The traditional gastronomy of the chilote people has been preserved because they grow the very things they consume. Up until the eighties, people had four quickly prepared, yet hearty dishes for lunch. This happened because people spent more time at home and it was commonplace to raise pigs and chicken in the backyard.
Potatoes, pork, poultry and seafood are the main foods of the chilote diet. The most typical local preparation is the curanto, in which food is cooked in a hole in the ground using hot stones and covered in patches of grass and nalca leaves (Chilean rhubarb). The word curanto is derived from mapudungun curantü, which means stone heated by the sun.
Chilote potato and garlic
Potatoes are part of nearly every dish because it is the most common crop on the island. Plus, farming and eating potatoes is linked to ancestral social practices, like the minga. Potatoes can be prepared a number of ways: buried in embers (cenizas), smoked (llangue), steamed, stewed or they can be used to make other things, like chuño. There are over two hundred different kinds, including bastoneza, azul (blue), camota (sweet potato), corahila and rosada (pink).
Chilote garlic is also known as elephant garlic or elephant’s tooth due to its large size compared to regular garlic. It has a much milder flavor and it is whiter.
– Cocimiento chilote: this dish is steamed in a pot for one hour. Ingredients: onion, garlic, red bell peppers, water, chicken, spicy sausage, shellfish and potatoes.
– Cancato: fishermen make this dish on their boats. The main ingredient is fish. Over time, new ingredients have been added, like cheese and spicy sausage.
– Cazuela chilota (Chilote casserole): there are two variations; one is made with mussels (clams and baby clams), vegetables, potatoes and rice. The other version uses lamb’s meat (ideally the meat along the backbone), vegetables, potatoes, rice and cochayuyo (seaweed). A dish called luche casserole also includes this last ingredient, the only difference being the way it’s cooked; luche has to soak overnight.
Liquors and sweets
– Licor de oro (gold liquor): originally from the town of Chonchi, it is the most characteristic alcoholic beverage on the island. It is made from milk serum and aguardiente that is filtered for over a week. Then, they add cloves, cinnamon and lemon peel. It is mainly drunk as a cocktail before meals in small glasses.
– Rompon chilote: it is made with eggs, milk and aguardiente. First, the egg yokes are cooked with milk at a low simmer, without letting it boil. Once the mix cools down, aguardiente is added and it is ready for consumption.
– Mistela: it is a form of liquor made from aguardiente, a fruit or vegetable and sugar. On the island, it is common to use murtilla (a small berry).
– Apple chicha: a typical liquor obtained from fermented apple juice. Fishermen usually drink it when the tide is low enough to gather mussels.
A few of the most typical recipes for sweets are:
– Rosca chonchina (chonchina donut): originally from Chonchi, it is Chiloe’s most typical sweet. Donuts are made with dough made from regular flour. Then, they are left in boiling water until they swell up. Finally, they are left in the oven to brown.
– Chuañe: it is a type of bread made with grated raw potato mixed with graham flour. It is wrapped in Chilean rhubarb and cooked in the oven or in embers. Finally, it is powdered in sugar.
– Trastrasera: originally from Chiloe, it can be danced in couples or in a group. Before the music starts, the dancers enter the dancefloor holding hands; then, pretending to jog, the man approaches the woman as she backs away, as if shy and embarrassed.
– The sirilla: this island dance has Spanish origins. Two couples holding handkerchiefs face each other in a square. The main steps involve spins, changing places and foot stomping in place.
– The costillar: it is danced around a bottle placed in the middle of the dance floor. Dancers must be agile and skilled because they have to made the circle smaller and smaller as they stomp they feet for the entire song. Whoever drops the bottle gets a punishment. Normally, only men dance this one.
– Cueca chilota: it has the same basic choreography as the rest of the country’s cuecas, only this one mixes small steps with loud stomping.
– Cueca del Chapecao: accompanied by nothing but a guitar, this dance is similar to the cueca danced in the center of the country, but only up to the second turn, for here, everyone swaps dance partners until the end of the piece, when they return to their original mates.
– Chilote waltz: it is the same as the traditional waltz. The man and woman remain together, only here the tempo is steadier.