Chilean Food Day: 5 dishes of our nation’s gastronomy you must try
By: Hernan Claro - 11 April, 2023
Thanks to Chile’s impressive biodiversity, numerous climates and landscapes, and extremely long coastline from its northern tip to the Antarctic in the south, the country produces an enormous variety of culinary ingredients, giving birth to exquisite dishes. Here, Chile Travel proudly presents some of our national gastronomic emblems. That way, when you come, you’ll know what to order!
Learn about Chile’s Aboriginal Cuisine
If you are a lover of good food and want to explore new culinary experiences, you can not miss the cuisine of the Mapuche people; a sample of the history and culture of this southern Chilean culture, surrounded by volcanoes, forests, and lakes, which will fill your visit with unforgettable experiences, colors, flavors, and aromas.
1. The Mapuche Curanto: a delicious culinary experience that you must not miss.
The Mapuche Curanto is a centuries-old preparation that has been passed down from generation to generation among the Mapuche communities of the Araucanía area. Its preparation is an authentic ritual, in which a hole dug in the ground is used to steam the ingredients.
In this hole, where stones have been previously heated, layers of food, such as potatoes, seafood, meat, and vegetables, are placed on top of rhubarb leaves. Everything is covered with more leaves and soil and left to cook for several hours.
The Curanto is worth the wait, as the result is a delicious dish that is very characteristic of Mapuche gastronomy. The ingredients are steamed, preserving all their flavors and nutrients, and the combination of meat, seafood, and vegetables makes every bite an explosion of flavor.
It can be served with Muday, a typical Mapuche drink. Muday is produced by fermenting grains such as wheat or pine nut seeds. It has a low alcohol content and is always part of the Mapuche ceremonies and celebrations.
Contemporary cuisine in Chile has evolved in recent years thanks to a combination of cultural influences, innovations, creativity, and a greater appreciation for native and local ingredients. This gastronomic movement has led to the creation of groundbreaking dishes and the renewal of Chilean gastronomic traditions.
One of the most prominent trends in Chile’s contemporary cuisine is the inclusion of indigenous components into new dishes. Chefs are searching across the country’s regions for ingredients such as quinoa, merkén (hot chili spice), cochayuyo (seaweed), maqui (a native berry), hazelnuts, and many others, to prepare them using modern techniques. In addition, our culinary diversity is gaining much more importance as dishes strive to represent different regions and cultures.
2. 2023’s Award-Wining Locos (Chilean Abalones)
One of the most delicious ingredients that comes from the Chilean seas is the Concholepas concholepas, a mollusk better known as “Loco”. The Chilean loco fills us with pride, taking the title of 2023’s Mollusc of the Year awarded by the German scientific society, Senckenberg Society for Nature Research.
If you travel to Chile, you will surely find at least one Loco preparation, for example, a baked “Chupe” au gratin with avocado, or the cooked loco served over native potatoes and mayonnaise or chopped loco with quinoa and salsa verde.
Chile’s traditional cuisine connects us with the land, the countryside, and the sea. Our national cuisine was born to nourish and replenish the souls of the working people who prepared their meals with ingredients coming directly from the fields. It is highly nutritional, made with love, and evokes certain emotions. You should absolutely try these meals if you are passing through Chile.
We cannot discuss traditional Chilean cuisine without mentioning the Cazuela, our national comfort food prepared to warm our bodies and souls. It is such a fundamental part of Chilean culture that when someone looks too skinny, we say: “You could use some cazuelas.” It is Chile’s version of a stew, prepared with beef, chicken, or sometimes lamb, big portions of pumpkin, potato, and corn. This meal fills you with energy, warmth, and nutrition, especially in winter.
Seafood of the Pacific
With over 6,400 kilometers (8,000 mi) of coastline, Chile is a destination blessed with abundant goodies that the Pacific Ocean offers. Families, fishing communities, and innovative restaurants of any class all take advantage of having the coast nearby. We are blessed with cold water currents that favor a great diversity of fish, mollusks, and shellfish, used to elaborate tasty creations and contribute to developing a Pacific gastronomic tradition that delights visitors from around the world.
4. Caldillo de congrio (Conger eel stew)
Caldillo de congrio is an iconic dish of Chilean gastronomy. This fish stew is prepared with conger (a variety of eel), onions, garlic, tomato, paprika, potatoes, carrots, and spices. The conger eel gives the broth an intense, savory flavor, while the vegetables add texture and flavor. It is served hot and is perfect for cold winter days. A dish so exquisite that our Nobel Prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda, described it as “a delight that must be tasted, a delicacy worthy of the gods”.
Chile’s markets are a must-visit destination for any foodie. Markets offer an authentic and unique experience to explore our local cuisine, learn about Chile’s food culture and enjoy flavors and textures you can’t find anywhere else.
In addition to providing fresh ingredients, Chile’s markets are full of typical foods, such as chorrillanas (french fries topped with sauteed beef strips, onions, and fried eggs.), pastel de jaiba (a type of crab pie), sopaipillas (like a pumpkin fritter), machas a la parmesana (clams with cheese), milcao (a potato pancake), or pastel de choclo (a type of corn pie). But one popular food in any market throughout the country, and one of Chilean actor Pablo Pascal’s favorites, is the empanada.
The Chilean empanada is one of the most emblematic and famous delicacies of the nation’s gastronomy. This delicious, thin, crunchy dough, filled with assorted ingredients, can be baked or fried. The most traditional Chilean empanada is the empanada de pino, which has beef, onions, pieces of hard-boiled egg, raisins, and olives, seasoned with cumin, pepper, and other spices. It is perfect for any occasion, from a quick lunch to a party appetizer.
Many kinds of empanadas have different fillings, such as cheese, seafood, and vegetarian varieties. But if you are visiting Chile, you must remember to try one of the delicious empanadas, which will surely conquer you with its unique flavor and crunchy, delightful texture.