Calling all foodies! Delights for the taste buds are abundant in Chile. Next to my friends the thing I miss the most about Chile is food. The cuisine is simple yet flavorful and restaurants are entering into the gourmet market with amazing world inspired cuisine. I lived in Chile for 12 years and can honestly say I love their food. This is my insider guide on what to eat while you are there.
Three meals are eaten. Breakfast is usually a bread with ham and cheese, or butter and jam. Yogurt and sometimes cereal. Lunch is the big meal of the day.It is eaten around 2:00 in the afternoon. Most people get an hour and half to two hours for lunch. Then in the evening they have "once". It literally mean eleven but they also dub tea. It is similar to breakfast but more elaborate. Bread toasted or warm served with some type of lunch meat, cheese, avocado, butter, jams or pate. They almost always have hot tea with lots and lots of sugar. Sometimes they will have a dessert with once like some type of cake. You may find a big spread with chips or fries. This meal is eaten later around 7-9 pm depending on how long it takes them to get home from work and prepare the meal. I strongly suggest eating some snacks between breakfast and lunch and then between lunch and once.
Tradition Dishes You will want to try these dishes as soon as possible and luckily for you they are easy to find. The first dish everyone must try is Pastel del Choclo. This is a hearty dish made with a ground beef and onion base and topped with a pureed corn topping. Think shepherds pie style. In between the those two layers you will find a black olive, a hard boiled egg, and some white raisins. Often there will be a chicken thigh in there as well. The corn topping is sprinkled with sugar. This is the quintessential dish of Chile.
Empanadas are next on your must eat list. The traditional style have the ground beef, onion base it is called "pino" in Chile. It will also have a black olive, white raisin, and hard boiled egg inside. These meat pies are delicious. There are a wide variety of empanadas. The ones meant for meals are baked. You can find them with a wide variety of vegetable and vegetarian empanadas are easy to find. My personal favorite is an asparagus and potato mix. So good. Fried emapanadas tend to be filled with fruit and are a yummy dessert.
Then you have to try Humitas but these are found mostly in the summer when corn is abundant. These are a corn puree mixed with onions and spices then rolled in corn shucks tied and boiled, They look a bit like tamales until the nice corn shuck package is unwrapped. The word humita means bow tie and when you look at these tied up packages look like chubby bow ties.
Street Food OK lets face junk food is so good. Chileans know how to make the best street food and they call it "Chatarra". It is served in little shops and in mini food carts or trucks. They affectionately call these "toxicos". Some of the best sandwiches, hot dogs and fries are found here.
Churrasco is a sandwich that is so good. It is thinly sliced beef sauteed and topped with tomato, avocado and mayo and served in a large bun. If you light a light serving of any of these items you must tell them or it will come smothered in them. Usually these are very large sandwiches so you might want to split one or split some fries to go with
Completos are hot dogs and the traditional style is called a completo. It is a hot dog on a bun with tomato, mayo and avocado. Sound familiar? Once again the toppings are piled on so if you like yours with less you will have to speak up. These people will put anything on a hot dog. When you walk up and see the menu you might not be able to imagine that many ways to top a hot dog. They are all pretty good!
Next you must try Chilean Sopaipillas. These are nothing like the ones you find in the US or Mexico. These are made with a pumpkin base and are savory not sweet. They often are served with hot sauce, mustard or pebre. (pebre is a salsa made with chopped tomaotes, onions, and cilantro)
Now if you are hankering something sweet there are so many options but one of the popular sweets is Calzones Rotos which literally means broken underwear. These are strip of dough folded over inside themselves and are fried and covered with powdered sugar. They are so good.
Another sweet is The Alfajor. This is a light cookie sandwich filled with manjar, a caramel like spread, rolled in coconut, powdered sugar or bathed in chocolate. They are the favorite sweet treat for anytime. The top picture is a plate of Alfajores.
Keeping with the street theme the next treat is the Chuchufli. Funny sounding name for a delicious treat. These a thin roll of pastry filled with manjar. They are found in most street corner stores, you will see people walking around the streets and on the busses selling them.
Let's move on to seafood. With over 3,000 kilometers of coastline Chile has an abundance of fresh seafood. They also have some unusual names for it too. Lets start with what is what.
Ostras are oysters.
Jaiva is crab.
Cameron is shrimp.
Lobo is albolone a large sea snail.
Machas are clams.
Centolla is King Crab.
Curanto is a dish from southern Chile. Traditionally it is made in a dug out hole with a fire and covered with leaves. Most often it is made stove top these days. It is this amazing mix of clams, crab, potatoes, chorizo, pork and chicken. So so good. If you travel to the Lakes region and are on the coast you have to try this.
Being the number 2 producer of Salmon in the world you will find none better than here in Chile. It seems like they endless ways to prepare it. If you are on the coast and have the time make a stop at a smaller salmon farm and get a peek at the process of raising these.
Sopa Marina is a seafood soup and it comes with whatever white meat fish is fresh that day. Often served as an appetizer before your main dish.
Smoked fish of all types are available and you will even find smoked fish jerky. If fish is your thing you have come to the right place.
Let's talk bread. There are two popular types of bread. Marraquetas (Mar-ah-ket-ahs) and Hallullahs (eye-you-yuhs). Both are made fresh twice a day and found at all the corner stores and grocerie stores. The Marraqueta is a crusty bread with a soft inside and the hallullah is a flat bread that is denser. Both are amazing and probably the one item everyone has to take with them when they leave.
Dessert. No culinary adventure is complete without it. Trust me the Chileans have gigantic sweet teeth. One sweet tooth is just not enough to describe their love for sweets.
Torta de Mil Hojas is the Chilean classic dessert. It has multiple layers of think crispy pastry topped with manjar, repeat and repeat and repeat then cover the outside with manjar and cover with chocolate or chocolate sprinkles. This is a very rich and tiny slice is more than most people can eat
Another treat are Berlines. These donut like pastries are filled with custard, jam, creme or manjar. They are very popular and you will often see a variety served with once.
For a more complete guide on What To Eat In Chile click on the link below.