huge sushi fad at the moment. Despite the almost complete dearth of food variety, save the odd (americanized) chinese restaurant, sushi is thriving.

As someone who loves international food and simply cannot survive on steak and potatoes alone, I’ve turned to sushi to scratch my itch for variety. I’ve eaten sushi in almost every country we visited down South and over time I’ve come to really love the stuff.

Colombia and Ecuador: Sushi is a Social Drug

I can probably blame my new obsession on Shaun and Erica from Over Yonderlust. When we met them in Medellin, Colombia, they suggested we all get sushi, and not wanting to be the party pooper I went along. Under their and Mike’s guidance we ordered some really unique and interesting rolls. Mexican roll with jalapenos on top? Well maybe this wasn’t so bad….

We met up again a couple months later in Ecuador and again went out for sushi. Again, it was pretty great and tasty and such a nice break from the usual rice and meat menus we’d been ordering. Maybe I could get used to this.

Argentina: The Great Salmon Shortage of 2012

While living in Buenos Aires we indulged in the guilty pleasure of delivery sushi, thanks to Buenos Aires Delivery. Every few weeks we’d shell out $20 on some sort of combo deal from a local restaurant and gorge ourselves on 45 pieces. They weren’t the highest quality, but they were pretty cheap.

This went well until our last month in BA, when the great salmon shortage occurred. You see, the Argentine government tries really hard to discourage imports of well anything. Apparently this extends to Chilean salmon (salmon does not live in Argentina) and in March the government cracked down hard, shutting off the supply line. Sushi restaurants around the city scrambled to find new salmon connections, with many temporarily closing or eliminating salmon from their menus.

Chile: Sushi Heaven

Santiago was definitely the climax of my sushi experimentation. Since Chile is essentially one giant coastline, they have a massive supply of incredibly fresh fish. While I’m still leery of the suckers on their own, I figured sushi would be a great way to try the local products without being totally grossed out.

Good sushi in Santiago was an art form. Twice we went to Zabo, a higher range (higher price) sushi restaurant and it was easily some of the best meals I’ve had this entire trip. Inside out rolls are popular here, where the outside is wrapped in tuna, salmon or avocado.

I never would have expected to come out of South America of all places with a new love for sushi. It’s just one of the many unexpected ways travel has changed me over time.

It’s not over yet though! Mike is promising to take me to a terrific sushi place in New Jersey (which honestly, is probably cheaper than the places we went in Argentina and Chile). And of course now I need to plan another trip to Japan…

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25 thoughts on “Sushi in South America: an Unlikely Love Story”

  1. In case you around Mendoza, you could give a try to our sushi. We are far from the sea but still have some top notch sushi.

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