Typical Foods of Chiloé

Chiloé is a large island in the south of Chile that has unique geography, history, culture, architecture and food. It is famous the world over for its palafitos, stilted houses that jut over the water, and the wooden churches that dot the island. Visitors also come to shop for the thick, water-resistant woolen sweaters and blankets and to take long drives down the winding roads lined with bright yellow flowers, which were originally brought to fence in sheep.

Palafitos

Palafitos – photo courtesy of Silviapef

But one of the main attractions of Chiloé is the food. As Chiloé has historically been somewhat isolated from the rest of Chile, it has developed its own cuisine. Now that there is easy air access, a short flight is all you need to enjoy some of these regional specialties. Here are some suggestions.

Curanto/Pulmay

This is perhaps the signature dish of Chiloé, whether cooked as is traditional, in a hole in the sand, separated from the sand with the leaves of the nalca plant, or cooked in a pot (pulmay or curanto en olla). It is a combination of several different kinds of seafood, among them razor clams and mussels, along with cuts of pork, chicken, and sausage and whole potatoes.

Curanto in the ground

Curanto in the ground – photo courtesy of Pete Weis

For pulmay, the ingredients are steamed together with water and wine in a pot, generally using cabbage leaves to separate the layers. As it takes an hour to cook, if you’d like to eat this while in Chiloé, it is best to make prior arrangement with a restaurant. Curanto and pulmay are served with milcaos and chapaleles (read further).

Milcao

One of two types of “bread” made of potatoes in Chiloé. Milcao is made of grated raw potatoes mixed with cooked potatoes, with pork or sausage in the middle. They are formed into disks and then pre-fried, browning them on the outside, and then baked or cooked in the curanto.

Chapalele

This is the other of the two kinds of “bread” served with curanto. Cooked potatoes are mixed together with flour, pork and to make rectangular patties, which are either fried, baked, or cooked with the rest of the ingredients of the curanto.

Typical wooden church

Typical wooden church – photo courtesy of e. carr

Mariscal

This brothy clam and mussel soup is typical of Chiloé, but is easy enough to find throughout the coast of Chile. The Chilote version tends to be a bit heavier on the piures, or red sea squirts, small, strongly-flavored seafood that you will see for sale around the island tied together on a string. Mariscal is served hot, with lots of lemon juice and and served in a greda (earthenware) bowl. For a brothier dish, with vegetables such as squash and corn, try the cazuela de mariscos.

Papas Chilotes

Even the simplest grilled fish or meat in Chiloé can be accompanied by local flavor and color of Chiloé in the form of these potatoes, which are grown in the area. They are small round, or fingerling potatoes with hues from yellow to pink to a purplish blue, and can be served as a side, either boiled or baked in most restaurants.