Food and drink for Fiestas Patrias: celebrating with Chilean cuisine

Fiestas Patrias merriments are warmly shared among families and friends, along with joyful meals of decadent Chilean cuisine, and festive beverages to further lighten the mood.

Take a gourmet tour of Chile and experience Fiestas Patrias with these traditional foods and drinks:

Asados

The Chilean backyard barbeque is known as an “asado,” and especially during Fiestas Patrias, the air is filled with the tempting smell of grilled meats. Chileans have clearly perfected the art of cooking meat, and this is evident in the various types of asados that are common during Fiestas Patrias.

Every asado chef has a preferred method of preparing meat for grilling, usually treating the meat first with table salt or sea salt and also the type of coal or wood used to prepare it. Some cooks make incisions for well-done meat, while others argue that rare is better. Common seasonings include pepper, garlic, oregano, fennel, and of course, merken (a native Chilean spice made from roasted and dried chilli pepper among other spices).

Asado chefs in Chile also typically pour the alcohol they are drinking onto the simmering meat – usually beer or wine, though sometimes chicha (a sweet, lightly fermented grape juice that is especially popular during Fiestas Patrias).

An “asado al palo” involves cooking an entire animal – usually lamb or pig – on a stake over a pit of hot coals in the earth. For an “asado a la parilla,” meat or shellfish is grilled on a metal grate over a hearth or grill.

In southern Chile – specifically on the island of Chiloé – the “curanto” is a popular type of asado in which pits of coals in the earth are covered with rocks, and meat and vegetables are placed on large leaves of a plant called “nalca” -to keep the warmth- and cooked above the hot surface.

Regardless of the method of asado, Chileans often eat leftover meat the following day in a “ajiaco” or “valdiviano. This preparation consists of a stew of meat and vegetables cooked in a pot, resulting in a delicious dish.

Fonda foods

Since most supermarkets and businesses are closed for several days during Fiestas Patrias, local “fondas” are often the only option for a warm meal if you happen to run out of groceries in Chile.

Fondas typically provide a venue for live music, dancing and socializing, along with a variety of traditional Fiestas Patrias foods. Along with asado-type fare (including vegetables cooked with meat), most fondas sell empanadas, a common Chilean pastry stuffed with cheese, meat or shellfish. The most popular empanada – “empanada de pino” – is filled with beef, onions, olives, hard-boiled egg, and spices.

Fondas also sell beer, wine, and Chile’s favorite Fiestas Patrias beverage – chicha.

Chicha and terremoto

It is important to note that September 18 is the only day of the year on which it is legal (and normal) to drink alcohol in the streets of Chile. As in many countries, alcoholic beverages are central to most Fiestas Patrias celebration.

Following April’s grape harvest, chicha is adequately-fermented for consumption by September, just in time for the festivities. Chicha is sold in all bottle stores and fondas during Fiestas Patrias, and this cool and sweet drink is perfect for warm September days.

Speaking of warm September days, spring weather and temperatures arrive suddenly to Chile, and outdoor Fiestas Patrias celebrations are often warm during the day. Perhaps for this reason, another popular drink is the “terremoto,” a cold mixed drink made with white pipeño wine, pineapple ice cream, grenadine (or substituting a bitter Argentinian spirit called fernet).

To make a terremoto anywhere in the world, follow this simple recipe:

Scoop pineapple ice cream into a large glass.
Add white wine until the glass is ¾ full.
Pour grenadine or fernet in the glass.
Stir with a straw and enjoy!

By Gretchen Stahlman, written for Chile.Travel
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