Monday, July 25, 2016

Chicken Sushi & Other Chilean Delicacies

No location is complete unless I discuss the food, and with 3.5 weeks in Chile, I had plenty of time to sample the goods.  Let’s be honest, the only real reason you are reading this blog is for the nitty gritty on the grub.  And by “you”, I mean you, Jenny.

A few highlights of my food in Santiago and the rest of Chile:

One of my 103 Things is a restaurant called La Piojera.  Once a hot spot for diplomats and the rich and famous, today the restaurant is filled with businessmen entertaining out-of-town visitors and… tacky tourists like me!  The small traditional menu left me with limited options (damn you, pork!) but I settled on a cazuela – a traditional Chilean beef soup.  Delicious!

I also ate at El Pollo Caballo, a restaurant which serves traditional type chicken dishes.  The name translates to “the chicken horse” and its logo is a rooster riding a horse.  This is the main reason I asked Claudio to take me here.  I’m a sucker for a horse cock!  Elsewhere in the world of restaurants, I ate at Crepes & Waffles about a dozen times over my two weeks in Santiago.  I also walked into the first Wendy’s in Chile only to find that they didn’t have the Frosty dairy dessert.  Fuck you, Wendy’s in Chile.  I walked out.

For any of you wine drinkers out there, you know that Chile is famous for its wine.  Claudio took me on a day trip to Viña Cousiño-Macul – a winery close enough to the city to take the metro and a five minute Uber ride.  We toured the winery and sampled a few of their products before purchasing quite a few bottles to bring back to his house.  For more traditional drinks, I ordered a mote con huesillo which is a peach drink with some sort of husked wheat or barley or sweet corn in it.  I don’t know exactly what was in the cup, but I scarfed it down with my spoon and drank what was left of the peach.  A terremoto – which translates to “earthquake” in Spanish – is cheap ass wine fortified with hard liquor and topped with sorbet.  They called it the terremoto because it feels like the earth is shaking after you drink one.  For champions, another drink which translates to “aftershock” is available after finishing the terremoto.  I was not a champion.  Speaking of alcohol, pisco is a super popular liquor in Chile.  Much like the pavlova dispute between Australia and New Zealand, Chile constantly fights with Peru about where pisco is from.  Peruvians claim that it’s from Pisco, a city in Peru, which makes sense.  But Peru stops making sense when they ban Chilean pisco from entering the country.  Come on… get over it.

While terremotos and pisco sours are nice, I need a coffee in the morning.  I found a few decent cafes in Santiago which served coffee that was good, but not quite as good as in Australia.  Starbucks, however, was advertising and pushing hard the flat whites, a very Australian thing to do.  For those Americans reading this, a flat white is sort of like a latte but different.  It’s an Australian invention and they’ve launched it globally and every Starbucks in Chile had a big sign that said “Que es un Flat White?” (“What is a Flat White?”)  I am super pleased that Australia is taking over the world.  Speaking of Australia taking over the world, Boost was also present in Chile!  Again, for the Americans reading this, Boost is basically the Australian version of Jamba Juice.  I was super stoked to see Boost, but super disappointed that they didn’t have my favourite drink:  the Green Tea Mango Mantra.  Bah, humbug!

A local soda named “Pap” made me giggle for a while.  It’s papaya flavoured soda.

On a side note, my favourite drink discovery while in Latin America was the Vanilla Rooibus tea from Starbucks.  It was all over Latin America but it’s not at Starbucks in the USA.  WTF, Starbucks???

Yes, I had dessert.  Because I fucking love dessert.  And that dessert took the form of ice cream from two places in Santiago:  the super famous Emporio La Rosa and the less famous Heladeria Mo.  I liked them both equally.  Emporio La Rosa claims that they are one of the 25 best ice creams in the world.  I’m not sure where that comes from, but their ice cream was super delicious.  Heladeria Mo was also super delicious and I think their variety of flavours was superior to Emporio La Rosa.

Chilean food:
In addition to the cazuela, my Chilean food staple was empanadas.  Lots of empanadas.  Empanadas are found all over Latin America but they originate in Chile.  And I could eat them all day long.  Seriously.  I also had a homemade sopapilla made my Claudio’s mum.  Yummy!  And that’s about all I can think of when I think of super traditional Chilean foods.  And the reason for that is…

International food:
Santiago has a ton of international food.  It’s a big city and it’s pretty cosmopolitan so this fact shouldn’t come as a surprise.  I had Mexican food in Santiago (surprise!) and Chinese food.  I had plenty of pizza and Italian food, went to a vegetarian restaurant, and devoured a handful of churros.  But I mainly stuck to the most popular Chilean foods, which are Peruvian food and sushi.  Let me explain.

Peruvian food:
Ok, so the USA has Mexican food.  Australia has Thai food.  And Britain has Indian food.  Chile is greedy and they’ve adopted two types of cuisine as their own:  Peruvian food and sushi.  Everywhere you go, you’ll see Peruvian food.  And sushi.  Not in the same restaurants, of course.  Peruvian food is ubiquitous.  It’s hard to walk a block without stumbling on a Peruvian restaurant.  They are everywhere!  And this is fine.  Peruvian food isn’t too spicy which sits well with Chileans.  Peru is also next door so there are quite a few Peruvians in Chile to cook their cuisine.  I didn’t complain, though I only had Peruvian food once because I was heading to Peru next and figured I should save the Peruvian food for when I’m actually in Peru.

Chilean chicken sushi:
Sushi, on the other hand, was put into my mouth a hell of a lot of times.  Like, a lot a lot.  Mainly because there weren’t too many restaurants around near where I was staying except for a decent sushi joint.  Like Peruvian food, sushi is everywhere in Santiago… and Chile in general.  It’s not Japanese quality, but it’s still pretty good.  The funny thing is that the most common type of sushi that I saw was chicken sushi.

I know that’s weird, but let me explain.

Once upon a time, there was a problem with the fish around the coast of Chile.  I think there was algae or something that the salmon were eating and therefore made them unfit for human consumption.  Or something like that.  So, faced with a lack of salmon, and with tuna being very expensive in Chile, sushi restaurants began to substitute with chicken – cooked chicken of course (because only in Japan can people get away with eating raw chicken and not die).  People apparently liked the chicken sushi and it stuck.  Also in Chilean sushi are rolls are that lightly cooked.  They bread the outside of the roll and lightly cook it.  I don’t think it’s fried because it wasn’t oily or greasy at all, but they somehow cook it and make it warm and a wee bit crispy on the outside.  Who knew?

I like Chilean sushi.  A+ for taking a cuisine and making it your own without totally destroying it.  I’m looking at you, Cuban pizza.

Ok, now that I’ve talked about the food, I can get back to our regularly scheduled programming.  I visited two more locations in Chile:  Punta Arenas and Easter Island.  Those blogs are coming right up.  I don’t have a selfie of me eating Chilean food (because my hands are always full of food and not my phone or camera) so this will have to do.

To see more photos of my food in Santiago, see my other Chilean albums.  I didn’t have enough to make a complete album.  Santiago food was super good, but let’s be honest:  it was no Mexico City.  Nowhere is.

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