Chile food and cuisine - travellers on tours visiting Chile can enjoy local seafood and other delicacies

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Chile food and cuisine

Chile Food

Meal Hours

Chileans usually eat four meals a day, beginning with a light breakfast of toast with a well sugared cup of tea or coffee. Visitors need not worry if they crave a huge plate of eggs or fresh squeezed juice because many hotels and resorts offer more elaborate choices. Lunch, the day's main meal, is generally served between about 1 and 3 pm, when some restaurants offer excellent fixed-price specials in addition to their regular menu. Many businesses shut their doors during these hours and it is not unusual for a large company to let its phone ring and ring during this time. As in many parts of the world, extended lunches can be more than just meals among businessmen. In late afternoon, between about 5 and 7 pm, it is common to take onces (afternoon tea), which usually consists of a sandwich and some kind of dessert or pastry, plus tea or coffee. Dinner is rarely earlier than 9 pm and often runs as late as midnight. These meal times reflect the nature of the Chilean workday; Chileans usually begin work at 9am and finish in the late evening around 8pm after taking the long lunch in early afternoon. It is normal for working people to go to bed after midnight on a regular basis during the week.

Typical Food

Chile yields some of the world's finest and most varied seafood, and many of its traditional plates are specialties from the sea. The vineyards that are nestled between the ocean and the Andes on rich volcanic soil are comparable to the best of Mediterranean Europe and California. Wine is not reserved for the upper classes alone; Chileans of every economic background from the campesinos in the country to the business executive in Santiago can and do partake in the many fine and inexpensive varieties available. The capital of Santiago is a cosmopolitan city with restaurants to suit every palette and due to the history of emigration to Chile, it is difficult to discern exactly what is typical food. There is a noticeable culinary influence from German immigrants as well as a large number of Chinese restaurants throughout the country, attesting to the country´s varied history. Superb vegetarian food is available in Santiago, but more difficult to find in the other regions. Check out our list of restaurants in each of the communities of Santiago. Outside Santiago, the best restaurants are in resort towns like Viña del Mar, La Serena and Puerto Varas. Northern coastal cities like Arica and Iquique have good chifas (Chinese restaurants). Good Chilean food is possible to find in all areas of the country.

Some traditional foods that are common for lunch usually include a traditional cazuela, a clear broth with rice, potato, corn on the cob, plus a piece of beef or chicken. A summer favorite, the tasty pastel de choclo, mixes chicken, beef, olives and vegetables in a corn casserole. Epanadas are popular snacks throughout the country. They are fried flour tortillas filled with cheese, meat, or seafood. Pan amasado, a delicious heavy bread that is baked in wood stoked ovens can be found throughout the country outside most of the cities. Though Chile is less renowned for meat than neighboring Argentina, grilled beef is the rule at any parrilla, a very popular style of restaurant that also serves a variety of cuts and sausages, chicken, and even lamb. Lomo a la pobre (¨poor man´s steak) is a filling combination of steak topped with two fried eggs and accompanied with french fries. Chile's extraordinarily varied seafood is among the world's best. Many of Chile's finest restaurants feature seafood, but even modest market restaurants can be remarkably good. Be sure, though, to have fish prepared al vapor (steamed) or a la plancha (grilled) rather than frito (fried). The single most popular food is a bit less healthy, el completo. This is a traditional hot dog in a bun topped with dripping piles of mayonnaise, ketchup, guacamole and tomatoes. It is the Chilean equivalent to the American peanut butter and jelly or the Australian vegemite sandwich.

The real delicacies of Chilean mariscos (shellfish) are centolla (king crab) from Patagonia and langosta (lobster) from the Juan Fernández islands. Ordinary dishes include paila marina (a thin broth loaded with fresh seafood and fish), mariscal (a similar mix but served raw and chilled), and ceviche (fish or shellfish marinated overnight in lemon juice, served chilled). Another local favorite is manchas a la parmesana, South American razor clams baked with fresh parmesan cheese melted over the top. The full range of delicacies from the rich Pacific waters include: salmon, sea bass (corvina), sea eel (congrio), abalone (locos) clams (almejas), mussels (choritos), crab (cangrejo), sea urchin (erizos), calamari, octopus (pulpo), and scallops (ostiones). Apart from these well known favorites there are a few treats that are not found in the Northern Hemisphere such as picoroco (a barnacle with white crablike meat) and piure (an outrageously strong flavored treat that is impossible to describe). Dishes like congrio and locos (abalone) are especially tasty in the form of chupe, a thick sauce of butter, bread crumbs, cheese and spices.The curanto is an omnivore's favorite that combines fish, shellfish, chicken, pork, lamb, beef and potato in a hearty stew.

For those who still have space left after the tasty main courses, there are many desserts to choose from. Chile's most distinctive desserts trace their origins to the southern lake region, where German immigrants left a legacy of kuchen - a delicious pastry loaded with fresh fruits like raspberries and apricots. A more common Chilean pastry is the alfajor, which is massive amounts of dulce de leche (caramelized milk) sandwiched between thin pastries and rolled in powdered sugar. Another favorite is macedonia, diced fruit with a fruit syrup topping. There is also arroz con leche, or chilled rice with milk, sugar and cinnamon. Semola con leche is a flan made of sweet corn flour topped with caramel. These satisfying desserts are only a few of the possibilities open to diners who crave something sweet after a nice meal.

Snacks

Chilean snacks can be any of the junk food treats sold in the infinite number of kiosks lining the streets, as well as some decently filling favorites which can be found in tiny convenience stores or delis. The empanada is a pastry usually filled with pino (a unique combo of stewed beef and onion) or queso (cheese). In coastal areas, the surfers and beachcombers thrive on empanadas de marisco (shellfish pastries). The steamed humitas resemble Mexican tamales and are a summertime favorite. Popular sandwich choices are the churrasco (steak), and the jamón y queso (ham and cheese). Combinations include the barros luco (steak with melted cheese), barros jarpa (ham with melted cheese), and the chacarero (steak, tomato, chili peppers and green beans - sounds weird, but good). A great vegetarian alternative is the sandwich de palta, tomate y palmito (avocado, tomato and heart of palm).

Drink

No Chilean meal is complete without vino (wine) from the countryside, where vineyards like Undurraga, Santa Carolina, Cousiño Macul, and Concha y Toro produce excellent reds and whites for domestic and foreign markets. Pisco is a powerful grape-based distilled spirit produced in the northern vineyards in the Limarí and Elqui valleys, and as far as Copiapó. It serves as the basis for the pisco sour, Chile's rival to the Mexican margarita. Pisco can also be used by the less controlled drinker to reach outrageous heights of intoxication, followed the next morning by something resembling a hatchet in the forehead. For those who crave a good beer or ale, be warned that Chile is not the place to find it. There are several watery lagers in cans and bottles, the most full bodied of which is Escudo. The tastiest possibility is one of the mediocre brews on draft. A draft beer is known as a schop (pronounced like “chop”) and comes in a nice liter mug, almost enough to convince you that it is a fine hopsy ale. For the health minded, wonderful juices are available at most restaurants with whatever fruits are in season. Be warned that the Chilean taste for sugar can occasionally make them outrageously sweet, so specify ¨puro jugo sin azucar¨( pure juice without sugar) before if you want it natural.