Chilean food is not traditionally spicy like the majority of Latin American cuisine, nor is it similar to Mexican, Central American or even Colombian fare. In fact, Chilean cuisine is unlike any other South American gastronomy. Here are ten traditional Chilean foods you must try while volunteering abroad in Chile.
A Chilean hotdog with various toppings. One of the most popular kinds of completos is the italiano, named after the colors of the Italian flag. It consists of a hotdog on a bun smothered in avocado, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. Try one at your local soda fountain.
From the island of Chiloé, this dish requires quite a bit of preparation. It’s a delicious blend of steamed seafood such as clams and mussels, cooked with chicken, smoked pork, longanizas (Chilean sausages), and various types of potatoes from Chiloé. The ritual of preparing curanto is often part of a day-long celebration or a community event. The same dish prepared in a pressure cooker is called Pulmai.
Lomo a lo Pobre
Translated in English as a “poor man’s steak,” this is a steak topped with caramelized onions, French fries, and fried eggs. Not only is it not for the poor, it is not for those looking for a light meal either. The name of the dish is typical Chilean irony and can be found at most restaurants.
A traditional thick stew from the countryside consisting of a clear broth with rice or small noodles, potatoes, a large piece of meat (beef, chicken, pork, or turkey), half an ear of corn, green beans, and a large piece of pumpkin. Some Chileans like to add ají, merkén, and cilantro. This dish changes a bit depending on the region, but regardless of the location, it is a very hearty and filling traditional dish loved by many.
This is Chilean Spanish for beans. There are two common dishes based from porotos: porotos granados and porotos con rienda. These dishes vary slightly, but they are both vegetarian. It is common for families to eat porotos every Monday to give them strength for the week.
Pastel de Choclo
Best described as a corn pie in English, choclo is Chilean Spanish for corn. A much-anticipated, well-liked summer dish, pastel de choclo is made with beef, olives, and vegetables topped with a sweet corn crust. It is traditionally served in a clay bowl in the countryside.
Directly translated in English to “in bread nothing,” these popular cheap and filling snacks are nothing of the sort. Either baked or fried, homemade or bought on the street or in a bakery on the corner these tasty fried dumplings can be found easily throughout the country. The two most common types of empanadas are pino and queso. The pino is filled with beef, onion, olive (be careful; the pit is in there), and a hardboiled egg. The queso is filled with cheese and possibly some shellfish if are near the coast.
A staple of those living on or near the coast on a cold day or at the market. Best described in English as a seafood soup, this contains various types of local seafood and shellfish such as clams, mussels, fish, picoroco, and piure. It is also known as a hangover cure!
Like a piece of fried pumpkin bread, this round snack is found all over the nation at food carts and in kitchens. Some people like to eat it with savory toppings such as mustard or ketchup; others with sweet toppings such as jelly or manjar. Chileans love to make and eat these when it’s raining.
Volunteering abroad in Chile wouldn’t be the complete without attending a proper asado chileno (Chilean barbecue). Chileans always find a reason to celebrate and have an asado no matter where they are! Usually this festive meal includes choripan, pebre (a Chilean salsa), salads, and all kinds of meat. It’s common to drink pisco, vino, ponche, or cerveza.
If you’d like add a little heat to any of these amazing dishes, ask for ají (a spicy condiment made with hot aji peppers) or merkén (Mapuches, indigenous Chileans, make this smoked spice blend from dried, smoked cacho de cabra chilies, toasted coriander seeds, and salt). As they say in Chile, buen provecho!