Flavors of Chile
Flavors of Chile
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Chilean Cuisine… much more than wines!

The variety in Chilean cuisine is a result of the contribution of six cuisines, splendidly well combined: native Indian, Spanish (including Arab and Jewish),  French, German, English and Italian. This kaleidoscope of cultures is nurtured by an abundant repertory of native products from land and sea, which dazzled the Spanish palate. During the centuries when Chile was still a colony, the Spanish and Creole women, cooking with the Indians, produced local versions of their homeland recipes. Adopting and adapting the unknown, the newcomers discovered the virtues of potatoes, corn, pumpkins, chillies and beans.

Dishes with less meat and more vegetables are typical of Creole and rural Chilean cuisine - examples include humitas or boiled corn paste wrapped in corn husks; pastel de choclo (like a "pot pie" with layers of mashed or grated corn, meat, spices and raisins); locro, a meat dish with potatoes and vegetables; and charquican, made from vegetables and dried beef.

Anything and everything grows in Chile. Though seeking out local dishes and specialties is always part of the adventure, there are a few dishes that you'll come across nearly everywhere.

Empanadas are snack-sized turnovers filled with meat, cheese, or shellfish, and are a staple of daily life, not to be missed.

Asados (barbeques) and parilladas (mixed grill) are extremely popular and widely available.

Chile's seafood is unequalled in variety and quality. Mussels, clams and urchins, oysters and scallops, salmon... the list of fish and shellfish goes on and on, and a morning visit to a fish market anywhere in the country is an overwhelming sensory experience. Had any Patagonian toothfish lately? Chances are most people would say no. But call it by its common market name, Chilean sea bass, and the answer might be different. Chilean sea bass (Dissostichus eleginoides), a large, vaguely cod-shaped fish found in cold, deep waters of the southern hemisphere, has been one of the most phenomenally successful introductions of a fish into the North American market in our time. Try a Paila marina, a delectable shellfish stew available throughout the country.

Meals, Chilean-Style

The most popular breads are hallula (unleavened) and maraqueta. Pan de Pascua is a fruitcake prepared for the Christmas season.

El almuerzo
This is the midday meal, and the most important of the day. In most restaurants, you'll find a set menu. 

Tomar once
This Chilean institution is similar to English afternoon tea, although it may serve as the evening meal in some families.

La cena
The evening meal. 

Other specialties
You're sure to encounter "cazuela de ave", a corn and chicken soup with many vegetables.

Often served as a first course, cazuela is a beef or chicken broth containing potatoes, corn, vegetables and pumpkin. 

A soup containing grilled meat. 

Pastel de choclo
A one-dish meal made with ground beef or chicken cooked with raisins and onions and then placed in a terra cotta dish. It is covered with a layer of cream corn and gratinéed in the oven.

Porotos granados
A popular dish made with beans, pumpkin, corn, garlic and onions.

Wines and spirits
It's iImpossible to talk about Chile without mentioning its wines. Macul, Concha y toro and Santa Helena offer sweet whites and fruity reds. The best, for the most part, come from the Maipo Valley, near Santiago, the wine-making region best known for the quality of its vines. According to wine experts, the deep color of Maipo Valley wines and their unique smoky flavor is due to the high amounts of lime in the water of the Maipo River. Try an Errazuriz or fumé blanc.  

When it comes to spirits, did you know that Chileans produce more pisco than their Peruvian neighbors? This variety of grappa is served as an apéritif in every restaurant as a "pisco sour."

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