Copa America: Peru vs Uruguay

With the semifinals of Copa America underway this week, what better way to feature the countries taking part in today and tomorrow's games than by sharing some popular dishes from each country.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the Copa America, which was previously known as the South American Cup, it is an international men's soccer tournament held every three years (more or less depending on the World Cup's schedule) and played by teams representing countries in South America. This year's tournament is the 43rd edition of the Copa America and is being played in Argentina during July. The 2011 tournament has been going on all month and now only four teams remain: Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela.

I'm a huge fan of soccer and have been following this championship closely in the last weeks. This particular Copa America is unique since for the first time, we see Brazil not competing in the semifinals and Venezuela among the leading teams.

Tonight, Peru and Uruguay will be competing in the first semifinal match, and Paraguay will battle Venezuela in the other tomorrow, July 20th, to determine which teams will play in the finals on the 24th of the month.

In honor of tonight's game, check out some of the local dishes of each country: Ceviche from Peru and Yerba Mate from Uruguay.

Ceviche is a very popular Peruvian raw seafood dish that is marinated in citrus juices. Various types of seafood can be used in ceviche, from white fish to shellfish and octopus. The fish is cured in a mixture of onions, peppers, and citrus juice, preferably lime juice, to add spice and flavor to the fish. If you've never tried it before, ceviche is a great option for eating seafood in a new way as well as a light dish to enjoy during the summer. Ceviche is so popular and important in Peru that is has been declared a part of the country's "national heritage" and given its own national holiday.

In Uruguay, yerba mate is a popular and traditional infused drink that has been an important part of the Uruguayan culture for years. Similar to tea, mate is made by steeping dry plant leaves (yerba mate leaves) in hot water. The loose yerba mate leaves are dried, chopped, and ground and stuffed into a calabash gourd and then hot, but not boiling, water is poured over the leaves to release their flavors. The tea is enjoyed through a metal straw called a bombilla that has a sieve at the end to filter out the leaves and make for a smooth drink. Mate is enjoyed throughout the country of Uruguay, whether it be with circles of friends or family members to either celebrate an occasion or simply to enjoy each other's company. If their team wins tonight, there's a good chance Uruguayans will be enjoying a few rounds of this delicious drink.

Check back tomorrow when we feature popular dishes from Paraguay and Venezuela.

Who do you want to win Copa America this year?