What exactly is Chilean cuisine?
It’s homegrown for one. The majority of the typical dishes you’ll find in Chile are cooked first and foremost as a dish to fill up the family. These dishes have made the leap to the lunch menu of your mom and pop locale around the corner, but aren’t necessarily considered high cuisine by Chilean (or other) standards.
Chilean cuisine is contudente, it comes in portions to fill the belly of someone working the land, staying true to Chile’s country and sort of southern cowboy cultural character.
It’s simple. Maybe too much so for someone coming from abroad used to elaborate mixes of raspberry curried rabbit pate with cheese on it. Ok that’s an exaggeration but the simple, plain style of Chilean food is not. Many times it mean with potatoes and very little spicing. Most tables in Chile don’t have pepper for example, a reflection of the simpleness of the food.
It’s fresh. Especially when you’re talking produce or sea food. This is an area where it really stands out. Most restaurants buy their produts straight from the market or through a distribuitor who brings it fresh that day. Sure there are exceptions, but there is a whole layer of processing and preparation before hand that exists in other countries, especially in the US, that is not present in most places here in Chile.
The freshness is especially true for sea food. Head to the coast, there are even restaurants that will harvest shellfish per order from the sea. In other cases you can eat fresh seafood right on the dock. Most Chileans will eat it raw and kicking, although due to the red tide you do need to be careful doing this.
It’s not spicy. Hardly. Although there are a few exceptions that use a bit of green, “ají chileno” to give it a bit of a kick. The table salsa pebre is one example and there are other preparations, like a proper chacarero sandwich that also include green hot peppers. However still very tame compared to other Latin American countries. There is also a social stigma with garlic that one must be aware of as well. Chileans do eat garlic, although it isn’t a must as in other cuisines.
It’s about the experience of sitting down for a meal with family or friends. It’s about sharing a warm dish.
Today things are changing bit by bit, with more cooks and chefs trained and influenced abroad, and more foreign influences arriving. Sushi and Peruvian food are two great examples of culinary styles that have gone mass market here in Chile.
CHILEAN DISHES AND PREPERATIONS
Click on the links below to get a description of each typical Chilean dish.
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