When most people think of anything culinary in Chile they think of wine, but there is much more to the culinary range of this country than just swilling Carmenere in the Maipo Valley. Chilean food on the most part is quite boring, when compared to that of Peru or Argentina, but there are a few areas/foods of interests that are beyond extraordinary.
Chilean Street Food
Like everywhere else in Latin America streetfood is popular throughout Chile, but it’s a little bit different here as expected.
Completo – A Completo is a hot dog slathered in avocado, onions, tomatoes, and various condiments popular throughout the country in from small stands and snack bars that resemble 50’s style American diners.
Sandwich Shops – Hamburgers and Chilean creations like the Churrasco Palta (Churrasco (steak) and Palta (advocado) with Aji chileno (Chilean hot sauce)) are served with a side of fries in fast food joints up and down the northern half of the country.
Empanada – The typical Chilean snack food. Found everywhere and filled with everything from cheese to apple to alpaca meat.
Chiriqui – In parts of the Andes you can find chirqui, or a type of jerky usually made from horse.
Food of the Chilean Lakes District
Chile’s Lakes District was settled by German immigrants in who were lured here by the government from Germany to help de-native the south of the country. The culinary traditions of these immigrants have been kept thorughout the Lakes District.
Traditional German Meat and Potato Dishes – Schnitzel, sausages, saur kraut, and much more can be found in typical restuarants throughout the country.
Kuchen – A type of German cake.
German Beer – Especially around the Chilean German cultural center of Villarica, there are numerous breweries that produce bocks, lagers, and ales according to the Reinheitsgebot of 1516, such as the Cerveceria Kuntsman.
The Food of Chiloe:
The island chain of Chiloe is known for having some of the best food in the country. The island is a fairly unsual place where Christianity has blended with folklore and the people (mostly fishermen, farmers, and artisans) believe in witches and ghosts and live in houses on stilts. Chilote food is unique from the rest of Chile, and variations of it can be found throughout the Lakes District as well.
Curanto – This dish uses different cuts of meat, seafood and curanto cooked in a hole in the ground. It’s made often in celebrations. Some have made the association that the people from South America came from the Polynesia and the South Pacific, where it is common to cooked foods in an earthen oven. This is also done with Pachamanca in Peru.
Cazuela Chilota – A stew of lamb meat with hog fat.
Cazuela de Cholgas con Piures – This stew is common throughout Chiloe. Cholgas are a very odd type of mussel that are bright red and look absolutely gross. I’m not at all fond of them, but I think they are perfect for the show. You can see them hang by the dozen in every market.
Chiloe Artisenal Liquors – You can find these in a few shops in Chiloe. All take on a very dense, bright color. They are very traditional drinks that are made by soaking various plants such as lemongrass, mint, tree barks, and everything else in alcohol. they are thought to be curative.
Nalca – Sea plants such as Nalca, are bundled by the kilo in every market and used in many dishes, including as a jam.
Chilean Wine – Chile is one of South America and the world’s most important wine regions. Carmenere is the grape that epitomizes Chilean wine. The French grape never had anywhere near the success it has in Chile as it did in France. Cabernets, Chardonnay, Merlot, and other varietals are also popular thorughout the country.
Pisco – Pisco is a type of grape brandy and the most popular spirit in Peru and Chile. The Pisco Sour, which belnds Pisco with lime juice, simple syrup, and an egg white is Chile and Peru’s national cocktail. Bottled pre-mixed Pisco based cocktails such as Cola de Mono (Monkey’s Tail) or the Pisco Sour are popular in gas stations or supermarkets.
Cafe con Piernas – In Santiago, there are coffee houses called Cafe con Piernas, or coffee with legs. These are places where coffee is served to mostly businessmen by scantily clad women.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.