Chilean Coastal Cuisine

"In the turbulent sea of Chile lives the golden conger eel," wrote Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in a simple verse that leaves the real poetry for the dinner table. To many, dining is the principal pleasure of a trip to the Central Coast. Along with that succulent conger eel (congrio as it's known in these parts), menus here typically offer corvina (sea bass), a whitefish called reineta, and lenguado (sole). The appetizer selection, which is invariably extensive, usually includes machas Parmesanas (razor clams), ostiones (scallops), camarones (shrimp), and jaiba (crab).

Fish and meat dishes do not usually include agregados (side dishes), so if you want french fries, mashed potatoes, a salad, or palta (avocado), you have to order them separately. Bread, lemons, and a sauce called pebre (a mix of tomato, onion, coriander, parsley, and chili) are always brought to the table. Valparaíso is also known for a hearty, cheap meal called chorillana—a mountain of minced steak, onions, cheese, and eggs on a bed of french fries that is generally placed in the center of the table to be shared by the group.

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