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Chile - Food and Drink
Eating out is a bit expensive, with local restaurants charging around CH$3500-5500 for the main course. If you are trying to keep costs down, you can visit the municipal markets, where there are plenty of food stalls. The key is to join the Chileans by making lunch your main meal of the day. Most restaurants have a fixed price menu, which is better value than the a la carte variations. Breakfasts in many hotels and restaurants are quite basic, offering coffee or tea with toasted rolls. However, if your hosts want to pamper you, breakfast will include cheese, ham and cake.
Few Chileans go out for dinner except during the holidays and weekends, so during the week the restaurants are quiet. There is a tradition of onces, a meal consisting of biscuits, bread, ham and cheese, served at 5pm and taken at home. If you go to restaurants, they will serve huge fruit tarts at this time. It is important to know that many eateries do not open for dinner before 8pm. Chileans mostly prefer homemade meals with an assortment of traditional foods.
Different varieties of meat and beef are common features at most dinner tables and restaurants. Barbecues are common during summer. These affairs come with plenty of Chilean wine and gardens full of grills and picnic baskets. The weather is less reliable in the south, therefore covered grills known as quinchos offer an alternative option.
Smaller animal meat such as goat is often sliced and cooked in quinchos on skewers. Restaurants have the equivalent of a barbecue known as parrillada, which is a mixture of sausages, grilled steaks and chops. This is usually served at your table on a hot grill. Steaks and chicken are also popular. These can be served fried, pit roasted or oven roasted. Pit roasted chicken is readily available and affordable in the northern area of Arica because of the abundant chicken breeding industries. Pollo al conac is a popular chicken casserole in central Chile, served in pots containing cream and brandy. Pork is also popular in some restaurants, while lamb is commonly eaten in the Lake District.
Most of the traditional food are fusions of Hispanic and indigenous foods. They are commonly cooked in homes and available in traditional restaurants. You can find such restaurants in the countryside or in the cities and towns. Recipes vary according to region and depending on the available produce. However, there are staples including sweet corn and potatoes. Sweet corn makes two traditional dishes. Humitas is mashed corn wrapped in cornhusks and steamed, while pastel de choclo is a pie made from minced meat or chicken pureed in sugar and sweet corn, then oven baked. Potatoes are a staple food in the Chilean diet.
Empanada is a traditional dish as symbolic as the national flag. It was introduced by the Spanish and is loved in South America. Whether baked, fried, sweet or savory it can be filled with anything. A traditional empanada is filled with onions, olives, a slice of boiled egg and a mixture of minced beef. Soups and broths are also typical and mostly used as starters. Azuela is a common one, named after large Spanish saucepans. The ingredients are selected and prepared to maintain food color and texture. They include orange pumpkin, green beans, yellow sweet corn, yellow potato, split rice and peas, served in a soup plate with meat on a bone and seasoned with coriander and parsley. Other common broths include the caldillo, which is a stew made of fish steaks that have been previously fried and soaked in vinegar.
Chile towns have fast food cafes and snack bars that serve draught beer and affordable dishes. You will find sandwiches such as the barros luco, which is melted cheese and beef or barros jarpa, which is ham and cheese. The fillings are mostly meat based with options including churrasco, a thinly sliced griddle fried steak. Chile surprisingly is the home of various hot dogs. Simple hot dogs in buns are known as vienesa, but when they also come with sauerkraut, tomato, avocado and mayonnaise, they are known as dinamico. The italiano is the most popular version, which has tomato, avocado and mayonnaise arranged in such a way that it looks like the Italian flag. Once the sausage is presented with extra sauerkraut and chopped tomato, it is ready!
There is a huge variety of drinks in Chile. Soft fizzy beverages, mineral water, instant coffee and herbal teas are easy to get. Getting good coffee is easier than it previously was in the country, while herbal teas can be found in a wide range of flavors including chamomile, boldo and mint. Chile is known for freshly squeezed juices found in roadside stalls, restaurants and bars. Huesillo is a homegrown drink found and sold in the roadsides during summer. Mote is a drink made from soaked or boiled barley grain. Huesillos, on the other hand, is a drink made from sun-dried peaches, though it can be made with any soft fruit.
Chileans have three major beers. Escudo and Cristal are the choices of bottled lager, while Kunsrtman is the specialty brand. Chileans have a great selection of wines, although restaurants list rarely serve the wines produced for export. Different specialty and homemade wines will be available depending on the region.
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