While traveling through Chile, my husband and I enjoyed some incredible dining experiences. Fortunately, exploring the cities and towns by foot, and skiing in Portillo burned off an ample number of calories. Otherwise, we would have returned home at least 10 pounds heavier.
The varied geography and climates of the different regions of Chile triggers a diversity of fruits and vegetables. Southern Chile produces potatoes, apples and cabbages, while olives, kiwis, and dates grow in the north. Meanwhile, when the cold Humboldt Current streaming from Antarctica mixes with the warm Pacific Ocean currents to the north, it creates a rich sea, filled with an abundance of fish and shellfish. Seafood is one of the country’s culinary strong suits, particularly along the coast and in Santiago, and you are generally going to end up happy if you go with whatever fresh fish option they happen to be offering. Chilean beef is not as famous as the meat you will find on your travels through Brazil and Argentina, but the farms of Chile raise livestock that rivals its South American counterparts. The barbequed lamb you can find at an Asado Chileno (Chilean BBQ) in Patagonia can be one of the most delectable things you’ll ever eat.
The gastronomic history of Chile begins with the Amerindians, who incorporated corn into all of their dishes. Chileans still enjoy corn-based specialties, including the humitas – pureed–corn cooked in corn husks – and a corn and meat pie called pastel de choclo.
The Spanish arrived Chile in 1541. They came bearing olives, walnuts, grapes rice, chestnuts, citrus fruits, wheat, sugar, garlic and an infinite variety of spices, along with cheeses and animals used for meat dishes. Then, in 1848, German immigrants announced their arrival in Chile with their rich pastries. Italian and Arab immigrants soon joined the party.
The Italians introduced the art of mixing ices with the different Chilean fruits. Arab immigrants used spices and herbs to create dishes that were both sweet and salty tastes. The British came to Chile between 1880 and 1900, and established the high tea tradition. Chileans still enjoy té con leche, Spanish for tea with milk. Unlike in Argentina, coffee is not a big part of the gastronomic and social life of the country.
As a confirmed snack-addict, I was pleased to discover that Chileans enjoy four meals a day.
“On the symbolic plane, cazuela is a metaphor for life and the cosmos. The foods are cooked in water, within a concave vessel like amniotic fluid in the womb; they transform and express, in their variable whole, the plurality of the animal, vegetable and mineral elements. They constitute a chromatic spectrum, a relation of the solid and liquid, of the salty, the spicy and the sweet. … [cazuela] evokes, in turn, the universe within a pot.”
Here are some other examples of typical Chilean dishes that you will likely come across in your travels:
Not every Chilean dish will inspire you to wax poetic, but many will please the palate.