Matambre: the elephant ear, twitch or fly shaker that is a must try cut at an Argentinian restaurant

Matambre is a must have beef cut at any argentinian steakhouse. However, it is rarely seen outside Argentina, or outside the Southern Cone of America, as Uruguayans, Paraguayans, Brazilians and Chileans also eat matambre.

In the US, Matambre is called Rose Meat or Shoulder Rose Meat

According to the USDA guidelines, as included in the Item Number 194 for beef cut purchasers, the matambre, elephant ear, or fly shaker beef cut is called Rose Meat or Shoulder Rose Meat.

In the US the rose meat is very rarely seen as a whole cut. It is used a ground beef for burgers combined with other cuts (some 50% of beef in the US is consumed as ground beef).

usda definition of matambre fly shaker beef rose meat elephant ear
USDA meat purchasers guide for Matambre cut

What muscle is the rose meat, fly shaker beef cut or elephant ear cut?

The rose meat cut comprises two muscles: cutaneous omobrachialis and the M. cutaneous trunci from the flank of the carcass. It is extracted from the exterior of the carcass before making the primal cuts.

Matambre is actually the whole cutaneous muscle of the cattle. It is a long and flat meat cut that extends on the cow’s flank from the chuck to the inguinal part of beef.

The matambre, meaning literally “hunger killer” is a non expensive beef cut everywhere. In Argentina is now more appreciated as urban grill masters have discovered the virtues of an honest cut.

Originally the matambre was used in Argentina to feed dogs as its meat if not treated correctly could be chewy.

Matambre a la parrilla

The Matambre a la parrilla is one of the most common ways to have this beef cut made in the interior of Argentina, not in Buenos Aires.

Normally, the whole cut, the cutaneous muscle is grilled slowly in a wooden fire pit on the ground, making it tender slowly and losing its fat excess.

Matambrito tiernizado

The matambrito tiernizado was a creation of Buenos Aires steakhouses in Argentina to make use of a beef cut that cannot be processed or grilled in a whole piece.

The matambrito tiernizado is the whole matambre cut in rectangular pieces, that is tenderized for a whole night with milk.

The morning after the matambre cut is ready to grill and show off its flavors. A firm fire would be great to make the exterior fat crispy so as to mix textures in the same bite.

A bit of Salsa Criolla or Chimichurri could be a good way to accompany the matambre.

Matambre a la pizza

The matambre a la pizza is great way to combine two Argentinian passions: beef and pizza. About 60% of people living in Buenos Aires are from Italian descent, combined with may other immigration origins, who integrated in what is now known as the Argentina culture.

The matambre a la pizza is a tenderized fly shake cut that is left clean of fat excess used as a base for pizza. Once the matambre reaches its grilling term on a charcoal parrilla (or alternatively in an oven), it is topped with traditional pizza sauce (tomato, garlic, oregano) and then covered with ham and mozzarella cheese. Olives on top are commonly used.

What part of the cow is matambre or fly shaker from?

The matambre or fly shaker is the cutaneous muscle that separates the ribs of the cow from the skin. When cattle are disturbed by flies and other insects, they twitch the cutaneous muscle, creating a vibration so as to get rid of the bugs. That is why the matambre or suadero (in Mexico) is called in the US fly shaker, elephant ear (elephants use their ears to shake flies) or twitch.

In this video, a traditional argentinian butcher, Mario Ponce de León, de Dean Funes, Provincia de Córdoba, shows how the fly shaker cut is the first one to be extracted from the beef carcass upon arrival to the butcher shop.

He also describes the exterior fat cover of the rose meat beef cut, and its rose meat. These two different components of the cut, the fat and the rose meat, when grilled, give the fly shaker in the traditional Argentinian parrilla a complex texture and a delicious flavor. The exterior fat is browned as it is facing the charcoal most of the grilling time.

As opposed to the humble standing of this cut abroad, in Argentina some “asadores” call it the king of the asado, as it is a must have in any special barbecue celebration like mothers’ day, and birthdays and other special events. This is true for Argentina’s interior, but not so common in Buenos Aires.

Matambre de cerdo

Matambre de cerdo or matambrito de cerdo (“pork matambre”) are the same cutaneous muscle as the beef matambre, but coming from a hog.

In the case of the matambrito de cerdo, the cut does not need to be boiled or marinated for more tenderness, however many Argentinians do it anyway. The Argentinian hogs are smaller and lighter than the US or European hogs, so the meat is always tender.

Difference between Matambre and Suadero

Suadero is the Mexican word for Matambre. It refers to the exactly same cutaneous muscle of cattle.

However, as for most beef cuts, the Mexicans prefer to trim the cut to small pieces so it can be eaten like a taco.

The Mexican suadero is usually not grilled, but fried in pork fat (“manteca” as they call it). The suadero then is mixed with onions and other spices and fried in large pans at the streets. The suadero is a very popular taco for people eating street food throughout the cities of Mexico. Unlike the Argentinian matambre, the suadero tacos use a lot of spicy sauce made of different type of chiles.

How do you say Matambre, Fly Shaker meat/Rose Meat/Elephant Ear beef cut in other Latin American countries

Name of Fly Shaker meat or matambre in:EcuadorCaucara o Falda dorada
Name of Fly Shaker meat or matambre in:BrasilMatambre
Name of Fly Shaker meat or matambre in:ColombiaSobre Sarriga
Name of Fly Shaker meat or matambre in:ChileMalaya
Name of Fly Shaker meat or matambre in:México Suadero
Name of Fly Shaker meat or matambre in:Costa RicaRollo de res
Name of Fly Shaker meat or matambre in:UruguayMatambre
Name of Fly Shaker meat or matambre in:PerúMalaya o Falda
Name of Fly Shaker meat or matambre in:VenezuelaSobrebarriga
Nombres que recibe el matambre en diferentes países

El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse, most likely not an Argentine restaurant

El Gaucho is the most common name of an Argentinian Steakhouse outside Argentina. Referring to the Gaucho, the Argentinian cowboy, El Gaucho names thousands of Argentinian food restaurants in the world, almost exlusively owned and run by non Argentinians.

Many of them are already chains of many El Gaucho “parrillas”, the name of Argentinian steakhouses in Argentina. El Gaucho steakhouse could mean a posh restaurant in some English cities, or a dirty Turkish run joint in Amsterdam.

The true Argentinian steakhouses, the parrillas, are unpretentious. Beef is so widely available and so inexpensive in Argentina, that is a basic staple even for the poorer classes. Argentinians, together with neighboring Uruguayans eat more beef than anybody else in the word. Argentina has a population of 43 ml people and a cattle stock of over 50 million cows, while Uruguay has around 2.5 cows per inhabitant.

Let’s go through many of the Argentinian steakhouses and restaurant chais called El Gaucho in every continent

El Gaucho Seattle

Elgaucho.com

El Gaucho from Seattle owns 5 restaurants and a hotel. It is owned by Paul MacKay, who reopened it in 1996 after the original El Gaucho, founded by Jiam Ward in 1953, was sold and then closed in 1985.

paul mackay from el gaucho seattle retired 2014

This is a classy El Gaucho. The original one at Seattle was a steakhouse who Bob Hope, The Carpenters and Peggy Lee used to be frequent patrons.

Today El Gaucho steakhouse, at its 5 locations is a place with premium food and service, where people meat to close business. In addition to the original El Gaucho in Seattle, the other El Gaucho are in Tacoma, Portland, Bellevue, and a seafood version of El Gaucho called Aqua.

El Gaucho Manila The Philippines

Located at the Trump Tower in Manila, El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse is a luxury grill.

El Gaucho restaurants The Netherlands

GauchosGrill.nl

With eleven restaurants in The Neteherlands, el Gaucho Grill is an iconic Argentine restaurant chain the country.

el gaucho argentinian steakhouse the netherlands

El Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse Curacao

One of the few “El Gaucho” who actually serve Argentinian beef.

El Gaucho, Seattle, not Argentinian steakhouse

Despite its Argentinian name, El Gaucho steakhouse, at Seattle Washington, is not an Argentine grill. All the beef is 100% American, including not only the meat and the way to cut it. You won’t find any tira de asado, vacío o chinchulines at El Gaucho in Seattle.

El Gaucho is the most common Argentinian steakhouse outside Argentina, but because of being such a common place, it is rarely a true Argentinian owned and run parrilla.

However, El Gaucho has great beef cuts, and they respect the Argentinian tradition of grilling the best Angus beef, raised and fattened without using hormones or antibiotics like 90% of the US cattle ranchers do.

Matt Ramsey is the executive chef at El Gaucho in Seattle, and explains a bit more the beef cuts they serve in the video below.

El Gaucho grills 28-day dry-aged Certified Angus beef, only prime cuts from the Niman Ranch. Niman Ranch is now a brand with over 700 cattle ranchers producing high quality meats, including beef and sheep.

Certified Angus bee is a brand that’s been around since the late 70s, and their big thing is about consistency and quality. Standards are so crazy that only 1 in 5 cattle angus influence cattle earn the right to be a part of the program.

Niman Ranches, part of Certified Angus beef, don’t use any antibiotics or hormones in their beef. Another great thing about Niman ranch is that they have complete control of their product from start to finish, which is very rare in this industry in the US, where 7 large industrial meat packing companies process over 70% of the beef.

El Gaucho Seattle only offers dry aged cuts, also a very non Argentinian way to treat beef

Large beef cuts, especially the ones with fat and a high grade of marbling, such as a prime top sirloin are put on a rack in a temperature-controlled room to dry age them.

The room requires a lot of air circulation going around the beef, and that air circulation creates this gnarly looking shell on the outside of the cut.

That is an indicator of chemical process produced naturally. The enzymes are breaking down the connective tissue so as to have a more tender steak.

Also with dry aging there’s a lot of moisture loss and moisture loss just means that there’s gonna be a more concentrated beef flavor.

The disadvantage of dry aged beef: it is expensive

With dry aging there’s a downside: it is expensive.

The reason why it’s so expensive is because that moisture loss you’re losing about 10 to 15 percent of the original weight of the beef cut.

Additionally, the shell that’s around the cut protecting the beef from any bacteria entering into the meat has to come off and that’s completely inedible.

El Gaucho Seattle serves only prima grade USDA standard beef, and uses only selected premium cuts such as Sirloin, Loin, Rib Eyes, New York and T-Bones

As per the USDA classification of beef, there are three common types of grades used for quality beef:

  • Prime
  • Choice
  • Select

The grading is directly related to the marbling of the cuts. The more marbling, the more flavor.

Argentinian Steakhouse Timisoara

Argentinian Steakhouse at the Del Corso Hotel is one of the best argentine grills of Romania, and an elegant place to eat at Timisoara.

It is a new restaurant, it opened in February 2019, but it quickly positioned as a must visit place for both locals and visitors. It is a stylish place, so expect to spend accordingly.

Excellent beef cuts are complemented with a well selected wine list from Argentina, Romania and other wine European wines. The drinks are highly recommended as well, so you can take a time before you order.

Argentinian Steakhouse Timisoara reviews and recommendations

The average review of locals and visitors is very positive. What people liked about this Argentinian restaurant in Timisoara:

  • Beef cuts and steaks: the T-Bone is among the most mentioned, highly recommended
  • The “Batatas”: sweet potatoes are a classic side order in Argentina for beef, and not often found abroad
  • The chimichurri sauce
  • The service: all customers praised the good service, and informed waiters.

What people did not like of Argentinian Steakhouse Timisoara

  • Some complained about the noise of the blenders at the bar. They sell a lot of drinks and the blenders work full time
  • Some complained about the price. But having a good steak is not inexpensive anywhere in the world (with the exception of Argentina during an economic downturn like now in 2020 2021)

Argentinian Steakhouse Timosoara steakhouse Menu and price

argentinian steakhouse timisoara menu
The Argentine restaurant of the Del Corso Hotel offers great beef cuts

The Argentinian Steakhouse menu boasts some of the classic argentine beef cuts:

  • Bife Ancho or rib eye
  • Asado de tira or short ribs
  • Tomahawk, a not very Argentinian cut that includes a large rib bone that is aged 2-3 weeks
  • Matambre, a rarely seen cut outside Argentina because it is the diafragm of the cow
  • Entrecot, a cut that is a boneless T bone, called in Argentina as just a “bife” or “costeleta” when it has the bones (meaning a steak you can grill fast at your home even if you don’t have a parilla-grill)
  • Lomo, tenderloin or filet mignon

Despite prices at restaurants in Romania are generally very low compared to those at Western Europe capitals, the prices of Argentinian Steakhouse, a classy restaurant in a beautiful city look moderate.

As shown in the beef cuts menu, the prices for these Argentinian beef cuts range from 34 Ron to 37 Ron per 100 grams (almost a quarter pound/lbs) of great beef.

Ron, the Romanian Leu is the currency of Romania, not yet adopting Euro. The US dollar to RON exchange rate is 4.3x.

So the prices for less than a quarter pound, 0.22 of a Lbs (not a decent size, at least you’d need 2x) of premium beef would be:

  • Bife Ancho or rib eye price: $7.9
  • Asado de tira or short ribs: $ 4.3
  • Tomahawk, a not very Argentinian cut that includes a large rib bone that is aged 2-3 weeks: $ 8.1
  • Matambre, a rarely seen cut outside Argentina because it is the diafragm of the cow: $7
  • Entrecot, a cut that is a boneless T bone, called in Argentina as just a “bife” or “costeleta” when it has the bones (meaning a steak you can grill fast at your home even if you don’t have a parilla-grill): $6.7
  • Lomo, tenderloin or filet mignon:$ 38

Clearly, the tenderloin is what you need to avoid at Argentinian Steakhouse Timisoara. The filet mignon is very tender, and with little fat, but the lack of marmolade makes it easy to get over cooked when grilled. And the flavor is week. The other beef cuts are amazing and with a fair price.

The ambience and client service at Argentinian Steakhouse is great and manager professionally by Miruna Lazar, who has a great experience managing upscale restaurants and events.

miruna lazar argentinian steakhouse del corso hotel marketing manager

Reservations and location of Argentian Steakhouse Timosoara

Address: Timisoara Strada Suceava nr. 10, at the Del Corso Hotel

Phone: 0256283283

Why Argentinian Steakhouses in the US don’t grill Argentine beef?

Surprisingly enough for the customers of an Argentinian steakhouse, when they eat asado, vacio or bife de chorizo, they’d most likely be eating US, Canadian, New Zealand or Uruguayan beef, not Argentinian. The US consumers eat 20x more Mexican beef than Argentinian beef!

For twenty years starting 1999, the import of Argentinian beef cuts in the US was banned. The formal excuse to ban it was an outbreak of foot and mouth desease in South America, a viral infection that affects cattle but has no risk for humans.

Argentinian beef cuts were famous because of its grass fed beef tradition, and were replaced by beef from another countries that also have pasture cattle. Grass fed continues to be the norm in the initial phases of the beef business, breeding and stocking. However, most of the beef produced in Argentina now is finished in a feed lot on a corn based diet. What remains totally natural is that Argentina does not use any growth promotion hormone as the ones used in the US beef production industry. Growth promoters are totally banned in Argentina. Also, there is a growing base of Argentine ganaderos that are going back to purely grass fed beef, using process technologies such as rotational grazing, high density pasture grazing, Voisin Rational Grazing and other regenerative techniques that also are more efficient in beef production on a per acre basis.

A trend back towards the grass feeding is expected to be pushed when Argentina’s cattle ranchers can receive their fair share of carbon bonds. Grass fed beef production sequesters more carbon than the methane gas cattle producers, and the ganaderos may have a bonus to produce more grass fed beef if they can cash in the carbon bonds.

Only recently, in 2019, Argentina re-started exporting beef cuts to the US. Actually, the first import was done by the Argentinian steakhouse and food market Graziano’s from Miami.

The US are an obvious export destination for the Argentine beef. They will never replace any US beef. It will only be a specialty, competing against Japanese wagyu, Korean rat meat or Chinese vampires.

Graziano’s imported premium Argentine beef cuts like Bife Ancho/Rib Eye, Bife Angosto-Bife de Chorizo/New York-Sirloin, Tapa de Cuadril/Rump top, Vacío/Flank and Entraña/Skirt steaks and a very particular cut that Argentinians love: matambre (skin muscle).

Graziano’s imported chilled beef cuts, of a very high quality. At their beef packing plant, they process 132.000 lbs of beef per month, to be sold at its steakhouses and markets in Miami (FL).

mario graziano Graziano's Argentine restaurant Miami
Mario Graziano, owner of Graziano’s Argentine restaurant and food market chain in Miami

Graziano, an Italian born, emigrated very young and ended up building a successful butchery chain in the poor suburbs of Buenos Aires. Because of the 1989 hyperinflation Argentinian crisis, Graziano emigrated to Miami, where his brother was already living.

The rest of the beef imported from Argentina to the US is frozen beef of inferior quality that ends up ground to make burgers. Burgers are the favorite American way of consuming beef, explaining roughly 50% of total consumption.

Argentine beef exports to the US 2019 – 2020

Argentine beef Imports US 2019U$KgUS$/TonLbs
20199.865.9491.481.8736.6583.264.037
Frozen beef7.664.0361.246.4556.1492.745.496
Chilled beef2.011.978208.4189.654459.070
Frozen and chilled offals189.93527.0007.03559.471
January 20201.644.781276.8915.940609.892
Frozen beef1.454.084251.5445.781554.062
Chilled beef187.74124.9407.52854.934
Frozen and chilled offals2.9564077.263896
February 20205.066.989895.1585.6601.971.714
Frozen beef4.466.497812.2025.4991.788.991
Chilled beef421.18355.6417.570122.557
Frozen and chilled offals179.30927.3156.56460.165
March 20206.224.5321.222.1965.0932.692.062
Frozen beef5.819.3911.159.1655.0202.553.227
Chilled beef399.46762.1436.428136.879
Frozen and chilled offals5.6748886.3901.956
Argentine beef Imports US Q1 202012.936.3022.394.2455.4035.273.667
Frozen beef11.739.9722.222.9115.2814.896.280
Chilled beef1.008.391142.7247.065314.370
Frozen and chilled offals187.93928.6106.56963.018

What is Vacio, the beef cut I’ll find in any Argentinian steakhouse?

Vacio is a must-have of every Argentinian Steakhouse. “Asado y vacio” is the answer you’ll hear when you ask what beef cuts they serve at a simple Argentine restaurant.

what is vacio
Juicy or medium rare vacio beef cut (in Argentina they tend to over cook it as the vacio is grilled slowly)

The vacio cut is the flank muscle around the belly of the animal. It is known also as flap meat because of the flap shape of the whole cut. It is the bottom of the sirloin, and the continuation of the rib cage in the posterior part of the heifer or steer.

flap meat vacio

Vacío is also known in english as flap meat because the shape of the beef cut.

vacio meat
An entire cut of vacío meat

Vacío Meat Cut outside Argentina

The vacío meat cut, is also very popular in France, where it is called bavette and served at many bistrots with “frites”.

vacio steak
A perfectly grilled vacío steak

The vacio is well marbled, and has firm fiber with a well defined grain, as the muscles of the belly of the cow are subject to substantial effort. Because of not being that tender it was underestimated in the era of tasteless filet mignon. Now, because of its flavor and its fat, it is rediscovered as one the best Argentinan beef cuts.

Vacío Steak

The vacio outside Argentina, especially in the US, is normally cut into steaks and cooked on pans on high heat. and served as a vacío steak. However, at a true Argentinian steakhouse, the vacio has to be grilled in one single piece (over 2 kg of weight) on the wood fired or charcoal parrilla. It is a lot better to grill the full cut if you plan to slow cook it Argentinian style so it does not losses the juice inside.

vacio bavette cut
Vacío cut in steaks bavette style can be cooked on a hot iron plank or a pan

Vacio is a very versatile beef cut. Apart from the traditional Argentinian vacio a la parrilla, you can also roast it in the oven. The vacio al horno is also a very popular dish in Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires where people live in apartments with no barbecue place. It is also very popular in lunch menus in Buenos Aires fondas and bodegones. The Fonda or Bodegon is a very basic and affordable Argentine restaurant that offers traditional Argentine food like roasted beef cuts, ravioli, ñoquis, fideos al tuco (vermicelli with tomato sauce) and other staples of the Argentine cuisine.

Vacío beef cut price keeps on delivering good news: it is affordable

In Argentina, the vacío is a non expensive beef cut. It is considered a key part of the “cortes parrilleros”, the set of beef cuts that are traditionally grilled at parrillas by locals. The other “cortes parrilleros” are “tira de asado” (rib cage, short ribs), “matambre” (fly shaker meat, rose meat or elephant ear cut) and the “entraña” (skirt steak, both inside and outside).

In Argentina, these cortes parrilleros do not drive any export demand, so 100% of vacíos are kept inside the country for domestic consumption. Argentina’s most valued export cuts are those located on the rump & loin of the cow, and the steaks, that are exported to Europe as part of the Hilton Quota (a special customs regime with low tariffs for high value beef cuts).

How much does the vacio beef cut costs?

In Argentina it is hard to give an estimate of the vacio beef cut price due to the many macroeconomic crisis and inflations the country has experienced over the last 50 years.

However, the cost of a vacio cut has always been around $5-7 per kilo, that would be only $ 2.72 per Lb, less what chicken costs in the US or in Europe.

As shown in the image below, a cut of vacio at Wholefoods supermarkets is woth $18lb, or $39 per kilo. Due to the prevailing crisis in Argentina (q4 2020), a kilo of vacío beef in Argentina now is worth $3/kg, or just $1.32/lbs, a ridiculous price.

The vacio beef cut in the US is 6.6x more expensive than in Argentina

Vacio Argentine beef cut nomenclator description

what is vacio beef cut
The vacio is made by the main abdominal muscles of the cow

In the video below, from the minute 5.25 you can see how the flank steak is cut from the loin of the steer.

Butchering the a whole steer and taking out flank steak – vacio

The vacio beef cut is made of the following abdominal muscles: transversus abdominis internal and external oblique muscles and the rectus abnominis.

It is the continuation of the tiras de asado (ribs) train, and precedes the Tri-Tip, Rump tail, Sirloin Roast. Is is just below the Sirloin/New York area.

Vacío (Code 2469 and 2200) Está ubicado en la región abdominal, y lo integran los músculos y fascias que componen la pared abdominal. Tiene por límite en su parte anterior al asado y la falda, en la superior a los bifes angostos y en la posterior a la colita de cuadril.Composición Osea:
DEBE CONSIDERARSE COMO BASE ÓSEA A LOS PUNTOS DE INSERCIÓN DE LOS MÚSCULOS ABDOMINALES, YA SEA DIRECTA O INDIRECTAMENTE POR INTERMEDIO DE TENDONES O FASCIAS. TENEMOS ENTONCES: LA CARA EXTERNA Y CARTÍLAGOS COSTALES DE LAS ÚLTIMAS COSTILLAS, APÓFISIS TRANSVERSAS DE LAS VÉRTEBRAS LUMBARES, EL CUERPO DEL ILIÓN, LA TUBEROSIDAD COXAL Y EL PUBIS. Componente Muscular:
COMPRENDE LOS MÚSCULOS Y FASCIAS QUE CONTRIBUYEN A FORMAR LA PARED DEL ABDOMEN. ESTOS MÚSCULOS SON: OBLÍCUO ABDOMINAL EXTERNO, OBLÍCUO ABDOMINAL INTERNO, RECTO ABDOMINAL Y ABDOMINAL TRANSVERSO. Preparación:
SE PUEDE PREPARAR A PARTIR DE UN CUARTO TRASERO A 3 COSTILLAS. PREVIA EXTRACCIÓN DEL MATAMBRE, SE LO SEPARA DE LA COLITA DE CUADRIL INCIDIENDO A TRAVÉS DEL TEJIDO CONJUNTIVO QUE VINCULA LOS MÚSCULOS ABDOMINALES CON EL TENSOR DE LA FASCIA LATA, HASTA LLEGAR AL LÍMITE VENTRAL DEL BIFE ANGOSTO. A CONTINUACIÓN, SE COMPLETA EL CORTE EN SENTIDO PARALELO AL BORDE DEL BIFE ANGOSTO HASTA LLEGAR A LA 13º COSTILLA, LA QUE SE BORDEA HACIA VENTRAL HASTA LOGRAR LA SEPARACIÓN DE LA PIEZA. FINALMENTE, SE ELIMINAN LOS EXCESOS DE TEJIDOS CONJUNTIVO Y ADIPOSO.

Official Argentine beef cut Nomeclator SENASA IPCVA

Chinchulines, what are they?

Chinchulines or “chinchu” are a regular starter at an Argentinian steakhouse. Together with other Argentine starters like empanadas, provoleta, chorizo and morcilla, the chinchulines is what you should eat before getting into serious Argentine beef feasting.

In a serious Argentine steakhouse you will always find an Offals space within the starters list, including chinchulines, mollejas (sweatbreads), riñon (kidney) and less frequently tripa gorda (large instestine) and ubre (udder).

Served on a hot iron grill, with lemon halves on the side. They are a beauty, a witness of our carnivorous evolution as a species.

Grilling chinchulines

  1. When you choose chinchulines at the butcher, make sure the interior fat is totally pale brownish, with no green in them
  2. Wash them gently from outside, and reserve them in water with lemon juice 2-3 hours before grilling
  3. Make sure your charcoal heat is firm, and place them at the parrilla
  4. Grill the chinchulines on one side for 25 minutes
  5. Flip them, add salt and some lemon juice, and grill them for another 25 minutes
  6. Make sure they are crispy, if necessary add more red burning charcoal to finish them

It is very common common to watch them eaten with chimichurri or salsa criolla, but a truly good chinchulin needs nothing. Maybe just the smell of a drop of fresh lemon juice.

Chinchulines are actually the small intestine of beef cattle, though at some parrillas you can also find lamb chinchulines (chinchulines de cordero). They are part of a family of guts (achuras or vísceras) that are often included in Argentine restaurants menus, but also consumed in other cuisines around the world.

The Argentine chinchulines are grilled on charcoal or wood and eaten in small circle cuts resulting from the twirls of cutting the intestine in pieces 5 inches long. I’ve read articles stating that a chinchulin is fried and braided, two serious offenses to tradition of the real argentine chinculín. You fry chicken wings, not chinchulines. As per the braided confusion, it is mostly because of the less popular Tripa Gorda, chinchulines’ big brother (big intestine), are the ones that are braided.

The chinchulin is very tasty, with a special flavor, full of fat. Because of that, the chinchulines have to be grilled crispy. There are few things in an Argentine parrilla that can taste worse than a medium rear chinchulin.

The poor origin of chinchulines

Despite cattle (all or them other than llamas, alpacas, guanacos and relative wild ruminants) were brought to the Americas by the Conquistadores after the end of the XV’s century, the chinchulines and the achuras (the family of gut beef cuts where the chinchulín belongs) words have an indigenous root. For the sake of simplification, we’ll call the Native Americans or indigenous people “Indians”, the way they were known at that time.

Ch’unchu is the quechua word that gave birth to Chinchulin. Quechuas were a southern frontier civilization part of the Inca Empire that lived in Northwestern Argentina and the neighboring areas of Bolivia and the former Bolivia’s and Peruvian’s regions seized by Chile in the “Guerra del Pacífico” (1879-1884).

The Achuras word, the family of gut cuts where chinchulines belong, also have an indigenous origin. It was derived from the Mapuche / Araucano word “Achuray” or “Achuraj”, that meant both “share” or “share the stolen stuff”. The Mapuche or Araucano are an indigenous tribe from Chile that later in the XVII, XVIII and XIX’s Century invaded Argentina’s Patagonia, butchering the original population of Tehuelches native Patagonians.

For over two centuries before Argentina starting exporting beef to Europe, the Chinchulines, together with almost all of the meat of cow was left to rotten after the gauchos (the Argentine cowboys) would take the skin of a wild cow, and a little meat for a quick lunch. Because of the lack of cold storage, only a salted skin would be of a certain value if you were a gaucho a horse-back week away from a city, let alone exports.

Later, when Argentina started exporting leather of processed beef (salted dry beef) at plants called “Saladeros” (Salting Houses), the chinchulines and all the achuras would be left for roaming dogs, and for freed slaves and their free born black american descendants. Argentina partially abolished slavery as early as 1813 (all slave born children would be free citizens), and then totally abolished slavery by the 1853 Constitution. But sadly, most of the African American Argentinians did not make it to the new Argentina. Most of the freed slaves and their children died either by desease or at the Infantry rows of the Civil Wars or the Paraguayan war.

With the expansion of Argentina’s estancias (Cattle Ranches) into the SouthWest, the Mapuches thrived as they no longer had to hunt guanacos and other wild herbivores to eat, they’d rather steal cattle from Estancias.

Mapuches stormed the Argentinian pioneers’ Estancias for over fifty years, stealing cattle and killing and kidnapping women and children, until General Julio Argentino Roca defeated the Chilean invaders in 1880.

The remaining Indians were spread in different reservations around the country. It was a very similar process of what happened in the USA and its big “way West”. The big difference was that when the Dictatorship of Juan Domingo Peron started in 1943, a lot of this Indian population was converted to industrial workers, left the reservations and the poorest Argentinian regions to move to shanty towns in the Buenos Aires suburbs. Population growth in these suburbs skyrocketed, due to extremely high birth rates and internal immigration. In some 30 years, the Peronism transform one of the richest and by far the most educated population in a failed Latin American country like any other.

The Chilean Mapuche Indians defeated in the 1880 war, assimilated -to an ever decreasing degree- with European immigrants (70% of Buenos Aires’ population in 1910) and now rule Argentina. They vote Peronist (60%-80%), and they probably represent 60% of all electors in the roll.

In 2020 Argentina, the Indians run the almighty Peronist party, all the powerful labor unions and even created an ideologic framework to sustain a new nationalist and populist “nac & pop” culture (funded by a totalitarian state -Mussolini style).

Chinchulines at the official Argentine beef cuts nomeclature

Numbered #617, Chinchulines are the last of the Argentine beef cuts listed at the official beef cuts Nomencuture developed by SENASA.

“Comprende la porción inicial del intestino delgado, es decir, el duodeno. Debe estar libre de restos de epiplón y grasa mesentérica”

Nomenclatura Oficial de Cortes de Carne Vacuna Argentina SENASA / IPCVA

According to the nomenclature, and technically speaking, the chinchulines are the duodenenum, the first section of the small intestine. It also remarks that it must be free of omentum (the tissue that contains the liver, intestine and stomach) and the mesentery peritonium.

Chinchulines cut
Chinchulines official description at the Argentine beef cuts nomenclature