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Typical Chilean Cuisine

June 26, 2013
by CEA MOJO
While studying abroad in Viña del Mar, Chile, I have learned a lot about the different foods that are part of the culture and I have eaten many new dishes as a result.

But first, I would like to describe the differences in the sizes and the times of the Chilean meals throughout the day because they vary greatly from the schedule I would normally follow in the United States. Breakfast is a fairly small meal consisting of a couple pieces of bread and jam or a yogurt. Lunch is eaten between noon and 3 p.m. and is usually the largest meal of the day. There are some families who eat dinner between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., but most families have once, or teatime, between 6 and 10 p.m., which is essentially an evening snack and a cup of tea.
 
Fish:
Chile’s Pacific coast stretches around 4,300 km, thus making fish a large part of Chilean cuisine. Any food that involves fish can be guaranteed to be extremely fresh. One great fish dish is called Paila Marina. This is a seafood soup or stew served steaming hot in a “paila”, or a bowl made of clay. There are many different kinds of shellfish (shells kept on) and fish in the soup along with vegetables including carrots, onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes and herbs/spices.

Merluza is one of the most popular kinds of fish eaten in Chile. This fish is white, soft, and mild-tasting, so it is usually served fried or baked rather than in soups or stews.

Congrio is another very popular kind of fish. This fish is also white and mild tasting, but it is much more firm than the Merluza, so it can be prepared in stews as well as baked or fried.

Although sushi is a Japanese food, there are plenty of sushi restaurants around Viña del Mar that have sit-down and take-out/delivery food. The sushi in Chile is to die for because of the unbeatable freshness of the fish. 
 
Meat:
Three of the most common meat dishes are choripán, completos, and chorrillana. My host family often makes choripán when we have barbecues on the weekends as an appetizer before the meal. This food is a chorizo sausage placed into a piece of batido bread (similar to a hot dog bun with a baguette crust) hollowed out with mayonnaise, hot sauce, or pebreon top. 

Completos are often found in restaurants and street carts (similar to hot dog stands in the United States).  A completo is a large hot dog (it can be as large as twice the size of a normal-sized hot dog from the United States!) completely covered in mayonnaise, avocado, and chopped tomatoes. These basic toppings more specifically refer to an Italiano because the colors correspond to the Italian flag, but other toppings available include mustard, cheese, ketchup, and onions. 

Chorrillanais a bit of a combination of foods. The base of this dish is a plate of french-fries. Placed on the french-fries is meat covered with an oniony sauce, and finally a fried egg is laid on top.

A couple other meat dishes, though less common, are llama and carbonada. Llama can be found in San Pedro de Atacama, where it is marinated, glazed, grilled, and put on a cabob with onions. Llama tastes a bit like chicken, though a bit tougher. 

Carbonada is a stew containing roast beef, potatoes, rice, and vegetables such as onions, green beans, and fresh peas. This is a fantastic hot meal filled with vegetables and protein.
 
 
Other main dishes:
One of my favorite meals I have eaten this semester is called pastel de choclo. Choclo is the Chilean word for sweet corn. The corn is ground into a paste for this meal and cooked with milk, onions, spices, and slices of hard boiled egg in a clay bowl (the same kind of bowl used for paila marina). This dish often includes either minced beef or chicken, but can easily be left out to make this dish vegetarian.  Many people sprinkle sugar on top of this already sweet dish before eating. 

Chaquican is a Chilean beef stew that includes zucchini, potatoes, squash, peppers, carrots, and corn, and often has a fried egg on top.
 
Bread:
Bread is one of the most eaten foods in Chile. Luckily, the bread here is amazing so it is impossible to get tired of eating it for one, two, or even three meals in a day!

Two of the most common types of bread are hallullaand marraqueta, or batido. Hallullais a flat, round bread, whereas batidois soft bread resembling a short baguette. Pebre is almost always placed on the table before a meal at restaurants along with butter to eat with the bread. It is a spicy mixture of chili peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, and occasionally tomatoes, though the spiciness and the taste vary quite a bit. Avocado is a very common food to put on bread and salads. Eaten during once, avocado is usually mashed up and mixed with olive oil and salt for taste. It is sliced rather than mashed for salads.

Empanadas and sopaipillasare other extremely common foods in Chile. Empanadas look like calzones in that they are made in the shape of a semicircle. They are usually fried pockets of dough filled with cheese and meat, cheese and shrimp, cheese and crab, a mixture of the meats, or just cheese. 
Sopaipillas are also fried dough, but they are made with pumpkin, flour, and butter.  These flat round circles of fried dough are usually eaten with pebre, ketchup, mustard, cheese, or butter on top. On particularly rainy days in Chile, families often make sopaipillas pasadas, which are sopaipillas covered in a sweet sauce made out of sugar and honey and flavored with orange peel.
 
Sweets:

Manjar is similar to dulce de leche in Argentina or caramel in other parts of the world, but it still maintains a very unique taste. Manjar is found in many foods including cakes, candies, ice cream, and cookies. It can also be placed on Chilean panqueques before the pancakes are rolled into a small crepe-like snack. Alfajores are a common sweet that include at least two cookies sandwiching a layer of manjar and coated in chocolate. Many students make and sell these cookies at school as a way to make a little bit of money. 

Another note on sweets is that the ice cream in Chile, especially at Bravissimo, is excellent. It seems there are ice cream shops on every single street in Chile, so I haven’t gotten close to trying all the shops, but most shops have common flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry as well as unique flavors like manjar, tres leches, and lúcuma. Many shops also let customers taste different flavors before choosing, so be sure to ask to try some new flavors rather than sticking to the same, boring combinations!
 
I hope this post gave you a better idea of what kinds of food to expect when you come to study abroad in Viña del Mar, Chile! I am so glad I have been able to broaden the experiences for my taste buds this semester, and I know there will be some foods that I will make when I head back to the United States.  As the common phrase goes here in Chile, “que rico la comida!”
 
Emily Shaw is the Spring 2013 CEA MOJO in Viña del Mar, Chile.

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