Eat and drink like a Chilean
A visit to Santiago isn’t complete without diving headfirst into the gastronomical experience of the regular Chilean. Pancakes for breakfast — or fish and chips on a Friday — might be your thing back home, but one of the best ways of truly connecting with a foreign culture is to dine like the best of them.
Breakfast in Santiago is nothing without a chunk of fresh white bread. Perhaps you didn’t know, but Chile is the second largest bread consumer — after Germany — in the world. An incredible $1300 million US dollars worth of bread is consumed on an annual basis in Chile. That’s a lot of bread! and Santiaguinos are particularly fond of two types — the marraqueta (made from flour, yeast, salt and water… it doesn’t contain any fat) and the hallulla.
For a standard Chilean breakfast, head over to La Vega market and order scrambled eggs with a coffee. You’ll be served up a complimentary half-chunk of marraqueta as a side dish and there’ll be plenty of butter, coriander, and spicy salsa on your table to jazz things up. Another idea is to head over to the nearest bakery and pick up a couple of hallullas and an avocado (the Chilean Hass variety). Mash the avocado down with a little lemon juice, add some salt, and slap it all over your hallulla — without forgetting a hot cup of tea to help wash everything down.
If you have a sweet tooth, a devilish breakfast option could be a bowl of sopaipillas pasadas — also best savored at one of the food spots in La Vega market. The “sopaipilla” is a fried dough or wheat flour and mashed butternut squash. To create the sweetened “sopaipilla pasada” version, the fried original is dipped into a saucepan of boiling sugarcane syrup — “chancaca” — for an extra few minutes and then served in a bowl with plenty of syrup drizzled over the top for good measure. Orange peel, vanilla essence and cloves are added to the “chancaca” for extra flavor.
The options for a typical Chilean lunch or dinner are endless. If you’re really hungry at lunchtime, you should grab a table at Chorrillanas on Rancagua 438 in Providencia and make room for a piled up plate of “la chorrillana” — a mixture of different kinds of meat, fried onions, and seasonings, topped off with a couple of fried eggs and laid across a huge bed of fries. It’s the perfect hangover material, and one for which you’ll need to throw the calorie counter out of the window.
Fish and seafood lovers mustn’t leave Santiago without ordering a portion of “machas a la parmesana” (clams covered in parmesan cheese), followed by a large, steaming-hot bowl of “caldillo de congrio” (conger eel chowder). El Ancla — Santa Beatriz 191, Providencia — is a beautiful restaurant located in a three-storey antique house in which you can feast on both dishes any day of the week. El Ancla offers an extensive and elaborate menu, and there’s nothing not worth trying, but the simplicity of the “caldillo” and the “macha” are difficult to beat.
The “cazuela de vacuna o pollo” (beef or chicken casserole) and the “pastel de choclo” (kind of like a shepherd's pie with minced meat and chicken legs, but topped off with a corn-flour crust instead of mashed potato) are two winter warmers that Chileans love. The preferred dish of late Chilean president, Salvador Allende, the “cazuela de vacuna” can be found all over the place in Santiago’s many and reasonably-priced “picadas”.
Doña Tina — a restaurant located on Los refugios 15125, in the Lo Barnechea neighborhood — is a great place to try all the typical Chilean dishes above, particularly when looking for somewhere to dine in the evening. Lo Barnechea, even though about an hour’s journey on the bus from the center of Santiago, is a very pretty neighborhood. It’s closer to the mountains and very residential. A visit to Lo Barnechea can be a real relief from the towering buildings on every block in the center.
If you spend enough time in Santiago, you’re bound to hear Chileans talk about taking “once” — a special meal-time, taken between 5pm and 8pm every day, designed to keep hunger at bay.
It’s a similar meal in many ways to the afternoon tea, historically enjoyed by the English. Tea, coffee, bread (marraquetas or hallullas, of course!) are always served, with a variety of hams, cheeses, avocados, sliced tomatoes, jams, butter, and paté laid out on the side. A more elaborate “once” might include cakes or pastries, and maybe even a sopaipilla or two. In fact, many Chilean families choose to replace dinner with “once,” treating it as the final, abundant meal of the day.
Even though “once” is really the kind of meal you’d enjoy at home or in the house of a friend, there are two great options for joining in with this Chilean tradition when visiting Santiago. Condi — located on Irarrázaval 2370 — has been serving “once” to its guests in the same location for more than 70 years. Villa Real — on Pedro de Valdivia 079 — is an advocate for combining tradition with innovation. Taking “once” here will be somewhat of a modern dining experience.
About the Author: Tracey Chandler is press and publicity manager for The Santiago Times and has worked as a freelance writer in Latin America since 2009. Originally from London, she left the UK in 2008 and has lived in Venezuela, Argentina, and Chile. She has written for over 15 different blogs/online magazines on subjects relating to Latin American travel and lifestyle. Contact her directly via firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas for possible long-term partnerships and/or creative projects.