Chilean cuisine varies depending where you are, because of its ecological and climatic diversity there is a great variety of products available in different regions. All the different regional cuisines are a combination of traditional native Chilean dishes and ingredients, European and in a lesser extent Middle Eastern influences, creating the Chilean Creole cuisine. Three distinct cuisines can be distinguished; the cuisine of the North, Central and South.
Because of Chile’s long coast seafood is the main ingredient of its many dishes, mostly in the center and the south of the country. Local crops are the staple of each regional cuisine which have been prepared for thousands of years by native Indians before the Spanish arrived. Among the most important agricultural crops are maize also known as choclo, quinoa and potatoes which have been cultivated since pre-Inca times providing nourishment in the high altitudes of the Andes. Although it originated in Europe, olives from the north of Chile are widely used in many local dishes. Among fruits lucuma and chirimoya, both native of Peru, and murtilla, endemic to Chile, are among those widely used in desserts.
Since the time of the Spanish conquest Chile has been producing grapes in its soil rich central region. The wine making tradition that Chile started after its conquest gave origin to other alcoholic drinks such as chicha, pisco and aguardiente. Among Chile’s beverages pisco is considered to be the national drink. Pisco is a strong spirit that contains 40% alc/vol and it is made of the colorless grape brandy. Pisco was developed by the Spanish and it was named after the town of Pisco in the department of Ica, Peru. Today there is controversy as to its origin and the rights to use the Pisco name.
Among the most popular and widespread “comida tipica” or typical dishes of Chile are:
Popular in most of Latin America and brought by the Spanish to New World, empanada is a stuffed pastry made by folding a round shaped dough around the stuffing forming a half moon or they can be folded in a square shape. Empanadas can be baked or fried and stuffed with a variety of fillings. In Chile there are three basic varieties: empanada de mariscos or seafood empanada, empanada de queso or cheese empanada and the most popular one is empanada de pino. Pino is a mixture of ground beef, onions, raisins, black olives and hard boiled eggs.
Pastel de choclo
Pastel de choclo is one of the most popular comfort foods in Chile. This dish is made of ground corn or choclo mixed with ground beef, chicken, onions, black olives, pieces of hard boiled eggs and spices and covered with a corn dough that crusts when baked. It is traditionally baked in a an earthenware bowl called paila.
According to archeologists who found a 6,000 year old curanto dish in Puento Quilo, curanto might be one of the oldest food dishes in the world. It is a traditional food of Chiloe Archipelago and popular in the south of Chile. This dish consists of shellfish, fish, cuts of beef, chorizo, potatoes, vegetables and chapaleles, a kind of dumpling made from boiled potatoes and flour. It is accompanied by potato bread called milcaos. The original way of cooking curanto is in a one and a half meter deep underground stone oven, similar to pachamanca in Peru. The bottom is covered with stones and heated. Once they are hot enough the ingredients and seasonal herbs are wrapped in nalca leaves and placed in the oven for 1 to 2 hours. Other non traditional ways of cooking curanto is in a large stew pot, grill of pressure cooker.
A typical Andean food where maize originated, humitas are made from fresh ground corn (the South American type), sweet basil, lard, onion and paprika or aji de color. The mixture is wrapped in corn husks and secured with a string or with strips of corn shuck. The Chilean variety is usually baked or boiled.
Caldillo de Congrio
Caldillo de Congrio was immortalized by Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda in his “Oda al Caldillo de Congrio”. This dish is a hearty soup made of conger, a type of eel, potato, carrots, cilantro, onion and garlic served with marinated boiled or fried conger. It is a classic soup of the Chilean coast.
More information about the Culture of Chile
Chile has an impressive record of artistic and literary achievement. Political and social circumstances have inspired groups of artists to develop works of art and other cultural accomplishments.
Chileans are a diverse group of people who find their roots in South America and Europe.
Chile’s holidays and festivals have their roots in religious believes and historical events.