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Food From Around the World

I love food. I love travelling, eating new foods and discovering how to prepare local dishes. Here you will all things food related that have intrigued or inspired me and my taste buds as I travel the world.


Charquican – potato and pumpkin and veggies done Chilean style

Last modified on 2012-01-12 21:26:45 GMT. 0 comments. Top.


Chilean ''Charquican''

This dish is comfort food at it`s best. It`s tasty, fast, easy, and can be made from things you usually have on hand, and is an economical and satisfying dish that`s perfect for cold winter nights.

My former housemate, Maria Eugenia Riquelme, showed me this during the time we lived together and regulary swapped Canadian for Chilean recipe sessions.

Maria Eugenia Riquelme

Maria Eugenia Riquelme - guest chef

You see Charquican listed  as a daily  lunch specials on the signboards outside a lot of the local restaurants, so it`s a well known dish, at least in Valparaìso, Chile.

Raw Ingredients for Charquican

Raw Ingredients for Charquican, photographed just before cooking

Recipe: Charquican

1 kg potatoes, peeled and cubed

500 g (half as much) pumpkin (or hard squash), peeled and cubed. ( once I substituted a sweet potato and this worked well)

1 onion, peeled an diced

1 red pepper (seeded and diced)

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup corn kernals

1/2 cup green beans or peas or green pepper (something green)

optional – browned, ground beef (500 g or less is enough – it`s for flavor not a primary ingredient) or hard fleshed fish

optional – fried egg for on top, added just before serving


Put all ingredients in a big pot. Add just enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and keep at a lively simmer until the potatoes and pumpkin turn naturally to puree. Serve topped with a fried egg if you wish.

So easy and tasty! Try it and see for yourself.



Paila and Macha & Cheese Empanadas

Last modified on 2011-06-27 04:01:31 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

A steaming hot bowl of paila - shellfish soup

A steaming hot bowl of paila - shellfish soup

It was a religious holiday today, a day to celebrate and worship the Saint overseeing the pescadores (fishermen) and so I decided to participate with sampling the delicious seafood Chile is so famous for.

The dish in the clay bowl in the picture above is called Paila, bought in a restaurant on the second floor of the old central market. This steaming bowl of shellfish soup cost $7 CAD (3500 pesos).

I also couldn`t resist a cheesy hot empanada, once I saw the lady preparing them fresh before our eyes.

making empanadas

making empanadas

macha and queso empanada - `before`

macha and queso empanada fixin`s

freshly fried empanada - macha y queso

freshly deep fried empanada - macha y queso

This one has `macha y queso (cheese)`- macha is a type of shellfish, like surf clam but a bit more flavorful and tender. At least these ones were, delicately panfried before being added to a mound of cheese and pinched inside a round of dough. Unfortunately, the bland white cheese became the overriding flavour.

Well, that is, until I added `pebre`. I eat everything with a spicy helping of a tomato,onion and hot chili condiment called ´pebre`. Usually when you first sit down in a restaurant they serve you a tiny bowl of this zippy dip with pieces of bread. I tend to eat pebre with everything, and I have to admit that it livened up this empanada nicely.

It still amazes me how empanadas can be so different from country to country in South America, and even within a country. The deep fried empanadas in Valparaíso have a much thinner and puffier crust you find in the north of Chile. There are baked empanadas too, made with a thick margarine based biscuit crust. But that´s a story for another day.


The market is in an old building and the restaurants are squished in along the outer edge, where there is natural light.
It was absolutely packed, which was strange after seeing the streets completely deserted (on religious holidays people lay low it seems).

restaurants on the second floor of the old Central Market

people dining, crammed together on the second floor of the old Central Market

rows of seafood, ready to serve

rows of seafood, ready to serve

sailing ship model behind my table in the restaurant

sailing ship model behind my table in the restaurant

Canadian Breakfast

Last modified on 2011-05-16 13:41:56 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Canadian breakfast

pancakes topped with yogurt and maple syrup, with breakfast sausages and fresh fruit

There’s nothing like sitting down to a a good old fashioned, big Canadian breakfast on Sunday morning. What exactly is a Canadian breakfast? Well there isn’t a set menu, but a common combination is pancakes with maple syrup, breakfast sausages (pork) and/or bacon. Usually there is fruit or hash browns (small cubes or shredded potatoes fried in a pan on top of the stove) dished up on the side. I love yogurt on top of my pancakes, sweetened with syrup.

But some people like their pancakes topped with butter and syrup, or jam, or some skip the sweet stuff and slap a fried egg on top.

You can substitute leftover pancakes for bread for sandwiches the next day, too.

Above is a pic of what I had for breakfast today, in Red Deer, Canada.

Pancake Recipe

(from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, a Canadian standard for recipes)

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (white)

2 TBSP white granulated sugar (optional)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 beaten egg

1 cup milk

1 TBSP cooking oil


Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a different bowl or container, beat egg and add oil and milk. Add all at once to flour mixture. Stir until blended, but still slightly lumpy. Pour about a 1/4 cup batter onto a hot lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet. Cook until golden brown on the bottom and bubbles appear and stay on the surface. The edges will look slightly dry. Flip to cook the other side until golden brown.

Serve while warm.  Top with butter and maple syrup.

Food and Drink Notes: Article published in Olive Oil Times

Last modified on 2011-07-18 01:51:32 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Photo of Quinoa Tabbouleh With Wine Recommendations by Chef Laurent Pasqualetto

Sample plate of Chef Pasqualetto's Quinoa Tabbouleh

I’m very pleased to report that Olive Oil Times has published an article I wrote “Chef Laurent Pasqualetto’s Quinoa Salad“. This article was inspired by my interview with a chef at 5 star hotel Explora Lodge in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile.
Click here if the link in the article title above doesn’t work for you:

Olive Oil Times (, has a lot of interesting recipes and solid information about the olive oil industry worldwide. I’m thrilled that they had invited me to submit more article ideas for South America. In the meantime,

!Buen provecho! ( Enjoy your meal) as they say in Chile.

Close up of Chef Pasqualetto's Quinoa Tabbouleh

Close up of Chef Pasqualetto's Quinoa Tabbouleh

Merquén Spice from the South of Chile

Last modified on 2010-06-07 16:35:11 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Chilean Style Stew featuring Merquen Spice

Chilean Style Stew featuring Merquen Spice

Click here to launch this short photo gallery.

Just when you think you’ve tasted all the new things you can in a place, someone comes up with a dish that surprises you. My friend, ‘Guest Chef’ Juan Echervarria treated me to a delicious chicken stew dish that featured ‘merquén’ spice, primarily made from a powdered form of a red chili that grows in the south of Chile. It’s a spice blend of indigenous origin that’s used in a lot of traditional dishes.(Chile isn’t named after chilis, by the way, in case you were wondering.) Even the canned peas tasted delicious in this dish. Merquén isn’t a hot and spicy spice, but rather a combination of spices, and I detected a smoky flavour overall.

He also made what they call ‘Chilean Salad’ which is plate of sliced peeled tomatoes, onions and cilantro. Cilantro is the only herb they use for cooking in Chile. Oregano grows very well in the north of Chile in the altiplano regions, but it isn’t featured in many dishes at all. Italian restaurants seem to be the only ones who really use it,on pizzas and in Italian pasta sauces.

Another thing that fascinates me is how Chileans make rice. It’s absolutely delicious, and they don’t think it’s anything special. First they fry the rice in a big pot, usually with a bit of garlic, some sliced carrot, sometimes a bit of green pepper. Then they add boiling water. They put the whole pot on top of a flat toaster grill (they make toast on the stove top, using a flat metal mesh covered metal square with a handle, and it looks just like the toaster grills sometimes used for making toast over the fire while camping in Canada). They let it boil and steam to cook under a lid, adding salt, an sometimes a bay leaf or bouillon for extra flavoring.

If I hadn’t seen the rice made this way in three different homes, I would have chalked it up to one family’s way of doing things. But some ‘expat’ friends and I were talking one Sunday afternoon and realized it is a widespread thing. When asked, most Chileans don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s just the normal way you make rice.

I think it’s often the things people don’t even realize are different than other places that visitors use to characterize a culture.

Wonder what routinely happens in Canadian kitchens that visitors would call ‘typically Canadian’?

Manjar – Caramel Heaven

Last modified on 2010-02-07 14:07:49 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Picture of a foil pouch of the popular Manjar filling

Picture of a foil pouch of the popular Manjar filling

There is a sweet filling/sauce in South America that I just love, called Manjar. It’s caramelized sugar in milk. It’s light brown  in colour, and tastes like a taste of creamy caramel heaven.

Manjar is far more popular than chocolate down here, and you find it in cakes, sweet pastries, ice cream and sometimes served with toast in places that offer toast and jam for breakfast (which is really rare around here – it’s usually just bread, maybe margarine or butter on the side, a slice of deli ham, and tea).

I first encountered it in Argentina, where it’s called dulce de leche. In Peru it’s called Manjar blanco and in Chile it’s usually just called Manjar. You can buy it in pouches in all the corner stores and supermarkets here (and I’ve seen it on the shelves in Superstore in Canada).

I was shocked when I found out how easy it is to make. You take a can of sweetened condensed milk, knock some holes in the top, put it in a pot of water (water filling the pot to almost the top of the can), and let it boil for about 2 hours. It will reduce and turn a cafe colour. When it’s like a thick spread, it’s done.

There are other ways to make it too. This recipe explains how to bake the sweetened condensed milk in a pie plate covered with foil for 45 minutes.

And here you can read and see how to make it from scratch on the site, using  butter, two kinds of sugar, milk, baking soda and liquid glucose There’s a video on this site that makes it look simpler than pie to make, with the recipe posted just below the video clip  (but the recipe is in grams so you need to have a scale handy).

It’s delicious cold or hot. You can even eat it in spoonfuls like pudding. It’s very addictive, though so cuidate (be careful in Spanish).

The Chacarero Sandwich of Chile

Last modified on 2010-02-21 15:51:22 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Green beans, tomatoes, mayo, and thin beefsteak: the Chacarero Sandwich

Green beans, tomatoes, mayo, and thin beefsteak: the Chacarero Sandwich

The Chacarero Sandwich is a fully loaded burger- like sandwich, with thin hot beef steak topped with thick layers of tomatoes and thinly sliced green beans. There is usually a generous dollop of  mayo on top of the beans, and sometimes a squirt of Chilean Aji sauce, a zingy hot and spicy BBQ sauce.

Whoever thought of putting  tomatoes and green beans on a beef sandwich was brilliant. I highly recommend it.

It’s my favorite sandwich of South America so far. I’ve only seen it in Chile to date.

A great way to use those over-ripe tomatoes

Last modified on 2010-02-21 15:48:49 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Chileans have a very practical solution for getting rid of callouses and dry skin, especially on your feet. Maybe other people and cultures know this handy trick too, but this is the first place I’ve seen it done. I’ve tried it myself a few times so I know it works.

You just take tomatoes -over-ripe juicy ones are best- and squish them on your feet on the cracked, dry skin parts. Don’t wipe the tomato off. Wrap each foot in a plastic bag and let things sit for about 30 minutes. When the half hour is up, or your feet start to feel itchy, it’s time to rinse. The  dry dead skin will peel off easily in swathes with just a little scrubbing, leaving baby soft skin behind. Cheap, easy and effective… my kind of home spa remedy!

Posted Tues. Jan 12, 2010

Breads of Chile

Last modified on 2010-02-21 15:50:24 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Breads of Chile

Breads of Chile

Who would have guessed that Chileans are bread-o-holics? They absolutely love bread here. They eat sandwiches almost every day, and always start the day with tea and pan (bread), usually just dry without anything, or perhaps with a slice of ham deli meat. Often there is no butter or margarine in sight.  Occasionally you’ll see jam, but that seems to be only for foreigners .

There are 5 main types of bread here, and four of them  are unique to Chile.

  1. Coliza – a rectangular or diamond shaped bun with a flat top that looks like it’s made of layers and layers or bread dough folded together. It comes apart easily , like Pillsbury layer biscuits.
  2. Halluya – these round, flat topped buns with fork prick designs on top are used for hamburgers and most sandwiches, but they are very different than the hamburger buns of North America. They aren’t filled with soft bread inside. They are thinner and somehow more elastic so they don’t fall apart,  and there isn’t a tough crust on top. Perfect for fully loaded sandwiches that need bread to keep them together, but not take over as the predominant taste. Here sandwiches are more about the fillings than the bread.
  3. Marraqueta – the closest thing to French bread that you can find here. Sometimes it’s even called ‘panes frances’, but it is not as long or crusty as the French bread that we’re used to in Canada.This is a crusty roll the size of a big submarine bun, shaped with four pull-apart sections making it easy to get at all the soft white bread inside. It’s made simply of flour, water, salt and leavening, and is the most popular bread by far in Chile. You see it sold in Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina too.
  4. Pan Amasado – hand kneaded dense lardy buns. They’re actually quite good when heated up and served with jam, but can sit like a greasy rock in your stomache afterward.
  5. Pan de Molde – not mouldy bread like it sounds, but bread made in a mould to shape it into perfect loaves. This is typical bread, like wonder bread or any brand of sliced white or whole wheat bread. This is very rare here. You can only find it in the big international supermarkets (there’s one called Hiper Lider which is like a mini  Superstore)