Wednesday, 16 January 2013

dining out chilean style...

at home, it is rare that i make the effort to dine out. i figure that my repatoire of global styles can take on any restaurant, so on the rare event that i do eat out i am - and have been told this more than once - "fussy." unless the menu has either of my default favourites that are lamb and duck, i will invariably choose something that i otherwise would not or could not reproduce in some capacity at home.

when traveling, however, my approach to food opens up. as the title of this blog would lead you to believe, my travels revolve around exploring the wine (beer/spirits count too) and food cultures of the many countries i visit. when in rome, have pasta and chianti. when in vienna, have schnitzel and gruner veltliner. when in australia, have kangaroo and shiraz.

but what of when in chile? with the exceptions of the exotic tropical ingredients of brazil and the magical fusion fare of peru, south american cuisine is not that particularly exciting. the wealth of fresh ingredients from the fertile central valley and 4,000km of pacific coastline,however, help define chilean cuisine; the seafood is exceptional and the avocados the juiciest i've ever had. nonetheless, chile does have some staple items that must be enjoyed while here.

first, there is the ubiquitous empanada, which is shared as a national food in neighbouring argentina, and in turn it's neighbour, uruguay. half-moon shaped pastries are either oven-baked or deep-fried, and are stuffed with a host of different possibilities and combinations: cheese, ham, chicken, seafood, and of course, beef. it's as simple as making your own pie-dough-ish crust and filling it with whatever you chile, the local specialty is an empanada de pino: a beef-based empanada with olives and hard-boiled eggs.

then there is the sopaipilla which i discovered on my previous trip (and i think was in a blog some months ago). what is elsewhere in latin america a deep-fried pancake topped with sweet sauces, in chile the "pancake" batter is made with pumpkin and can be served sweet or under a spicy tomato sauce with guacamole.

then there is my new discovery into the ultimate in chilean luxury: the churrillo. onto a base of what looks like a kilo of fries are piled an assortment of cubed meats and sausages, lovingly topped with eggs sunny-side up. poutine to the extreme.

so, which of these culinary classics welcomed my grumbling stomach after more than 16 hours of travel? well, the answer is none. instead, i resorted to my old habits of ordering something i would never make myself. and since i have more than once made empanadas and sopaipillas, a chicken and pepper salad sandwich on wonder bread was my bienvenidos brunch. when traveling, nothing can compare to eating like a local.

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