We in the Southwest are in deep with Mexican food, but how well do you know South American cuisine? Flavors and textures vary by country, including several specialties best eaten without the aid of utensils. So wash up and prepare to taste some of the best food you can eat with your hands.
Viva Las Arepas
Venezuela’s version of the arepa slices the pancake-like masa orb down the middle and stuffs it with a variety of delicious hot and cold fillings. First-timers should start with reina pepiada—a cool chicken and avocado combo that really lets the grilled fowl’s smokiness shine through. There are plenty of vegetarian options, too, including black bean and cheese arepas. 1616 Las Vegas Blvd. S. #120, 702-366-9696.
Made in Argentina
Handmade empanadas are the stars here, alluring pastries showcasing savory fillings and spotlighting the perfect bake, which brings the interior and exterior to the optimum temperature. There are four vegetarian options—including funky blue cheese and mushrooms and a veggie medley—and for just over two bucks each, it’s easy to take a few for snacking later. 5190 S. Valley View Blvd. #100, 702-642-1111.
Masterminded by “godfather of Peruvian cuisine” Ricardo Zarate, this Strip spot features the bold tastes of Nikkei—Peruvian cuisine with a strong Japanese influence. Once’s yuquitas—mozzarella-stuffed yuca, a South American root vegetable not unlike a potato—are some of the most addictive finger foods in town. The jalapeño-cilantro sauce brings them to the next level. Palazzo, 702-607-3797.