Sunday, December 25, 2005

Chilean Chow


Common dining options in Chile are not that much different from those available in Peru. Breakfasts are of the bread and coffee school, lunches are big, and dinners are taken late. Salads are large and enforce strict segregation between different elements. Almost everything is served with rice or potatoes. The soups are nice and served in large portions, but not quite as nice as those found to the north. On the upside, waiters tend to be very friendly and conversational. Their affable demeanor can not spice up the monotonous grub, but it does make you feel better about leaving a tip.

Some notable details:

Locos - This is some sort of sea create that >might< be the same thing as abalone, but I am not sure. They are served cold on a plate with mayonaise, have a meaty texture, and a taste that is somewhere between fish and shellfish. They are nice, if a bit chewy.

Picorocos - This is one of the most adventurous shellfish I have seen - barnacles. The ones I had were served hot (probably steamed) in a point bit of shell. You eat just the stringy white meat around a repulsive testicle-like center. They have a very nice taste that reminds me of very good crab. Who knew that something you scrape off of a boat or dock could be so nice?

Lomo al Pobre - You find this dish in just about every restaurant in Chile. It is a hearty piece of beef loin topped with two fried eggs and some fried onions. The rest of the plate is filled with a mountain of french fries. It is nice, but nothing really special. The eggs are a fine touch.

Chilean Hot Sauce - The standard table condiments include a plastic squeeze bottle of chilli sauce. I love this stuff. It is quite hot at first with a pepper/vinegar taste but very quickly cools off and disappears entirely and does not interfere with the basic flavor of the food. I particularly like it on meat dishes as the portions are generally so large as to become boring halfway through the meal.

Ceviche - You see this on menus, but at time of writing there was a ban serving uncooked seafood, so no dice.

Completos - Chileans have a thing for hot dogs. A popular snack food is a pile of french fries with stuff (cheese, tomatoes, pickles, etc.) cut up and buried in it. The best hot dog treat of all is the completo, for sure. It is a normal wiener on a toasted bun topped off by saurkraut and tomatoes. An remaining space in the bun is then sealed off with avocado in a spackle-esque manner. Add a healthy line of mayo on the top and you have yourself one fine snack.

Sandwiches - Often imaginative and always huge, Chilean sandwich fair is a good alternative for those bored of the "meat and no veg" style of plate. Sometimes you see examples posted in a glass case in front of restaurants. You might find carefully arranged shrimp on cheese or hotdog slices mixed with pickle to your liking. Many of these offerings tend to sacrifice taste in favor of visual style, though.


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