Chilean food is simple, traditional, and delicious. We have had one great meal after the next and today we learned why. It’s all about tradition, culture, and real food. We spent the day with Pablo, one of the chefs from Chilean Cuisine Cooking Classes in Valparaiso, Chile.
We came away with a better understanding of Chilean life and an appreciation for new flavours, as well as learning a bit about Chilean culture. And, we enjoyed a fabulous home-cooked meal. Importantly, the menu adapts for allergies and dietary requirements. (Chilean Cuisine Cooking Classes can even accommodate those with Coeliac Disease.)
Note: Based on world conditions, we advise checking official channels including cancellation policies prior to booking. Also, with often reduced capacity, booking ahead becomes more important.
Choosing the Menu of Chilean Dishes
Our adventure began outside the Melbourne Cafe in Valparaiso. Owned by an Australian, it serves the style of coffee we love. Here, we met Pablo. Sitting together at one of the tables, we reviewed the menu of traditional Chilean food, picked from typical Chilean food options, before heading to the market to purchase the fresh ingredients we need.
Each class prepares pebre, empanadas, and pisco sour, along with the group’s collective choice of an entré, main, and a dessert from a list of traditional Chilean dishes.
The menu we chose included pebre (Chilean salsa and a very popular food in Chile), empanadas (traditional baked turnover pie with meat onion filling), machas a la parmesana (baked razor clams with cheese), charquican (country style vegetable mash), and leche asada (baked milk Chilean dessert), plus the Pisco Sour. Pisco is a popular brandy produced in Chile.
Shopping in the Chilean market
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We took the city bus from the cafe, an experience on its own, and got off near the market.
As we approached the market, Pablo gave us the same reminders we have heard almost daily since arriving in Chile. Keep your bags close, camera and mobile phone out of site except inside the market, and always be aware of your surroundings.
We went to the locals market, complete with every type of produce, Chilean seafood, meat, bread, and spices one can imagine. Inside the main building, the produce looked fresh and delicious, although imperfect. Foods grown in Chile use fewer chemicals, thanks to clean food laws. There are also food stalls outside the markets, which have fewer regulations and often sell older produce at a reduced price.
At the market (Mercado El Cardonal), we purchased beef, clams, cheeses, butter and cream, potatoes, vegetables, chilis, and spices including merkén. Pablo knew many of the vendors, and in addition to the things we needed for our meals, he brought some fresh, in-season strawberries and grapes to enjoy while we cooked.
Taking the oldest elevator in the city
From the market we had two options: walking uphill, or taking the oldest elevator in the city and walking downhill. We made a great choice opting for the later. The ride up took only a couple of minutes, but where else are we going to get this experience?
The walk was pretty impressive.
A famous staircase took us up to Cerro Concepción, a series of narrow, a mostly pedestrian-only maze of streets, covered completely in street art. Chilean Cuisine’s kitchen is behind a beautifully painted doorway.
Preparing our traditional Chilean cuisine
Next, the real fun began. Dicing, chopping, mixing, rolling, and folding – this is a hands-on class, and we did the preparation alongside Pablo.
Finally, a feast
Heading to Valparaiso?
If so, we recommend adding a day for Chilean Cuisine cooking lessons. It is time well spent, with a bonus of being educational, delicious and fun.
- Don’t plan on a big dinner in the evening. You won’t be hungry.
- Valparaiso is an easy day trip from Santiago, the Chilean capital city.
- If you plan on driving while in Chile, we had great success with RentalCars.com. They found us the best prices, offered us options of companies to work with and of cars, and everything went smooth as silk for the rental of this vehicle. (I strongly caution against using Europcar in Chile, as we used them in the Atacama desert and they ripped us off by charging us more than the cost of the rental for two new shock absorbers, even after telling us one was fine).
- Like our trip to Punta de Churos (Isla Damas), if you drive in Chile, we recommend downloading the free Maps.me app. Their downloadable maps run offline, and we found them to be quite accurate. Google Maps consistently took us on bizarre routes in Chile.
- There is a large car park under the Plaza Sotomayor (main plaza in Valparaiso). It’s the perfect location if you drive to Valparaiso for the class. Look for the sign with the big “E” as this is short for estacionamiento, meaning parking.
- There are baños (bathrooms) in Cafe Melbourne and at the cooking school.
- For more information, check out Chilean Cuisine’s official website.
- Wondering where to stay in Valparaiso?
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Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary classes to assist in the writing of this review. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly our own.