Chileans love hearty food. A lot of the most popular food is a variation on ‘comida rapida’ or fast food, but often with lots of added veggies (so you feel a bit better about it!) There’s also a ton of great seafood because of Chile’s vast coastline, and of course, lots of great, full-bodied red wine. Here’s my run-down of the best of Chile’s foods. Enjoy!
This is the BEST comfort food, and Sam and I got a bit obsessed with it. You can share between 2 (or more) and it comes in various guises, but it’s basically a big pile of chips, with eggs (fried or scrambled), beef (usually with a gravy and/or spicy sauce), peppers, fried onions, cheese, and herbs on top. Our best one was in Valparaiso, where the gravy had soaked through and it all tasted like a big roast dinner. But we also saw different takes on it, like one with french bread and frankfurters cut up on it (not so nice). Definitely worth trying, and super cheap too! You often get really good cuts of steak and nice sauces with it. When done well, it’s the pride of the establishment.
2. Churrascos and Completos
Or, steak sandwiches and hot dogs to you and me. A churrasco is a steak sandwich with – at minimum – mashed avocado, tomato and garlic on top. You can sometimes also get a pimped out version with green beans, cheese, red onion… loads of stuff. The steak’s good, and it’s cheap. Completos (or Italianos) are your regular hot dogs (frankfurters) in a bun, with – you guessed it – a minimum of avocado, tomato, and weirdly, mayo, on top. But they can also be turbo charged with the addition of onion or sauerkraut. Cheap, weirdly comforting, and great comfort food.
Weirdly popular, this is basically just chips with chopped-up frankfurter on top. But you see it everywhere, from streetside stalls to fancy restaurants. In Chilean supermarkets, the frankfurter section is one of the biggest sections! Along with ham and cheese, obv. They LOVE the ‘furters.
4. Pastel de choclo
Basically a cottage pie, but instead of a potato top, it’s mashed up corn (which pretty much tastes the same, if a bit sweeter). It either comes with minced beef, or a fun chicken variety with the chicken still on the bone (takes a bit more concentration) but either way it’s tasty and flavoursome. You see it being sold to take away out of foil tins, or on the menu at most places.
A hearty stew of chicken, beef, sometimes pork, with potatoes, rice and huge bits of corn. I first tried to eat this whilst really hungover in the desert, and it totally flummoxed me (there’s a lot going on) and it’s basically a thin soup with all of this stuff in, so it didn’t really jell that much, but nice in its own way.
The national dish of Chiloe Island, this bizarre meal is traditionally cooked in the ground, covered with leaves. It’s basically a ramshackle collection of chicken, ribs, beef, GIANT mussels, GIANT clams, and sausages, all smoked and piled together on a plate with potato pancakes (of a a few different colours) and potatoes. You get a little salty soup with it that you’re supposed to dip the elements in. It’s vast, and when me and Sam ate one, aside from us dancing with death (due to Sam’s fish allergy), it totally defeated us and we ended up hiding half the mussels under their shells. The mussels and clams were so big, they freaked me out. You could pretty much see a face in them. Smokey meat was good though!
7. Seafood (in general)
I don’t eat fish that much because generally me and Sam share and he’s allergic, but I got some sneaky fish in whilst in Chile (mainly, on Chiloe Island where they fish over 75% of Chile’s fish!) The first was THE BEST SALMON EVER that I got as part of a 3 pound set meal in Castro. It literally flaked off in a few huge pink chunks, and tasted divine. The second was as part of a TWO pound set menu, and was white fish in a tempura batter, and it was just divine. It didn’t even taste like fish – the consistency and the flavour was above and beyond anything i’ve ever tasted. Eat as much as you can!
8. Lomo a la pobre
Literally meaning ‘poor man’s steak’, this isn’t a million miles away from churrillana – basically a pile of chips, steak and eggs. A good value meal! (No veggies included)
9. Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere
Chile’s known for it’s full-bodied reds, and they have some GREAT wine here. Even the budget brands taste amazing, but when we visited Chilean wine country we got the taste of ‘proper’ red wine, like pure Merlots (using only one type of grape), Cab Savs and also ‘Carmenere’, which is super interesting, as it only used to grown in France, but then it disappeared and popped up again in Chile! It tastes like a cross between Shiraz and Cab Sav, and is divine.
10. Llama / Wanaco
Especially towards the North of Chile, you’ll find a lot of exotic meats on the menu. We tried llama in an empanada, and it was delicious – kind of like venison! We heard Wanaco was even nicer. If you try llama, it should be pretty expensive, as the sellers have to legally have a licence to prove it’s genuine. If it’s cheap, it’s probably just beef, and avoid it.
11. Mote con huisillo
You’ll see this on stalls everywhere – it’s basically an apricot (that’s been dried then reconstituted.. god knows why!) in a light sugary syrup, in a cup, with some corn kernels at the bottom. It’s supposed to be a ‘full meal’ because of the corn, but we found it insanely sweet (coming from two sweet toothers) and couldn’t finish it when we tried. Worth a try though!
12. ‘Hallelujah rolls’
This bread is EVERYWHERE. It’s a thin white round roll, with little holes in the top. It’s the cheapest bread you’ll find at the supermarket, and Chileans consume it by the ton-load. You’ll probably get it a lot at hostel breakfast, and end up buying it because it’s so darn cheap, but don’t eat to much, because it’s super ‘white’ and can make you a bit ill (well, if you’re like me and grow intolerant pretty easily…!)
GENERAL NOTES: there’s not much in the way of salad in Chile (outside of tourist traps) but there’s plenty of avo and tomato, so fill your boots whilst you’re here with the big fast food that includes this for really cheap.
Drink as much red wine as you can, as it’s about 1 or 2 quid for a 1.5L bottle of something fairly decent (like Gato, Tres Medallions or 1001) and if you’re travelling clockwise, prices shoot up once you get to Bolivia, so enjoy it while it lasts!