Dreaming of Choripán

December 3, 2008

It’s about as easy for me to keep quiet about a good food find as it is to hold a poker face. Which is why I simply have to tell you about the most amazing sausage sandwich I’ve tasted in Buenos Aires.

I’ve kept it a secret for a couple of months now, waiting for the right moment, wondering if the good people at this particular carrito (sausage sandwich stand) on the Costanera Sur would even want the extra attention.

But I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer.

I have Fernando, the tango-singing taxista from Olivos (a northern Buenos Aires suburb), to thank for leading me to the sublime sandwich.

Though he originally tried to drop me off at Miranda, a tony steakhouse in Palermo Hollywood where he’d never eaten, Fernando eventually embraced the spirit of the quest and delivered me to his chosen spot for choripán…but only after I persuaded him to tell me a little about his life as a taxi driver.

“I like the freedom,” he said, “But it gets lonely sometimes. As a taxista, you only have fleeting contact with the passenger.”

“The fleeting aspect is a little like tango isn’t it?” I said, pouncing on one of my favorite metaphors, “You say hello, you dance passionately with someone, and then you say goodbye…”

“Yes, yes, that’s true. Troilo, one of our great tango composers, said that ‘life is a tango,’” he answered, “I don’t know if I agree with him, but I listen to tango. And I sing it sometimes, too.”

“Would you sing me something?”

As we straddled the lane lines on Avenida Dorrego, Fernando crooned a few bars of ‘Sur,’ Homero Manzi’s ode to a Buenos Aires lost. His voice – a silky, confident bass tinged with a touch of sadness – penetrated my pores, raised the hair on my arms, and stopped singing too soon.

Bueno, the tango goes on, right?”

The rest of the journey was a blur. Eventually we reached the Costanera, a eucalyptus-lined boulevard that borders the Rio de la Plata, and Fernando braked in front of a food stand on the edge of the asphalt.

“A taxi driver friend brought me here about ten years ago,” he said, “I’ve been a regular ever since. Order the sausage sandwich.”

Unfortunately, duty called, and the singing taxista couldn’t interrupt his shift to order a choripán for himself.

I thanked him for the song and joined the line of customers crowded in front of Mi Sueño.

“A taxi driver told me the sausage sandwiches were good around here,” I said when I reached the counter.

“The taxi driver wasn’t lying,” the cashier, who sported a black beret and a vest to match, answered.

He turned to the grill master and said, “Marcháme un chori, Iván.”

Less than a minute later, I was cradling a hot sausage sandwich in both hands. I made a beeline to the ‘salsa bar,’ slathered my chorizo with chimichurri sauce, plopped down in a plastic chair facing the Rio de la Plata, and took a bite.

I’ve eaten more sausage sandwiches than I can count since settling in Buenos Aires, and I have enjoyed nearly all of them. Greasy, tasty, and easy on the wallet, the sausage sandwich is Argentina’s answer to the hamburger in the US or the taco in Mexico – a cheap, democratic food, accessible to everyone and beloved throughout the country.

But the choripán at Mi Sueño transcended all others I’ve tasted to date. Flavored with white wine, oregano and a touch of red pepper, their pork sausage bursted with flavor. Amped up by pungent chimichurri, the sandwich was perfect but for an excess of bun (a problem easily resolved by folding the butterflied chorizo onto one half of the bread and feeding the rest to the pigeons).

Next time, I’ll order two sandwiches and donate the second bun to the birds. And believe me, there will be a next time – though it may not taste the same without the preprandial serenade in a taxi.

*** There’s no real address, but it’s hard to miss Mi Sueño on the Costanera Sur: look for the red and yellow carrito about a kilometer north of the Reserva Ecologica.


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One Response to “ Dreaming of Choripán ”

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