Long, thin and narrow, Chile is probably the most slender country in the world! But you would be mistaken if you thought that Chile was a small country – it has more than 6000 km (3728.2 mi) of Pacific Ocean coastline to the west and the mighty Andes mountains to the east. The climate of Chile ranges wildly from arid to Mediterranean to Alpine to subtropical to coastal. Add to that the cultural and historical diversity of the people – from the Inca rule to the Spanish colonization to the declaration of independence from Spanish rule. This variety of history and geography is reflected in Chile’s food. Seafood, fresh vegetables, meat, cheese, seasonal produce, and wines are essential elements of Chilean cuisine. Choriqueso, curanto and coquito nuts are just a few of the many delicacies here. So, let’s take a look at the top ten food to try in Chile!
A classic dish from the kitchens of the Magellan people of Chile, choriqueso is ideally a hot dish of sausage meat and melted cheese. In the restaurants of Punta Arenas, it is also often called ‘choripan’ and served as a rich warm bread with cheese and a sausage paste. A glass of milk and banana are also served with it. To outsiders, this meat, cheese, milk and banana combination might sound strange, but locals and tourists both confirm that it’s a tasty Chilean treat!
Ñachi is a popular snack in the rural areas of Chile. It is a specialty of the Mapuche people of Chile. Ñachi is a gelatinous dish made of fresh animal blood mixed with lemon juice, chili, cilantro, and salt. The mixture is left to coagulate and once done, it is cut into cubes and served with bread. Sold on the streets of Chile’s countryside, ñachi often looks like a tray of red gelatin. Do give it a try while wandering through Chile’s countryside!
Cochayuyo is a seaweed or kelp that grows in abundance along the Chilean coast. It is briny, salty and has a chewy texture. Cochayuyo is dried and sold in bundles in most Chilean markets. It is soaked for hours and used in many traditional family recipes like ceviches, salads, stews, etc. Local chefs use it as a meat substitute and creatively incorporate it in vegetarian dishes.
5. Chancho en Piedra
Chancho en Piedra is a type of Chilean salsa served as an accompaniment to empanadas, bread, fish, grilled meats, etc. On the street food stalls, it is also served on sopaipillas (pumpkin fritters) to amp up the flavor. Chancho en Piedra is a close cousin of the pebre (a type of salsa with similar ingredients) but has a more sauce-like consistency. Garlic, spices, chili peppers, and a generous helping of crushed tomatoes are ground to a smooth paste in a traditional stone mortar and pestle to make Chancho en Piedra. In most restaurants, it is served as a salsa-like condiment along with the pre-meal bread.
Another popular traditional Chilean dish is milcao, a type of potato pancake made from a mixture of raw grated potatoes and cooked mashed potatoes mixed with other ingredients. The main components of this dish are the Chilotan potatoes that grow in the Chiloé region. The potato mixture is then formed into a dough and fried or baked. It is traditionally eaten with curanto but can also be eaten as a snack by itself.
7. Ubre Asada
Ubre Asada is a unique Chilean dish, which simply stated, is grilled cow udders. In Ubre Asada, a fresh young cow’s udders are chopped and sliced into thin steaks, then seasoned and grilled until golden. The grilled udders are very tasty and tender, with a springy texture and crispy edges.
8. Coquito nuts
Meet the tropical coconut’s tiny little cousins – coquito nuts! These bite-size nuts look exactly like coconuts, with a brown exterior and a white interior and a flavor similar to coconuts as well. They are the fruits of the Chilean wine palm native to the coastal valleys of Chile. Delicious eaten by themselves, Chileans use them in cakes, ice cream, cookies, etc. Also referred to as pygmy coconuts, coquito nuts are easily available in most supermarkets and specialty stores.
Sopaipillas are traditionally fried pumpkin flatbreads. Sopaipillas are prepared in different ways in the northern and southern areas of Chile. They are either served with hot sauce or a savory pebre sauce or in the form of dessert sopaipillas drizzled with a sweet sauce. In Santiago’s markets, they can be found at almost all the street food stalls. Sopaipillas are perfect bites on the go or even as an energizing snack to pack along on a hike.
Flavors of ChileMapuche to Chilotan to Spanish, various tribes and cultures have influenced Chilean cuisine and made it what it is today. Snacks, meats, seafood, sauces and so much more – Chile’s unique cuisine will take your taste buds on a joy ride. Wherever you travel in Chile, do give these ubiquitously local Chilean dishes a try.
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