Food in Chile?!
Wasn’t Chile like a hundred years ago?? Yes, well the food posts do take a while to get round to… 🙂 It’s also good to have a contrast against some other countries both before and after – yes that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
So, where to start? Well first of all, the food was better in Chile than in Argentina 🙂 Yes, poor old Argentina… BUT in Argentina the empanadas are tiny, the food is not spicy, and there is not enough seafood – in Chile the empanadas are HUGE, there is usually a spicy sauce called ‘pebre‘ available, and there’s always fish on the menu.
So, Argentina bashing aside, what can we say about food in Chile…
To be honest, we stayed in a LOT of self-catering places in Chile, and therefore created our own breakfasts. In the hotels/hostals that included breakfast, there was a pretty big range of quality – best breakfast award goes to the O’Higgins hotel in Valparaiso – not only was it a really great, huge breakfast buffet – but as we checked in before 10am and that day’s breakfast buffet was still out – they let us have TWO breakfasts, even though we only stayed one night! 🙂 🙂 🙂 How nice is that?
When breakfast was provided it was generally bread, cheese and ham as the ‘core’. Additional items of avocado, eggs, and cake were sometimes provided. Chile did not present any threat to Brazil’s status as the ‘best breakfast providing country‘. We started our tradition of eating bran cereals in Chile with one of the best bran cereals that we have found to date – Adelgazul Fibra – yes, it’s a weird name…no, we didn’t take a picture of the box sadly – our obession with food pictures hadn’t quite started when we were eating this cereal…
Lunch in Chile is the main meal of the day, like in lots of South American countries. There was no shortage of great ‘menus of the day’ to eat – and there was almost always a fish option – very good for CC, as she had yet to start eating chicken in the early days of the trip 🙂
Many of the lunch dishes were of the ‘fish, chips, and salad’ variety – but they did have a few weird dishes and specialities mixed in. Meals were usally served with Pebre – a bowl of sauce which is usually, but not always spicy – and generally you get some bread as well.
Seafood soups are popular in Chile, and most of them that we had were delicious. Often though, there were things inside the soup that we could not identify! (Most of which we managed to eat….). Also, sometimes they tasted a bit too much on the ‘fishy’ side – yes I know that sounds ridiculous…. ! 🙂
Another popular dish is Cazuela – this is a pretty vague term, as it literally means ‘cooking pot’. If you have this you pretty much get a giant bowl of soup with anything that they have left over thrown in. Usually there are giant chunks of meat in it – meaning that this dish was not generally a choice for CC! 🙂
Besides the soups, there are options for more ‘salad-based’ starters – a very common one is called ‘Palta Reina’ – which means ‘Avocado Queen’ – yes, difficult to imagine what this actually is, except that it’s probably got avocado in it! 🙂 It turns out to be avocado stuffed with either a chicken or tuna salad – not sure what is very royal about that…!
Much of the time though, the starter was a pretty standard soup or a small salad…
Occasionally we got a giant empanada! (shout out to Hotel Prat in Valparaiso! 🙂 – we had the menu del dia there and got a giant empanada as the first course. We went back nine months later and they still had the empanada on offer! Good one! 🙂
For the main course, besides our most popular choice of fish (usually merluza [hake]), there was often an ‘a lo pobre‘ option. This translates roughly as ‘for the poor’ – and means a big pile of meat covered in fried eggs, chips, onions, and more meat – making it very large (and meaty…). CC is not fan of meat, and I’m not a fan of fried egg – so unsurprisingly we never ordered this dish!
Traditional Chilean cuisine has a few ‘bean-based’ dishes – the most famous of which is ‘porotos granados‘ – a delicous stew of beans, corn, and many other ingredients. Unfortunately it was actually very hard to find in restaurants – it seems that people mostly just cook it at home. We did manage it a couple of times though.
We also had a few mains that you would quite frankly call ‘weird’…
Other lunch options besides the set menus were the occasional ‘buffet type restaurant’ (sometimes even vegetarian!), falafel (YES! a few parts of Chile had decent middle-eastern cuisine), junk food (hot dogs etc.), and making our own lunch.
As lunch is the main meal of the day in Chile, dinner in Chile seemed to not exist much?! – a lot of Chileans just eat bread and snacks or a very light meal. We didn’t eat dinner out very much, as the cheap deals are not on offer for dinner…
BUT, they do have a thing called ‘onces’ – this literally means ‘elevenses‘ – but it has nothing to do with eleven o’ clock in Chile – it now means ‘having a ‘big snack in the late afternoon’ – that’s MY definition, which based on extensive research I believe to be highly accurate 🙂
Chileans often skip dinner if they have had a big ‘onces’ – but NOT US! No, we of course had big ‘onces’, and then of course still wanted dinner as well 🙂
Now is a good time for me to mention cake – yes, this is because Chile is FULL of cake – especially in the south of Chile, where the German migration caused a huge influx of cake as well. We ate a LOT of cake for ‘onces’ when we were in southern Chile. We also had the occasional ‘healthy’ option – but the pics below demonstrate that perhaps it wasn’t very often….. 🙂
I seem to have spent the whole ‘dinner section’ talking about ‘onces’ and ‘cakes’ – well who can blame me? But anyway, when we did eat dinner in, there were a few Chilean things that could be prepared (from a tin or heated up in a microwave of course! 🙂 )
As I mentioned earlier, one of the tastiest things in Chile is Porotos Granados. Handily this can be bought pre-made in a supermarket. We REALLY enjoyed our heated up Porotos Granados and ate it a LOT. Then one day we went to the supermarket and our tin wasn’t there?! Shock, horror! BUT, we found another version of Porotos Granados in a packet – so dinner was saved! ……Or so we thought 🙁 The other brand of Porotos Granados turned out to be CRAP and HORRIBLE. We were SO disappointed – and that brand was banned forever…
Centauro, the creator of the delicious Porotos Granados tin, also creates quite a nice ‘Lentils with rice’ tin, which we enjoyed on occasions…
You might be wondering how we actually managed to eat any dessert after all the cake – but where there is a will, there is a way! 🙂 There were a few REALLY good supermarket desserts available, which were based on traditional Chilean desserts (or more accurately South American desserts – as everybody seems to eat these…)
Now we come to snacks! Yes, the cakes for ‘onces’ don’t actually count as snacks, as ‘onces’ is an ‘official’ mealtime. These are snacks that we ate between breakfast and lunch. The Chileans don’t have an official name for this, but we have an official name and it’s called ‘morning snack’. Yes – VERY imaginative no?
The island of Chiloe has it’s own special set of snacks, so we thought we had better try a few of them out…
The most famous snack in Chile is Mote con Huesillo – made from peaches and husked wheat. It tastes better than it sounds… 🙂 It is practically the Chilean national drink/snack and we had it at every opportunity 🙂
As well as ‘South American’ snacks, you can of course get ‘international’ snacks – these aren’t as good usually, but occasionally an ice-cream hits the spot.
Before anybody starts complaining that there are ‘cakes’ in the ‘international snacks’ section, and that ‘churros’ are Spanish not South American, and that ‘Chocolitos’ ice-cream is not available outside South America etc. etc. etc. – let me just say – ‘It’s my food post and I’ll categorise how I want to’ 🙂 🙂 🙂
If Chilean food has a weak point, then it’s definitely ice-cream. Chilean ice-cream was lame.
However, the empanadas really made up for the crap ice-cream. Chilean empanadas were usually a) FRIED, b) HUGE, and c) AVAILABLE in a cheese and prawn variety. I will go out on a limb and say that the Chilean empanadas are the best in South America! (until further notice….)
Chile doesn’t have tons of street food – but one thing that can usually be found if you look hard enough is Sopaipillas. These are similar to the Tortas Fritas of Uruguay and Argentina, except in Chile you always get a spicy sauce to put all over it. Cheap and delicious, we sometimes had a couple of these instead of lunch 🙂
‘How many kinds of snack categories can you possibly create?!’ I hear you asking… Well, ‘bus snacks’ are different because they need to be easy to carry and are usually found in a supermarket… Chile had some excellent bus snacks….
Fruit is not normally a category – but we found a couple of strange fruits in Chile. The first one is called a ‘Pepino dulce’ – this is pretty confusing because ‘pepino’ means ‘cucumber’ and this is NOT a cucumber… and people used ‘pepino’ to refer to cucumbers as well as this fruit. Anyway, you can call it Solanum Muricatum if you prefer, and it’s more like a melon than a cucumber. We liked these a lot and started buying them for breakfast.
The other fruit we tried was a ‘mountain papaya‘. It smelled AMAZING, and there were all kinds of jams and sweets made from them for sale in Chile. When we saw it in the supermarket we couldn’t resist and we bought one. Unfortunately it tasted totally crap, and we then discovered that you have to cook it to make it taste good…. OOPS! Ah well – better luck next time…
Chile is actually famous for bread (well, Chile thinks it is anyway…). There are many, many types of Chilean bread, and in supermarkets you have to pick which bread you want. The two most common kinds are Halulla, and Marraqueta. These are the ‘go-to’ every day breads. Chileans apparently eat the second highest amount of bread in the world per-capita (Turkey is the highest). But of course the internet disagrees with this, and I have no idea where to get definitive bread-eating statistics. In Chile you can buy bread pretty much at every little corner shop – you don’t have to go trudging around to find a bakery like in a lot of places. When we arrived in Santiago there was an exhibition in the cultural centre which was ENTIRELY devoted to Chilean bread – so they DEFINITELY are serious about their bread 🙂
Now although we enjoyed most of what Chile had to offer, there is one thing that they did there which was CLEARLY WRONG! Yes, they have a thing called a ‘Fanschop’.
The word comes from a mix of ‘Fanta’ and ‘Schop’. A ‘Schop’ is what Chileans call a draft beer (the German influence coming out again….) So a ‘Fanschop’ is a mixture of Fanta and beer – YES – like a weird frankenstein shandy! In the line of duty we needed to try this, and it was available in most bars and restaurants – but we couldn’t face actually paying restaurant prices for this monstrosity…. so we made our own! We even looked up the correct ratio of Fanta and beer on the internet to make sure that we were doing it right 🙂
Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but the ‘fanschop’ was pretty rough – even the worst beer tastes better without fizzy orange added…..
Moving on to better things! PISCO! 🙂 Pisco is the national drink of Chile, and the national cocktail is the Pisco Sour. Pisco is made from distilled grape juice – kind of like a Grappa. We tried Pisco in a variety of styles, and generally speaking it was PRETTY DAMN GOOD! A well-made Pisco Sour really does hit the spot – unfortunately they are a little expensive, so we didn’t indulge that much. We decided that if one day we went back to Chile on holiday we would drink them all the time 🙂
So that’s about it! Next up, Food in Bolivia (it may take a while to come….) 🙂