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Gastro Chile

The secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside
Mark Twain 

Confession Time: When we started our hike across Spain in April of 2016, we expected the cuisine to be very similar to Mexico. Boy, were we ignorant. Where the food in our just-south-of-the-border neighbor tends to be spicy, Spain was, in general, bland. And in Mexico what they call a tortilla is basically a flat bread. Spanish tortillas are more like a potato and egg omelet. Both are good in their own right—but very different.

Food in Chile has also yielded some surprises.

  • Order tuna in Chile and you won’t get fish, you’ll get a cactus fruit. It is rather tasty, but takes a lot of work to eat and is full of seeds. If you DO want the swimming-in-the-sea variety of tuna, order “atun.” In Spanish speaking countries Charlie Tuna would be known as Carlos Atun.

    Chilean tuna–a cactus fruit

  • Chorillanas are a local dish consisting of a plate of French fries (papas fritas) topped with sliced meat and eggs—fried or scrambled. We only tried one. Tasty, but I have to admit, I’m surprised that with a national dish like this that the average Chilean doesn’t have to do all their clothes shopping at a Big, not tall, shop.

    Chorillana (photo courtesy of P R from Santiago)

  • Lúcuma is a fruit found in a number of Latin American countries. It tends to be a bit dry when eaten raw, but it makes a great flavoring for ice cream, juices, and other treats. We give lúcama ice cream two thumbs up.
  • Papas, or as we call them potatoes. There are over a

    Chilean potato varieties

    thousand different types of potatoes—99% of which are descended from Chilean varieties. We’re used to only a few types but have tried more here. Some of them look like large worms about the diameter of my thumb, but still taste like potatoes. Incidentally, if you order “papas fritas” which is Spanish for French fries, be sure to NOT emphasize the “p” sound. The word for father or “papá” is spelled the same, but pronounced differently.

  • Hamburguesa is the Spanish word for hamburger. We met our first hamburguesas during our hike across

    Chilean Hamburguesa–it tastes as good as it looks

    Spain and are big fans. They tend to use more meat, thinner buns, and great toppings like grilled onions. Maybe we fell in love with them because we had hiked about 15 miles that day, but the love affair continues here in Chile.

  • Completos are a local variation of “hot dog” with a wide variety of topping. The Completo Italiano is topped with chopped tomatoes, mayonnaise, and mashed avocados—resulting in a red, white, and green combination like the Italian flag. If you order one, ask them to go easy on the mayo.

    About to enjoy a completo Italiano

    Chilean food is excellent in general, not very spicy, and there are many options. Our one big gripe is that most restaurants have salt on the table, but not pepper. We considered buying a container and hauling it around but have instead adapted. We only grumble to ourselves.


Beverages in Chile are worth discussion.

A stout from northern Chile

  • Cerveza or beer. Because there were waves of German immigrants in the 19th century, the country has an excellent craft brewing industry. In 2016 we spent ten days in Berlin and I thought their beer offerings rather staid. Chile, like the U.S.A. has a lot of variety and quality in their fermented beverages.
  • Mote con huesellio is a common non-alchoholic summer season drink concocted of dried peaches, husked wheat, and sugar. It was very common to see street vendors selling it. We tried it and found it to be a bit too sweet. Worth a try, but one and done.

    Mote con huesillo (photo courtesy of Nellu Mazilu from Mobile)

  • Pisco is a type of brandy common to Chile and Peru. It’s made by distilling grapes into a spirit with a percentage of alcohol ranging from 30-40+ percent. The standard pisco sour drink is made with egg white, lime juice, sugar, ice, and, of course, pisco. Laurie describes them as Chilean margaritas. Worth more tries than the aforementioned mote drink.

    Pisco Sour (Photo courtesy of Dtarazona)

  • Chilean wine is readily available in the United States. Even Wine Enthusiast is a fan. One unique grape variety is Carmenere. At one point the ancient varietal which had originated in France, was thought to be extinct. But in the 1990’s it was rediscovered near Santiago, Chile. Although it is grown in other locations around the world, the Chilean climate is particularly good for the grape.

Frankly, I could go on for many more paragraphs about the food here, but for some reason I’m hungry, and thirsty.

Completo truck in a VW Van–with a flip up roof

Question: Have you found a unique food in your travels that you like, and wish you could find in your home country?

4 thoughts on “Gastro Chile”

    1. We just scrubbed them hard and did a little selective peeling. Otherwise they would have each been about the size of a french fry! I think the reason they aren’t so popular abroad is that it’s extra work and the taste isn’t that different.

  1. If you haven’t already, you should definitely try empanadas, empanadas de queso, pastel de choclo, porotos granados, barros harpa and barros luco. And by all means DO NOT LEAVE Chile without having had a parillada!!

    1. We’ve had most of those over the course of our journey. In fact Laurie has a great pastel de choclo recipe for our host during our school stay. But not sure we’ve had a paradilla yet. Will add it to the list. We have one more week for sampling.

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