Traditional Mapuche Cuisine of Chile

Spice merken,  dried chillies
Spice merken, dried chillies

PRESS RELEASE: Chile offers a diverse gastronomic scene – including the classic cuisine of The Mapuche people.

The Mapuche are a wide-ranging ethnic group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile. They are a community renowned for their traditions and strong-minded spirit, sharing a common social, religious and economic structure, as well as a common linguistic heritage as Mapudungun speakers.

In recent years, Lake Budi, close to Temuco, has become both an interesting and popular destination for ethno-tourism. It is a region that is rich in culture and the influence of the Mapuche is especially reflected in its unique gastronomic offering. At Lake Budi, visitors can sleep in a hut, sample traditional Mapuche cuisine with the community and enjoy a first-hand experience oftheir culture. Local shops offer spicy, wine-based marmalades, organic honey, condiments including spice merkén, olive oils and a wide selection of wine and pisco, so it’s easy to bring home a taste of the authentic Mapuchen cuisine.

Conguillio national park
Conguillio national park

Curarrehue, in the La Araucanía Region is known for being at the heart of Mapuche gastronomy. This distinctive gastronomy is based on the use of foods found amongst nature, through cultivation, fruit recollection and animal grazing and breeding. Its pure nature means foods vary in accordance to the season and the area in which ingredients are grown. The cuisine is predominantly based on cereals, seeds, tubers, legumes, meats, sprouts, fungi, aromatic herbs, fruits, vegetables and all other foods that can be obtained directly from the land. Typical Mapuchen menus include salads, pine nut (piñon) soups and traditional dishes including the following:

*      Cazuela – thick, flavourful stew made by brewing a mix of meats and vegetables.
*      Catuto – flat, elongated dough made with ground wheat and water. Consumed cold, served with sauces and jams including Chilean berry, blackberry and rosehip.
*      Muday – pine nut is the basic food of the Pewenche native people, eaten by peeling and cooking, or drank as a natural juice by boiling and sweetening with honey.
*      Merkén – condiment prepared with hot chilli that is dried and smoked, often used in the reinterpretation of the national, traditional gastronomy.
*      Sopaipillas – fried pastry or bread served with pebre (a sauce of onion, tomato, garlic, and herbs) and mustard, ketchup, hot butter, guacamole or cheese.
*      Tortilla de rescoldo – wheat flour bread prepared by rural travellers traditionally baked in the coals of a campfire.

These traditional delights can be tasted at some of Chile’s best eateries or Picadas where the locals eat. Picadas are classic mum and pop restaurants offering low prices on delicious homemade dishes often prepared from family recipes. Theyrepresent an important part of the national culture and in order to highlight Chile’s one of a kind gastronomy, the Ministry of Culture has held the ‘Chile’s Best Picada’ contest twice to celebrate top traditional recipes and the best picadas of the country. Here are some picadas that you simply must visit when in Chile:

*      Las Muñecas de Ñielol in Temuco
*      Manhattan in Concepción, the capital city of the Bíobío Region
*      Kiosko Roca in Punta Arenas the capital city of the Magallanes Region, in Patagonia
*      La Última Frontera in Valdivia in the Los Ríos Region
*      Onde el Pala in Chillán in the Biobío Region
*      El guatón Lizana in San Javier in the Maule Region
*      Las Viejas Cochinas in Talca in the Maule Region
*      La Ovallina, in the Atacama Region
*      La Flor de Chile in Viña del Mar in Valparaíso
*      El Hoyo in Santiago

For a modern alternative, visitors can enjoy the reawakening of Mapuche, Aymará and Rapa Nui ancestral cuisine at Peumayen restaurant in the Bellavista neighbourhood of Santiago. Using unfamiliar ingredients to most such as horse meat, conger eel cheeks, black sea snails and monkey-puzzle tree nuts, Peumayen gives diners a taste of this authentic cooking with a twist.

About Chile
Chile is a long, narrow country that extends from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean on the southwest side of South America, from latitude 17° 30′ S in the Altiplano to 56° 30′ S at the far end of continental Chile and 90° S in its Antarctic territory. It has a unique geography as its territory includes Easter Island, in Polynesia, 3,700 km from the mainland, as well as territory in Antarctica (Chile Antártico, 1,250,000 km2). Continental and insular Chile, which includes the mainland and offshore islands and archipelagos, covers 756,096 km2. Chile’s main territory is roughly twice the size of Germany and consists of a strip of land 4,200 km long and 90 to 440 km wide. Santiago is the country’s capital and largest city in terms of population and employment, with 6,061,185 inhabitants as of the 2002 census. Located on parallel 33° S, at roughly the same latitude as Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Santiago is the country’s main political, economic, cultural and industrial center. It is the gateway to Chile and one of the most modern capital cities on the continent.

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