In the autumn of 2009 I lived in Chile for a few months and I traveled within the country and to neighboring ones (Mendoza, Argentina and Bolivia) quite often. I really wish that I had documented the food I ate in this versatile land, the late night chorrillanas (stack of fries with chunks of beef sirloin, fried onions and a fried egg or two slapped on top) and completos (gigantic hot dogs topped with sauerkraut, tomatoes and mayonnaise or guacamole and mayonnaise), locos (Chilean abalone topped with cheese and grilled), and gigantic meat empanadas. But unfortunately these photos did not survive. The dishes that I did capture were some of my favorites. They are the following:
Pastel de choclo. Chicken parts, olives, raisins, onions and some egg layered into a paila (earthenware bowl), topped off with thick and sweet cornmeal and baked until the surface is crunchy. The cornmeal is sweet and blends beautifully with the tanginess of the olives inside. It is also crispy on the exterior and beautifully mushy and comforting on the inside. The chicken cooks perfectly and becomes tender in juicy under the blanket of cornmeal. This picture was taken in La Serena, near Valle de Elqui. The best pastel de choclo I had, though, was in the dusty village of Pomaire, about an hour away with bus from Santiago. The place is known for its excellent artisanal earthenware bowls so it’s a no-brainer that one should get pastel de choclo here..
This dubious looking plate of food is a frutas del mar from a restaurant named Don Francis in a fish market in Iquique, a fishing town in the north of Chile. Different types of mussels and clams served raw, along with a ceviche, some fish fritters, oysters, scallops, manchas. Anywhere else in the world I would look at this plate of food and refuse automatically but somehow in Iquique I trusted it to be fresh and it was.
This was one of my other all-time favorites, the humita ubiquitous to most of South America. Fresh corn masa mixed with onion basil and butter wrapped into a corn husk and boiled (or baked, but I prefer boiled). It is often served with aji which adds a beautiful spice to it.