Food historians tend to agree that this most famous of Argentinian sauces was probably invented by the cowboys or gauchos to give flavour to the meat they cooked over open fires out on the prairies. It is likely that they used dried herbs in their meat sauce as these were easier to transport and did not spoil like fresh herbs would. Historians speculate that the original sauce is likely to have been a bit more similar in taste to English mint sauce rather than the chimichurri we know today.
The origin of the name ‘chimichurri’ is a little less clear. One story says that the name comes from ‘Jimmy’s curry’, Jimmy being an Irish or Englishman who is rumoured to have joined in the fight for Argentine Independence or, less romantically, to have been involved in the meat trade. His name was difficult for the Argentinians to pronounce, hence his sauce became known as chimichurri. Still other stories say the name of the sauce comes from the Basque settlers who arrived in Argentina in the 19th century, and is derived the word ‘tximitxurri’, loosely translated as “a mixture of several things in no particular order”
It’s no surprise that Argentina’s extremely rich and varied culinary history has evolved to incorporate Spanish, Italian, French and English as well as indigenous traditions. There are many many versions of the recipe for chimichurri sauce in Argentina, and they vary in colour and ingredients. Most but not all contain parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and lime juice. The traditionalists still use dried herbs.
Here at Comedor we make our chimichurri using mostly fresh ingredients giving it an intense flavour and vibrant green colour. Although Argentinians tend to use chimichurri with meat either as a sauce or a marinade (and that’s how we use it in the restaurant), it’s actually very versatile. It goes with fish and vegetables very nicely too.