Getting your Sandwich on in Santiago, Chile

What's New — By Bearshapedsphere (Eileen Smith) on September 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm

A chacarero with palta (avocado) added.

Photo by Chris Lowry on Flickr.

The funny thing about sandwiches in Chile is that although people eat them all the time, they’re not considered a meal. Which is particularly strange because of how gigantic they are. They can easily be the size of your hand and spread fingers, but these you will not use to eat the sandwich. No, you will eat it with a fork and knife because a) when in Rome and b) the sandwich is almost always too messy to be eaten any other way.

The main ingredients that show up on a sandwich are: meat (grilled, thicker than a minute-steak, thinner than an actual steak), turkey (same dimensions), shredded grean beans, tomato, cheese and avocado. Usually this will be served on pan frica (a bun), or occasionally, on a marraqueta (like French bread, but split into several large bun-sized pieces). You can add palta (avocado) to any of these, and that will usually mean almost an entire avocado-worth of mashed avocado pulp spread on top (thus the fork).

The main varieties of sandwich in Chile are:

  • Aliado- cold ham and cheese sandwich, with the bread spread with butter
  • Barros Luco- grilled meat and melted cheese
  • Barros Jarpa- grilled ham and melted cheese
  • Chacarero- grilled meat, tomatoes, shredded cooked string beans and hot pepper (optional)
  • There are other kinds of sandwich as well, which may contain queso fresco (a local soft cheese that tastes much like solid cottage cheese and other vegetarian options, though seldom (strangely, to a North American), almost never lettuce. Other varieties include fried fish (hard to find, but very good), sandwich de potito (cooked cow’s intestines on a bun), and while not considered a sandwich, more of a snack (and this one you can eat with your hands), choripan, which is a length of sausage grilled and served in one of the “buns” of a marraqueta.

    You can find sandwiches pretty much everywhere in Chile, and in Santiago, a Sunday afternoon would not be complete without a giant chow-down at one of the sandwich places in Barrio Bellavista. Specific recommendations include:

    So get out there and get into a giant sandwich. You’ll be hard-pressed to understand why Chileans don’t consider this a meal, but will learn to quickly hate the bizarre, non-absorbent, wax-paper napkins that show up so readily on the table. And use a fork. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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