Tiene mano de monja, meaning 'he/she has nun hands', is a Chilean saying that refers to someone with exceptional baking skills. Indeed, baking was popularized by nuns who lived in the county's various convents.
Influenced by European cuisines, mostly Spanish, Italian, German, and French, the food in Chile is an alluring blend of spices, meat, and locally grown vegetables. Since this is a coastal country, seafood is also consumed in abundance. Many traditional dishes in the country are meat based, such as the Asado, Pastel de choclo, and Cazuela. Before we read more on Chilean cuisine as it is portrayed today, we'll take a sneak peek in its history, to better understand its evolution.
Chilean Food History
The recipes in Chilean cuisine have a rich history and are influenced by other global food cultures. The settlers from different countries brought with them their own ingredients and methods of cooking, which stayed for long, and are followed since then. The Spanish got with them some of the most important ingredients we find in Chilean cuisine today―wheat, chickens, pigs, and also wine. These were cooked in combination with locally available vegetables such as potatoes and beans; seafood was also used. Baking products, especially pastries, were made common by convent nuns. Mexico contributed geese and turkey, while Jamaica threw in melons and watermelons. Tea and coffee was widely consumed during the eighteenth century and so was Chilean wine.
- The people of Chile cook most of their dishes with beef, fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry, and seafood.
- The Chilean people usually have four meals on any given day. The breakfast is usually light and includes bread toasted with butter and coffee with milk. The lunch, which lasts for about one and a half hour, is the heaviest meal of the day. A beef or chicken preparation teamed with salad is usually eaten for lunch.
- The Chileans also have a tea break, known as 'las onces', usually late in the afternoon, a tradition adopted from the British. Bread and jam, with cheese and avocados (palta) are eaten during this break. Bread is expected to be freshly served. The dinner, which is eaten at around 9 in the night, has only a single course. It normally consists of Chilean salad (ensalada chilena), which is prepared with chopped, boiled onions, tomatoes, vinegar or oil dressing, and minced cilantro.
- Humitas, Bistec a lo pobre , Cazuela de ave, and Empanadas are some of the commonly cooked dishes; La parrillada (barbecue) is a commonly used technique. Rice dishes in Chile are usually prepared using the Spanish way of cooking.
- The long coast of Chile makes it a hotspot for seafood, with a wide variety of fish, including crustaceans and shellfish. The seafood which comes from Chile is considered to be one the world's finest varieties. Sea bass dishes made in different styles are popular, and are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
- Owing to their distinct flavor, Chilean wines have an international repute. They're generously used in many dishes.
- Chilean Pisco Sour is a famous Chilean cocktail made of pisco (a type of brandy), lemon juice, egg whites, and sugar. Cola de mono, meaning 'monkey's tail', is a famous traditional drink consumed widely throughout the country, specially during Christmas, containing aguardiente, milk, coffee, cloves, and sugar.
- Another Chilean dish that is traditionally eaten around Christmas is pan de pascua. A contribution of German settlers, this fruitcake usually contains candied fruits, walnuts, raisins, and almonds; it is flavored with honey and/or ginger.
Today, the gastronomic industry in Chile is still working on popularizing its assets further and better. If you ever have a chance of trying any one of these dishes, don't lose out on it!