Avocado Republic — 23 October 2014

chilean food

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“The Avocado Republic of Chile, Because it’s too Cold to Grow Bananas” is Chile’s ultimate tour guide.  Laugh-out-loud funny and insightful.  American writer Walker Rowe sick of the pollution and noise in Santiago moves to the country for peace and quiet.  What he did not know is when you move to the country, you exchange one set of problems for another. 

by

Walker Rowe

The Avocado Republic of Chile Chile Independence Day Dust and Dirt in Rural Chile
Chaos at the Local School The Market Earthquakes
Love and Romance in Chile The Chilean Concept of Time My Vegetable Garden
The Compost Pile There is no Heat in Chile Drinking Burgoyne
Chilean Food is Boring and Bland Rodeo in Chile The Caretaker
The Cactus Garden Watching the Southern Skies Oscar’s Adventures
Things Fall Apart Argentina’s Dark Culture Rene, the Communist
Chewing Coca Leaves The Mapuche Conflict Cuasimodo

Quick.  Here is a question:  How many Peruvian restaurants are in Santiago?  Many.  How many Chilean restaurants are in Lima?  I don’t know.  Because I have never been to Lima, but I think it is close to zero, based upon what I have seen in the USA.  No one outside of Chile wants to eat Chilean food.  The whole notion, in fact, of “Chilean cuisine” either does not exist or is so loosely defined that no one has been able to fashion a menu out of that.

When Madonna left Argentina after filming Evita, she had grown weary of the country and the country had grown weary of her.  Her parting words were that “Argentine food is bad.” Other’s agree. The Economist magazine recently wrote that Argentines have the best beef in the world, but then they burn it.

There must be something about living in the Southern Cone that makes one lose all their sense of taste.

Chilean food is boring and bland. Here are some examples.

A hotdog in the USA is made with a mix of pork, beef, and chicken.  In Chile, it is all chicken.  They have no flavor. I think they are made from the part of the chicken that has no flavor.  I am not sure what part that is.  It could be the feet.

Chileans put more mayonnaise on the hotdog than wiener.  It’s disgusting.  Then they add ketchup and avocado. Avocado! Where’s the chili?  There is no chili in Chile. How ironic.

Even the ketchup is wrong.  In Chile, ketchup and mustard is sweet, because they add sugar to everything here, even orange juice.  Mustard is supposed to have a sharp taste.  But if you smother it with sugar, it tastes like every other condiment.

You cannot get decent cheese here.  80% of what is sold is plain white cheese like they eat in Mexico.  It is bland. The other 20% is goat cheese, which is supposed to have a sharp flavor. But the Chilean recipe has taken much of the flavor out of that too.

The other non-food here is one item that a Chilean would say is most typical of their culture.  This is casuela.  It’s nothing more than a hunk of boiled meat, which is mainly bone.  You have to move the bone out of the way to get at the soup, but that is blocked by corn, which is still on the cob, and an oversized carrot.  Move all of those things out of the way and you have broth, which is something you can eat without some kind of tool.

In Chile there are two types of olives: those with salt and those without salt.  The olives without salt all have the same flavor, which is no flavor. They taste like formaldehyde and have the same texture as a corpse.

You would think that you could escape the Chilean diet by eating international food, but you cannot find decent Mexican food or kabobs in Santiago.  One reason why there is no good Mexican food, is there are no Mexicans.  So the Chileans who own and run these restaurants change the recipe, because they do not know what it is supposed to taste like.  They do not give you chips when you first sit down and the salsa is small in its portion and not rich with tomatoes.  Tacos here are not crispy and enchiladas are not the same as what you get in California.  The only thing Chileans have not altered for the worse is Mexican beer, as that is imported.

There are quite a few Palestinians living in Santiago, but they came here a long time ago and do not run restaurants.  There are no Iranians here, no critical mass of Middle Eastern culture to make a decent kabob.  In Chile, kabobs are made from beef. There is no lamb at all.  How can one have a kabob restaurant and not serve lamb or ground beef? There are plenty of sheep in the south, but those all reserved to make wool.

The last thing I will say on this subject is the subject of seafood.  Chile has a 4,000 km coastline, but most Chileans prefer meat.  In the small town of Curacaví where I live, you cannot buy fresh fish even though we are between Santiago and the Pacific Ocean. Chilean seafood is wonderful, but you have to live on the coast to get it.

Santiago and even Curacaví have sushi restaurants.  But the ocean is cold here, so there are no warm water mackerel, flounder, tuna, or the fish one normally finds in a sushi restaurant. So the sushi restaurants only serve two kinds of fish: farm-raised salmon and octopus.  But then when you ask for salmon, they will tell you they have run out.  It’s not worth even going.

So if you are planning to move to Santiago or visit, I suggest you bring your own food.  If you want something with taste, the only alternative is to eat at Indian restaurants.  Chileans have not yet taken the curry out of curry dishes, so there you can find some flavor. Those are run by actual Indians.

 

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(14) Readers Comments

  1. This is a great and accurate post. I recently moved to chillan and have had extreme problems getting anything to decent to eat. I actually got a “taco” that was two hot dogs wrapped like a burrito with bland white cheese in it. Lol!!!!

  2. Dude, your view is considering a very little part of what the chilean food is. If you’re gonna make critics, I suggest you to eat what actually natives eat. When in rome, do as the romans do.
    The bbq in all the south cone is amazing, and all the traditional cuisine in chile has a personal seal.
    You haven’t said nothing about empanadas, caldillo de congrio, cordero al palo.
    It’s very childish from you to judge a nation for it’s hotdogs.
    Finally, If you’re not going to mention the incredible whine of Chile -which by the way it’s not only amazing, but cheap too-, your view of the country is poor and uninformed.
    However, it’s Just your view. Better Try to Know the country you’re talking before make such a bad opinion.

  3. Chilean. Grew up with this shitty food all my life, taught myself to cook because couldn’t stand my Mum’s terrible cooking. Thought it was just my mum, but all my aunties, grandma, friends parents and family in Chile also couldn’t cook for shit and made the same terrible meals. Chile has many great things, cuisine is not one of them.

    Try something new ffs.

  4. True. Chilean cuisine doesn’t stand out but it’s not all that bad. You said yourself in another post that empanadas are good. Pastel de choclo is quitenice when done right. Meat production is not as industrialized as elsewhere so meat should be somewhat healthier here. You get good products, just not in any supermarket as industrialized food product are of terrible quality and supermarkets here are all size and no variety whatsoever. So you have to look sround for acceptable varieties. Cheeses are really good in the south, we are lucky to have a small shop across the street that stocks cheeses from chiloe, valdivia etc. that you would never find in any supermarket. Or you have to look in the barrios altos. All of which can make grocery shopping quite complicated if you wish to have a decently healthy diet. You have to buy one thing here and another thing there, very time consuming even after having worked out where it’s best to get what.

    • One think I can say in Chile’s favor is that there is fresh bread here. In my country, the USA, very few people buy fresh bread. Instead they buy bread that has been treated with preservatives. Right now I am reading an article in The New York Times about wheat. Wheat mills throw away the outside of the wheat seed when they make bread. They do this in Chile too. The result is white flower. Most of the nutritional value in wheat comes from the husk (shell or bran). Plus the flavor. There is a real market for someone who would want to make whole wheat bread. But here in Curacavi I cannot even get pizza because it is a small town. I would like to have some of that cheese from Chiloe. Recently the Unimarc started selling Cheddar cheese. But it’s while and not orange like the English Cheddars. And it is bland. In the USA they sell mild, sharp, extra sharp. Here it just lacks a strong flavor.

  5. It is a good point you make but you miss the most important fact. Chilean cuisine is to be found on the country side, in the houses of the people. Never make the mistake to judge Chile merely from restaurants and shops. Most of the restaurants in Chile process imported low quality ingredients, even supermarkets sell Nestle whereas the high quality vegetables and fruits are being exported on a daily basis. We are running a German bakery in the South of Chile and even “German bakeries” in Chile tend to live from their names and branding far more than from the quality of their products. This is true especially for the tourist spots. There are few people in Chile who really value buying quality food for a higher price than supermarket quality may it be in a restaurant, a bakery or in any other spot selling food. But these who do are very, very loyal customers. I would say that Chile due to its economic situation still lacks a lot of development when it comes to “Cuisine”. Nevertheless once invited to a Southern Chilean home you most probably get to know what Chilean cuisine is really capable of – it is a most splendid, delicious kitchen of fresh ingredients and there are a lot of traditional dishes that you will not find in Peru, in the States or in Europe. Unfortunately you would have to step aside the tourist paths, plan a longer stay in Chile and get to know “the right people”. We have visitors in our home and working with us nearly 3/4 of the year, most recently a austrian couple who are vegan, do not consume wheat and meat. They were delighted by the possibilities they have had here and hardly wanted to leave after their 3 weeks with us. Saludos!

    • I think what I am saying is that in the USA we eat lots of foreign food and in Chile people eat Chilean food. So there is no good cheese here for example. And the store does not sell hole hams. I like German food but imagine in southern Chile they have replaced all that with Chile versions thus making it not German anymore.

  6. I like the mote con huesillo. That’s worth eating. Also they make excellent churros in Chile. The distinctive Chilean breads like hallulah are interesting when you first discover them, but they do get boring because in the end they are also quite bland. I’ve never had such unsatisfying ham and cheese sandwiches because the bread is bland, the ham is bland the cheese is bland. The whole sandwich tastes like nothing. Plain white rice has more flavor!

    The churrascos, lomitos, completos all that stuff it’s pretty much the same story. Lots of mayo and very little flavor. I went to Fuente Alemán, a must-go place they say, and it was a total disappointment. Not only that, food is very expensive in Chile, even with the peso much weaker now than it was a few years ago. The equivalent of $12 for a sandwich and beer (and no sides!) in a country where the GDP per capita is a fraction of that of the US doesn’t make sense.

    Fortunately authentic Korean food is available at good prices in the Patronato neighborhood.

  7. I’m Chilean and I’ve lived in the USA for decades.
    I can’t stand how people put spices in food. I prefer Chilean food. You can taste the ingredients because we don’t need spices to cover up the great produce. It is simple, and delicious.

  8. Completo’s, hamburgers, pizza, sushi, is basically the food I could find in the local establishments of Chillan when I lived there. I was surprised…hoping for something better.

  9. I spend several months every year in Argentina and Chile. Buenos Aires and Santiago now have very sophisticated dining options, and the same is true in many rural areas – specifically the wine country, the southern lakes region, and even Patagonia (try Puerto Natales, http://tinyurl.com/hx42fhw).

    I might also point out that Anthony Bourdain vehemently disagrees with you about Chilean cuisine, https://vimeo.com/5772084.

  10. Sorry, but what a load of bollocks. It is a real shame that you seem to have missed out on all the wonderful dishes this country has to offer. The food in Chile is not the best in the world, but it is good. Maybe you should try to actually eat some Chilean food before making such ridiculous comments. How many USA restaurants here? Loads! There’s Mc Donalds, KFC, etc. ‘Bland’ you say and you don’t mention their signature use of corriander and lemon, or even merken, which is wonderfully spicy. ‘No chilly’? and what about aji and pebre? All the delicious seafood, fruit and vegetables thanks to the varied landscape. The cheeses in the south and papaya in the north. And what about hummitas, pastel de choclo, arrollado, zapallo relleno, sopaipillas… I honestly recommend you try these and more, you are missing out.

    • I’ve been here 6 years so have had plenty of opportunities to eat Chilean food. And chili powder comes from a chili pepper. It’s not aji or pebre.

  11. I have been living in Santiago for about one year and I can confirm that, for me as a Western European, the Chilean food is by far the worst I have ever experienced.

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