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How to Eat Like a Chilean

It’s pretty simple: bread, avocado, mayonnaise, repeat.

There’s lots of meat and random other stuff mixed in there too, but those 3 things will get you far. The cuisine in Chile is definitely not what I expected it to be, even though I had very few expectations of it going in. I tried to avoid the typical habit of assuming all Latin American food is just like Mexican food, but I definitely still had that in the back of my mind, at least I was hoping it was true. OH MY GOSH that is so not true! I wish someone would have warned me, and I would have packed a couple of Moe’s burritos in my suitcase. Chilean food is nothing at all like Mexican food (even though it involves lots and lots of avocado) for many reasons but mainly this one:

Chileans do not like it hot. Why? I don’t know, but they don’t. Flavors in general are very very mild, except for some of the sweet stuff which could make your teeth fall out after the first bite. In general, food is cooked with very few seasonings. Aside from bread, avocado, and mayonnaise, meals (in my house) often consist of lettuce, tomato, and beets (which are actually super good) for the salad, some variety of really brothy soup, rice or mashed potatoes, and “chicken slab.” I’ll explain that last one because it’s not a Chilean term, it’s my own. “Chicken slab” is what you get when you take a chicken (but really any kind of meat), put it in the oven or the rotisserie, cook it up, and serve it on a plate. You don’t cut it up, you don’t season it, you don’t mix it with veggies or anything like that; you just cook it, break off a leg, and put it in you’re mouth. It gets the job done, but it’s lacks a little wow factor. The food here isn’t bad, I really like soup and some of the meals I’ve had have been pretty great, but I really miss the heat. If I can get my hands on anything remotely spicy, it’s better than desert.

That said, I have a few favorites that are suuuper good and deserve a special mention:

1. Manjar: In most other countries it’s called Dulce de Leche, but if you don’t know what that is, it’s a thick, creamy, caramel sauce that just adds a little magic to anything and everything. It’s very popular in Chile and is usually present in cakes, ice cream, candy, and jars that never last very long in the fridge. All of us gringos just go CRAZY for it.

2. Empanadas: This is another Chilean classic. It’s basically a little dough pocket that’s fried and filled with all sorts of different delicious things. The most popular types are cheese empanadas and empanadas de pino which are filled with ground beef, onions, half of a hard boiled egg, and an olive that must be avoided at all costs. Besides those there are infinite other types and flavors (including one that is filled with manjar) that you can get at any of the hundreds of little restaurants and empanada shops.

3. Pevre: <- I think that is how you spell it but I’m not positive. This is one of the only spicy Chilean foods out there and I LOVE it. It’s a lot like pico de gallo but chopped up more finely and served with bread before meals at restaurants. Sometimes after all the bread is gone I take a spoon and just eat all the pevre that’s left. It’s never enough.

4. Completos: These are super Chileno because they incorporate all 3 of the 3 basic ingredients of Chilean cuisine. It’s a hotdog in a bun topped with avocado, tomato, and mayonnaise, and if that doesn’t sound very good just trust me, it is. Of course I always order mine without mayonnaise because there are somethings I’ll just never get used to.

5. Pisco: Pisco is an alcoholic beverage made from grapes (I think) and is considered the national drink of Chile (once again, I think). The most popular pisco drinks are the pisco sour which is pisco mixed with citrusy stuff and sugar, and the piscola which is pisco mixed with coca-cola or sprite. Both are delicious! People in the US don’t know what they’re missing out on.

So that’s a brief summary of the food here. I’m loving trying new things and learning to like new things. I’ve learned you can learn to like just about anything if you come at it with the right mindset. For me that was meatloaf which has been one of my least favorite foods my entire life, but after looking at it with fresh eyes and eating it enough times for dinner I’ve grown to actually kind of enjoy it. I’m still avoiding the mayonnaise and the Chilean habit of bathing everything in oil, but that’s more for health reasons. I need to leave room on my waistline for all the manjar I’m eating ¿Cachaí?

 

Note: I got all of the images in this post from google images since I didn’t have any food pictures of my own. Not trying to get sued, you know what I’m sayin

 

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