Chile is most famous for its asados, just like Argentina, the open-fire barbecues, with beef, pork, lamb, chicken… But there is a tremendous variety of food and restaurants in Chile, everything from steakhouses to sushi.
When you enjoy an asado make sure not to focus only on the pieces of meat and poultry. Do try all the different kinds of sausages. Delicious, sometimes spicy, longaniza, chorizo and others. And some very good (black) blood sausage too (prietas).
Chile is fond of its beef, but it is also a country with an incredibly long coastline, so you will find lots of fish, often varieties that you would not be familiar with at home.
There is also much shell-fish (mariscos) here; many will be familiar, others more unique. Cazuela mariscos (seafood stew), centolla (a type of crab), locos (a white shellfish), piure (very odd rock-like thing), erizo (urchins), almejas (clams), oysters, machas (another clam), jibia (squid)…
It is one of the big fruit growing countries of the world so you get a lot of nice succulent fruit. It is also one of the biggest producers of avocado, not to miss. But here they call it palta.
Country-side kitchen is often based on choclo (maize, corn) so you will find many different maize preparations, especially in more country-style restaurants.
There are soooo many Chilean food specialities so there’s not enough space to go into it here. But it’s easy to find online. Porotos granados (bean stew), pastels de choclo (corn pie) and humitas (another type of corn preparation, wrapped in a leaf), pebre (a pepper, tomato, onion and herbs sauce, a must-try), albóndigas al jugo (meatballs in sauce)…
One curious speciality, though, that is fun to mention since it’s not often talked about, is hot dogs. Yes. There are special hot dog restaurants. It’s not really considered as something gastronomic, but certainly much more sophisticated than fast-food. You can get a menu with twenty different hotdogs with various garnishes.
You have completos, italianos, and many other versions. Certainly worth exploring if you want something local and not too complicated.
Another thing you should also try if you get the opportunity, is some of the traditional Mapuche food. The Mapuches is one of the original groups of inhabitants in Chile. You can find restaurants that specialise in their traditional food. Digueñes, piñones, tortillas rescoldo,…
Two more things not to miss, that are in fact impossible to miss, are the empanadas and the pisco sour.
Empanadas, just like in Argentina, are folded pastries (not sweet!) filled with vegetables or meat or fish or other things. In Chile, they are usually bigger than in Argentina. They are often served as an appetizer before the meal. Served piping hot, so be careful when you bite into it.
There is a (cultural) war between Chile and Peru over who makes the “real” pisco sour. The good thing about that is that you can simply not care and conclude that you must try several variants of both. Pisco is a spirit distilled from wine, a bit like cognac, but much more like a young and fruity brandy without barrel ageing. A good measure of pisco, not quite as much lemon juice, and sugar. Chilled with ice, vigorously shaken, and strained off the ice. Sometimes an egg-white is added before shaking. Perfect in the afternoon or before dinner. There’s even a pisco with a coca leaf in the bottle.
Wikipedia has a good article on Chilean food.
Now you know the basics. If you want to know more, you should come on a wine and gourmet tour to Chile and Argentina with us.
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