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A Taste of Tufts Abroad: Chile

Ever wondered how fellow students fared in their culinary adventure abroad? Just because you’re on a student budget does not mean you can miss out on the wealth of opportunities offered, provided you look hard enough. Welcome to the “Taste of Tufts Abroad,” where Tasty Tufts will guide, push and shove you to where your heart desires – culinarily speaking. This week, Jenny White explores  Santiago, Chile.

In the shadows of sublime snow-draped mountains, the streets of Santiago at first view may not compare to the natural enticements of its surroundings. But this capital city captures a different range of beauty in its lively celebration of Chilean culture combined with a global influence.

With a deep history of immigration and cross-cultural exchange, dating back to the Spanish arrival in the 16th century, today’s Santiago offers an abundance of international cuisines, such as German, Chinese, Italian, and Middle Eastern as well as modern fast food shops. Since the introduction of the grape from the Spanish, Chile has also developed into a top wine producer, with vineyards galore. Typical Chilean food is heavily influenced by the spices and seeds introduced by immigrants, but amidst the diversity, the hearty, indigenous flavors are still the essence of Chilean cuisine.

The Chilean diet embraces the bounty of its expansive seacoast and the richness of its mountain-nestled fields. Though Santiago, located in the center of the skinny country, is not on the ocean, seafood is still ubiquitous at local markets. If studying in the capital, a day trip to the Pacific coast would most definitely be worth the drive, not only for its relaxing beaches but for the opportunity to relish the freshest of the national cuisine’s specialty. Nearly everything from the water’s depths is eaten- from sea bass and mackerel to clams and oysters.

Popular preparations include almejas con limon, raw clams topped with lemon juice, and conger-eel soup, which adds potatoes, onions, and carrots. A quintessential favorite to Chile is piure, which are dark red sea squirts tossed with onions, coriander, and sprinkling of lemon and have a uniquely potent taste among seafoods.

Since seafood was always a close catch and meat the prized desire of rugged, high-altitude life, vegetarian meals rarely shared a piece of the plate in Chile. So when fish or shellfish is not for dinner, meat- usually beef- most definitely will be. All over Chile, people enjoy empanadas, a European influence of turnovers stuffed with meat, cheeses, or corn. There’s also pastel del choclo, which essentially is a meat and corn pie, with the common mix-ins of chicken, hard-boiled egg, raisins, olives and onions, and once all together the pie is baked in a clay oven. And since corn has long been a native staple in Chile, don’t miss humitas: pureed corn wrapped into corn husks and boiled.

And of course, Chileans in Santiago and elsewhere know how to end a meal on a sweet note. Choose from one of the innumerable varieties of desserts featuring manjar: an intensely, but deliciously, sweet, caramel-like filling made from boiled milk and sugar. Manjar is found in cakes, pastries, donuts, and more.

In Santiago, you’ll find a world of dining options, but the choices of local origin- traditional Chilean foods- are the ones to seek out and savor.

– Jenny White

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