What is choripán?
Before talking about the importance of the choripán in Argentine culture, it’s important to know exactly what this food is. Choripán is a linguistic contraction between the words chorizo (a typical sausage that contains 70% beef and 30% pork) and pan, which means “bred”. Indeed, the choripán is the sum of the two ingredients, the chorizo, and the bread, which results in a sandwich.
But the choripán is not just any sandwich: in fact, it’s one of the 5 best sandwiches in the world. At least, that’s how the prestigious gastronomic magazine The Taste Atlas catalogued it in 2021 when it gave it a score of 4.4 out of 5 points, which leaves it right behind the Montreal-style smoked meat, the American roast pork sandwich, and the Spanish serranito sandwich.
How to make an Argentine choripán
To prepare an excellent Argentine choripán, the first thing you should do is get chorizos. Please note that the variety of chorizo used for this is not exactly the same as the original chorizo, which is the one consumed in Spain. While the Spanish chorizo has paprika and is dried and smoked, the Argentine chorizo is fresher and free of spicy additives.
Once you’ve got the chorizos, grill them. During cooking, or once you take them out, cut them in half, lengthwise. This cut is known in Argentina as estilo mariposa (“butterfly style”). Elvis Abrahowicz, the owner of Porteño, an Argentine restaurant in Sydney, told the SBS network: “This is the proper technique: butterfly the sausage as it’s cooking, then butterfly the bread roll too and place it on top of the sausage so it soaks up all the smoke and all the fat”.
Now, you may think that’s it… but one of the most important parts is missing! We’re talking about the sauces. A choripán can be delicious by itself thanks to its softness and its mixture of beef and pork flavours, but it isn’t a true choripán if it doesn’t have chimichurri. But what is a chimichurri sauce? It is a liquid dressing based on parsley, oregano, garlic, vinegar, and other ingredients. Another popular sauce you may add is the salsa criolla, which contains onion, bell pepper, tomato, vinegar, and oil.
By the way, the choripán is one of the components in any asado (the Argentine barbecue). It is usually eaten before the cuts of meat, which take longer to cook. However, there are also choriceadas, in which the only dish is the choripán.
History of the choripán in Argentina
To talk about the origins of choripán, we must go back several centuries, when Argentina didn’t exist as an independent state, and that region was still a Spanish colony. It was precisely the Spaniards who took different sausages to Argentina among their provisions, including the chorizo.
However, it took a few hundred more years for the chorizo to become an important part of everyday life for locals and, especially, one of the favourite components in an Argentine asado. It was the gauchos, the countrymen on horseback that have become symbols of Argentine folk, who began making asados to celebrate, and it was there that they began to eat chorizo with bread.
And what about the chimichurri? You may also be wondering what the story behind this delicious sauce is. Well, there are some disagreements about it. The most widespread version says that, in the 19th century, the Irish immigrant Jimmy McCury tried to emulate the Worcestershire sauce, which was very popular in the United Kingdom. Supposedly, the resulting sauce was named phonetically after him: chimichurri. Others believe that chimichurri comes from Quechua: “It was a generic term used to describe strong sauces to preserve and accompany meat,” says Daniel Balmaceda, an Argentine historian, to the BBC.
The choripán in Argentine culture
You may be wondering why we insist so much on the fact that chori —as Argentines affectionately call it— is culturally very important. The answer is simple: it is present in most of the popular events that take place in this country. In Argentina, it’s common for various choripán sellers to install their mobile grills in strategic congregations: football matches, political protests, rock concerts, or any type of massive social event.
Huffpost considers it one of the 10 Argentine foods to eat “on the go”. The choripanes that are sold in the area of Buenos Aires known as “la Costanera”, on the edge of the Río de La Plata, are particularly famous. The local newspaper La Nación made a ranking of the best choris in the city, and the first place went to one of the food trucks in that area.
However, the choripán is not only a street food: it’s also sold in the most sophisticated grills and asado steakhouses. Despite the fact that there are no official figures, the National Institute for Tourism Promotion of Argentina stipulates that some 500 million choripanes are eaten per year in the country.
Finally, a curious fact: the choripán occupies such a privileged place in the Argentine culture that the Choripán World Cup is held every year. It is in the city of Córdoba, the second-most populous city in Argentina, and attracts thousands of fans.
We have learned everything about choripanes: where they come from, how they are made, and why they are so important for the Argentine identity. Now, we encourage you to cook chorizos on the grill together with other Argentine cuts of meat, such as bife de chorizo, tiras de asado and even morcillas, so you can enjoy the experience of a true Argentine bbq. And, of course, don’t forget the chimichurri!