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Chilean Food

January 28th, 2016 No comments

My time in Chile is almost over, and tomorrow I leave Santiago for my journey back home. I know I have said this a few times in the blog but I have had such a great time here and will miss the country when I leave. I don’t know whether it’s because I’m visiting my friend, because of the way of life, the atmosphere, the fact I am in an apartment so don’t feel like a tourist or the food but I suspect it is a combination of them all.

I have mentioned the food of Chile quite a few times but now I’ll talk a little more about it before talking more about the second half of my time here. Overall we have eaten fairly simply while I have been here. Partly this has been to keep costs down, partly this has been due to the basic kitchen in the apartment and partly this is because it is what we have wanted to have. Overall the food has been tasty, cheap and good quality.

Kitchen

The simple kitchen in our rented apartment

Sandwich

A simple sandwich, typical of the food we made for ourselves in the evening to keep costs down.

I started this trip with a couple of days of home cooked food at Steven’s house. I had two main meals there which were Pastel de Choclo, a sweetcorn pie, and Humitas which are similar to Tamales. While these were home cooked meals they were an indication of what was to come as everything so far has been filling and made with fresh ingredients. We have had a lot of empanadas since I arrived, partly due to convenience but also as I really love them. I have made empanadas myself and had them in Latin American cafes in London but the best ones that I have had have been in Chile. The ones you buy from the supermarkets aren’t as nice but we have had a few from street stalls and cafes and they were really nice. Also really nice was the food at a Chilean restaurant very close to Plaza de Armas called Nuria, which served a selection of typical dishes. We ate there a couple of times and I tried the Cazuela de Vacuno, which was a very tasty beef casserole, and Lomo de Vacuno a la Pobre which was beef, fries, onion and fried egg. This sort of combination is very popular in this part of the world and I had something similar at a Peruvian takeaway near me but served with hot dogs instead of beef.

Chilean Food

Cazuela de Vacuno

We have tried to stick away from international restaurant chains where possible, as they are overpriced and I wanted to try traditional food, but we did indulge in Johnny Rockets and Ruby Tuesday in various shopping centres. However, one restaurant chain that I did fall in love with was the Chilean fast food restaurant called Dominó, specifically their Churasco Palta which was a beef, cheese and smashed avocado sandwich. I asked to go back again as I loved the food so much and I can sense that I will want to make it myself when I return home. The food in the apartment has been simple, usually fruit and sandwiches with other occasional treats, but it has filled a gap.

Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets in the Costanera Centre

Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets. I had heard a lot about it from my American friends so decided to try it.

Churrasco Palta

Eating Churrasco Palta at Dominó

Street food is common in most places around the world, except maybe some western countries, and Chile is no exception. The summer months generally have more selection but all over Santiago we still found people selling completos, which are hot dogs fully loaded with huge amounts of toppings, which look very messy but are loved by Chileans. Sopaipillas, a fried pastry made with pumpkin paste, is another common street food in Chile although we didn’t find any on the streets for the majority of our visit. We didn’t try much street food during my visit, instead opting to rest our feet over lunch due to how much walking we were doing, so perhaps next time I visit I will try more along with the famous Terremoto cocktail which I didn’t have a chance to try either.

One thing I did try from the streets a few times was the traditional Chilean drink Mote con Huesillo which is a sugary, nectar-like drink containing dried peaches and barley. It is served with a spoon allowing you to eat the ingredients and then drink the liquid. It sounds horrible, and I read one blog online which described it as both looking and tasting like monkey brains, but I have to tell you it’s actually really nice. The first time you try it it’ll probably seem extremely weird, as we don’t have anything like this in Europe, but you will soon fall in love with it just like I did even though I don’t usually like peaches.

Mote con Huesillo

Mote con Huesillo

As you can tell I really like the food that I have had out here, but I will move on…

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Thoughts from Central Asia

July 10th, 2015 No comments

I have been back from Central Asia for a few weeks now and have had some time to think about my time there, look through my photos, and generally process the things that I experienced. I will post a more thorough country overview in the “Country Opinion” section of the site as I always do but first I just want to share some thoughts with you about the trip.

The food in this part of the world was generally nothing special which is why I was glad I was on a Dragoman trip where many of the meals are cooked by the group. This gives us a chance to source local ingredients but to make meals that suit a diverse group of people from all over the world.

Dinner time

Dinner time

Lunch

Uzbek food

I did personally enjoy the food, such as Camca and Shashlik, and thought it was tasty but I will not be thinking about it for years to come or making any of it myself in the future.

The people in this part of the world were really friendly. Being former Soviet countries, and with not much western tourism, I wasn’t sure what to expect but they were great. Maybe not as open as in Central America or Africa but I had some great experiences interacting with local people.

The main experience which will stand out for many years to come, and which I am still in shock about every time I think about it, is in the Uzbek town of Kolkand. As mentioned in my blog we stopped here for a little while to look around a former palace which is now a museum and while we were there we generated a lot of attention.

A lot of the attention was due to Sam and his blonde dreadlocks – at one point we had several hundred people surrounding us wanting a photo with him which was just incredible. I’ve never seen such interest from people when travelling and we just kept saying things like “what on earth?” and “this is completely crazy” to each other as the numbers kept growing and growing, but the people were really friendly. Now I know how famous celebrities must feel if they travel and people continually ask for photos with them so I’ll never be asking anybody again!

I did personally generate a little bit of interest and had three small groups of people ask if they could take photos with me. I never mind this sort of thing, especially in places that I travel, as they’re doing it to have an excuse to interact with you. I would probably have found Sam’s level of attention overwhelming but the people meant well – Jalal, our local guide in Uzbekistan, said that a lot of the people in the square had travelled down from the valleys due to it being the last day of school and that they wouldn’t have spoken to many westerners before.

Sam's Fan Club

Sam's fan club

The kids I interacted with at Lake Issyk-Kul were adorable too and were so happy just when I made a simple gesture of giving them some printed photos of themselves that I made using my Polaroid Pogo printer. If you like to go on this sort of trip then I would recommend that you invest in one – they are worth their weight in gold for memories like mine has given me.

Me and Kyrgyz kids

Finally I just want to mention something about the scenery in Kyrgyzstan. I can’t really comment on the scenery of Uzbekistan as I was only there a couple of days but the scenery of Kyrgyzstan is so beautiful and divers as to almost be unbelievable.

The scenery is one of the main reasons I went there and I was definitely not disappointed. I couldn’t believe the richness of the colours, the diversity of the landscape and indeed how quickly the scenery changed. One day we went from a beach at the shore of a lake, to red rock which looked like the Badlands of the USA combined with the Red Centre of Australia, and finally to mountains that reminded me of the Alps of Europe. In addition to that there were lush valleys, mountainous regions, farmland, so many rivers. The country is heavily mountainous but there are so many lovely valleys and plains too. Just have a look for yourself at some of my favourite scenery photos below, and the read my blog entries for more.

Kyrgyz lake

Kyrgyz scenery

Mountains

Lake photo

Helena

Kyrgyz scenery

Song-Kul

Fresh snow in Kyrgyzstan

Fairy Tales do come true :)

Crossing the river

I had wanted to visit Kyrgyzstan for some time and it was worth every penny, every sleepless night, the sub-zero temperatures at Song-Kul Lake and the long travel days. I would highly recommend a trip here if you love natural beauty – I have never seen such diversity in one small country before.

If you do go then please go on a trip like the one I picked with Dragoman, or alternatively go with one of their competitors, as it really allows you to get under the skin of the country and see so much more than if you travelled around from hotel to hotel by sterile tour bus or train. You could do the area yourself and use public transport, indeed many people do, but group trips like the one I went on combine security and organisation with seeing some amazing off-the-beaten-path locations.

So many experiences, so many memories. I’m not sure if or when I’ll be back but it’s definitely a destination that I would visit again if everything worked out like this time. There are a number of places I want to see first but I thoroughly enjoyed Central Asia, even if I did have to return home a few days early for personal reasons.

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