Traditional Food Of Chile

Colorful buildings on the hills of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Valparaiso, Chile

Due to its historical background, Chile's gastronomy offers a unique fusion of traditional and modern delicacies. The following are the 10 most traditional and famous foods from Chile.   

 Sopaipillas / Chilean-Style Sopaipillas

Sopaipillas

Sopaipilla is a kind of bread that has been present in Chilean cuisine since 1726. It is an inheritance left by the Spaniards in several Latin American regions. It basically is a wheat dough that is left to ferment and then lard or animal fat is added.

Once the dough has risen, it must be flattened with a rolling pin and cut into small circles, triangles or squares. They are approximately three inches long when they are prepared for dessert, and about six or eight inches when they are filled and served as main dish.

When fried in oil, they increase their size a little more, forming a hollow in the center as a kind of pocket. In the center of Chile it is customary to add ground pumpkin to the mace, but not in the south.   

The sopaipilla, which should be crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside, can be decorated with a variety of ingredients. They are traditionally served with Pebre, or boiled in chancaca sauce. This depends on whether it is a dessert or as a main dish.  

Chicken in mud / Pollo al barro

 Pollo al barroFoto: www.innaturale.com

Pollo al barro is a very old and traditional dish of the Chilean cuisine. It comes from the skillful hands of farm workers, who with ingenuity, effort, intelligence and passion managed to mix several ingredients that resulted in this dish that is part of the Chilean idiosyncrasy. 

It is the kind of dish that requires some expertise for its preparation, but it is worth the effort because it is just delicious and the meat is incredibly juicy. After only a few minutes of cooking, the juices of the chicken meat intermingle with the marinade to provide an aromatic and flavorful experience.

The chicken should be washed very well, rubbed with garlic, salt and then wrapped in plastic. Then, cover the chicken with a paste of soil and water. Put the chicken in the clay oven and wait a short time to enjoy this excellent dish. 

According to each person's taste, some prefer to stuff the chicken with apples and even add lemon juice to the meat. The secret of the exquisite flavor of this dish lies precisely in the clay, which petrifies when it heats up, so the chicken keeps all of its juices and flavors. 

Pantruca

Pantruca keeshaskitchen

Pantruca or Pancutra is a Chilean broth prepared with wheat flour, water and a touch of oil. It is kneaded, cut and cooked in vegetable or meat soups.

This dish, which is generally eaten in winter, has an uncertain origin. However, some experts assure that its roots are Inca. This food is part of the culinary tradition throughout Chile, although it is very popular in the south, including the southern provinces of Argentina.

In Argentina it is customary to prepare Pantruca with small pieces of meat, while in Chile ground meat is used. In some Chilean regions the meat is replaced by dried fish or beef jerky. 

Humitas / steamed fresh corn cakes

Humitas

Humita, which in Quechua means cornbread, is one of Chile's typical dishes that originated in pre-Hispanic times. It retains some resemblance to the Mexican tamale but differs greatly in the ingredients: Mexicans add highly seasoned beef, pork, or chicken, while in Chile it is prepared with basil, onion, and lard.

The preparation of this dish is very simple, in essence, it is a paste of cooked corn dough, seasoned according to taste, and wrapped in corn leaves before toasting. This food can be eaten sweet if sugar is added, or salty with chili sauce. There is a sweet and sour version in which the sweet humita is mixed with tomato.

The corn that is generally used to prepare humitas is characterized by its large size, it is sweeter and starchier than those used for the preparation of Mexican tortillas or polenta. 

Pichanga / Chilean appetizer

Pichanga is a Chilean dis

Foto: chileanfoodandgarden.com

Pichanga is a Chilean dish that can be enjoyed cold and hot. The cold version is a mixture of pork meat, to which pickles, carrots, onions and pickled vegetables are added. The hot version, very popular in southern Chile, is composed of French fries, sausage, hard-boiled egg, chopped beef, melted cheese, avocado and tomatoes among other vegetables. It often also includes pickles and sliced gherkins.  

It is a dish that is usually prepared at family or friends' gatherings. The purpose is to spend a pleasant time with people around while enjoying a succulent meal that is also an important source of calories, excellent to combat the low winter temperatures.    

Curanto in Hoyo

Curanto in Hoyo keeshaskitchen

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and, according to historians, the Curanto in Hoyo is a worthy example. In ancient times, the high temperatures in Patagonia made it challenging to cook food. In addition, the scarcity of firewood, and the continuous rain as well as the excessive wind made it in even more difficult.

For this reason, the Mapuches (also called Araucanians) created a system that consisted of creating heat underground to cook food. Essentially, a hole is dug (not very deep), heated stones are added to the fire and several nalca leaves are placed on top of them.

Vegetables, sausages and various types of meat are placed on these leaves. Once all the ingredients are added, they are covered with more leaves, branches and stones that serve as insulators. With this kind of natural oven, the heat is not only preserved, but enhanced. Nowadays, the food is covered with aluminum foil, this way it cooks much better and the meat retains its juices.

The most frequently used vegetables are potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes, eggplants, carrots as well as apples. An unforgettable experience is watching it cook slowly. Once the leaves and the stones are removed, the steaming food appears, ready to be enjoyed.       

Chilean Salsa / Chancho en piedra

Chancho en piedra

Chancho en piedra is a Chilean sauce that originated during the independence struggles. This dish received its name due to the fact that the ingredients must be ground in a mortar. According to studies, the word chancho likely derives from chanco or chancar, which in Quechua means to grind ore.

The preparation of this sauce takes some time, which is why it is somewhat difficult to find in restaurants. In addition, once prepared, it should be consumed immediately. For its preparation it is essential to use tomatoes, salt, cumin, oil, pepper and green chili. However, the ingredients generally vary according to the region of Chile where the chacho en piedra is prepared. 

This sauce is the ideal accompaniment to any main dishes, or can also be used as a dip with bread, tortillas, black or kneaded bread. 

Caldillo de congrio (conger eel stew)

Caldillo de congrio (conger eel stew)

Caldillo de congrio is a very famous dish of the Chilean gastronomy. This delicacy, which is made from golden conger eel, a fish that abounds in the southern Pacific coast, is one of the most representative recipes of Chilean culinary art, since Pablo Neruda himself dedicated one of his famous poems to it.

The caldillo de congrio is a semi-fatty, invigorating, strong and resistant dish, especially for times of low temperature. It is a simple dish that dates back to the middle of the last century in the coves of the center of the country.

It is usually served in deep plates, with lemon juice, coriander and chili according to the taste of the diners. To keep it hotter, in some areas they prefer to serve it in clay dishes. It goes very well with a glass of cool white wine.

Pine empanada

Pine empanada keeshaskitchen

Empanadas were brought to Latin America by the Spaniards who, in turn, got this idea from the Arabs as part of their culinary heritage after they left the Hispanic territory. It is a fundamental dish in the cuisine of this part of the world.

With the arrival of the Europeans in America, many changes took place, including in culinary matters thanks to the mixture of old and new ingredients. The Chilean empanada, among many other foods, was a result of this mixture.

Beef, olives, onions, eggs and raisins are the main ingredients for the preparation of the empanada de pino, a reliable sample of the inclusion of native ingredients with foreign ones, which we now know as pino. 

Scholars assure that the Mapuche indigenous people gave the name of Pirro to this mixture of ingredients and, later, it obtained the name of pino. It is the typical food when the month of the homeland is celebrated, although due to its popularity it can be enjoyed at any time.  

Chorrillana   Chorrillana keeshaskitchen

Chorrillana is a dish in which various types of meat are mixed with eggs, fried onions, viennoiseries, salt and seasoning. It originated during the Pacific War when the Chilean army had to devise a dish with whatever they had on hand while in battle.

There is another theory that says that this meal was invented in 1970 in a non-commissioned officers' casino. The owner of the establishment asked for a snack dish to be prepared for the young people who were going to consume alcohol in the establishment. The idea was a cheap but hearty dish that could be shared.

There are several recipes for this dish, however, it should not be confused with the hot pichanga, typical of southern Chile. Chorrillana is made with the same ingredients as bistec a lo pobre, but chopped, and is intended for several people (approximately four to six).

The different versions of this dish vary according to the region where it is made. In some areas they add chorizos, instead of scrambled eggs on top of the meat.

In Canada there is a very similar dish called Poutine. This is made of fried potatoes, meat sauce and cheese in small pieces. Some fast food chains in Chile have incorporated the Chorrillana in their menu, but in slightly reduced sizes.

Conclusion

Chile is a country that, throughout its territory, has almost all climates. This has favored the production of fruits and vegetables throughout the nation with undeniable export quality. This geographical variation is also noticeable in its gastronomy, which has been greatly strengthened by the contribution of the Europeans who arrived in these lands hundreds of years ago.

This was fused with the ingredients contributed by the indigenous people of the region, such as potatoes and corn, among others. In addition, the combination of cooking styles resulted in the famous and representative dishes of Chilean food that we know and love today.