Food in Santiago
Now that I’ve been here for almost 2 months, I feel as though I can write a sufficient post about all of the types of food they eat here in Santiago. There are an enormous amount of restaurants in Santiago, nearly one on every street. In my neighborhood, Barrio Universitario, there are many colleges and universities and therefore lots of places serving quick meals for students. They serve mostly empanadas, salads, or rice & chicken in to-go boxes or bags. One particularly popular place to go over lunch is this tiny cove of a restaurant that serves vegetarian lasagnas, empanadas, fresh juices, salads, and ice cream with fruit. The line is always long around 1-2pm. Another popular “fast food” Chileans enjoy are hot dogs with homemade buns, tomatoes, avocado, and mayo. It’s called “The Italiano”. There’s a hot dog place right across the street from my apartment and every afternoon it’s crowded.
There are also plenty of sit-down restaurants with lunch specials around my neighborhood. Sometimes we go eat at this particular place called “Las Delicias”. It’s only a block from the university and there are so many rooms filled with tables that I wonder how all the waitresses can keep track of all the customers. The daily lunch special consists of either a steak or grilled chicken served with rice, french fries (homemade), a salad, and coffee or tea. I don’t know how they cook the chicken or rice, but it’s really tasty. The term “salad” here refers to a small plate of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber slices that you drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Overall a very typical Chilean lunch that is really good and pretty cheap.
Santiago has a ton of different restaurants serving other types of food, as well. Sushi is extremely common, and there are many Peruvian restaurants as well. As I’ve heard from my friends, there are pretty good Colombian and Ecuatorian eateries scattered throughout Santiago. I haven’t tried Colombian or Ecuatorian food, but Peruvian food is excellent! One dish I had consisted of thick cut fries served with sauce, cheese, and sausages, and I tried a Peruvian stir fry with beef and vegetables which was really amazing. In the more tourist-y parts of Santiago you can find Italian, Chinese, Indian (my friend told me about his favorite Indian place in Santiago!!), Bolivian, pizza, and pub-like restaurants. Mexican food is extremely rare here, so anyone who thinks that everyone
who speaks Spanish eats spicy enchiladas is incorrect! Chileans don’t really like their food very spicy at all.
On the beverage side of things, tea, coffee, and mate are very popular day drinks. In the lab, people drink mate a lot and share with anyone who wants some a few times a day. Mate is actually an Argentinian hot drink that is made by pouring hot water over yerba mate leaves in a cup and drinking it through a special straw with a wire mask so you don’t eat the leaves. It is pretty high in caffeine, and tastes very herbally. Wine is so cheap here it’s crazy. Considering Santiago is located in the middle of Chilean wine county, it’s not surprising. There’s one type of wine that is literally only made in Chile: Carmenere. I really like it, and if I knew more about how to describe wine I would..but
for now just take my word for it.
Last weekend I was at a winebar called La Vinocracia for Andrea’s cousins’ birthday and got to try really amazing wine and champagne. It was there that I was tricked into trying lengua de la vaca: cow tongue. There were lots of plates with cheeses and nuts and shrimp, and one of the plates had this stuff that looked like meat with cheese or sauce on it. Andrea told me to try it, and when I asked if it was meat she said yes, so I took a bite. It tasted alright right away, but the aftertaste was super weird to me and kind of salty. It was then that Andrea told me that I had just eaten cow tongue. Sneaky, Andrea! Beer is also pretty popular here, but with a much stronger German influence than in the US. People buy a liter of beer in a glass bottle at the store and drink directly from it, few aluminum cans.
Desserts in Chile are very different than desserts in the US for the most part. Cakes and pies are everywhere, and walking by all of the Pastelerias (dessert shops) smells really good. Dulce de leche is a sweet caramel-like cream that is really underutilized in the US. Here they use it to make desserts that consist of layers of dulce de leche, jams, whipped creams, and pastry dough. There aren’t as many chocolate desserts here, as most of the desserts are made with pastry dough for things like strudels or wafers dipped in chocolate and filled with cream. As I mentioned in a previous post, ice cream flavors are dominated by fruits. Ice cream pops (on a stick) dipped in chocolate always look so delicious on display in the shops.