If you are from Chile (or Argentina), chances are you’re familiar with the deeply historic & traditional dish, Curanto*. Chiloé is an archipelago* off the southwestern coast of Chile where Curanto originated. Archaeologists discovered remains of this dish from 6000+ years ago, which makes it one of the oldest recipes on Earth that we still enjoy preparing today. By Alexx J. for The Adventures of Pili
So what is Curanto, you ask? A feast of meat, seafood, and vegetables; But how it’s cooked is what makes it special!
How is it prepared? It is cooked in a dug-out pit in the ground that is filled with flaming hot stones (heated in a bonfire), and then covered with nalca leaves*, wet sacks & dirt. Think modern-day clambake, but the originator! This makeshift pressure cooker/oven will have the food ready in about an hour or two.
What kinds of ingredients are used? Typically it includes seafood such as mussels and clams. The shellfish open as they cook and their juices help to steam the other foods. Meats can include chicken, pork, ribs and sausages like chorizo. Common vegetables are cabbage and peppers, but an absolute MUST have is always potatoes. And sometimes, potatoes are prepared up to 3 different ways in this one meal (dumplings, patties & whole). South America is the home of the potato and has many delicious, colorful and unique types.
QUIZ: How many varieties of potato can you name or have you tried?
Where did the Curanto tradition begin? During the dry season thousands of years ago, nomads have known as the Chono people are said to have been the first to cook this recipe. Their meat and shellfish rich diets were based on their location near land and sea, as well as their hunting & gathering skills. The Mapuche people also living here began mixing their trades & land with the Chono people, creating a mestizo* group in the area. Potatoes became an extremely important crop for this group; there are now more than 400 types being grown just on Chiloé!
Can we make it at home? Even though traditionally, you’d need to dig a hole in the ground to enjoy this feast, the answer is YES, there is a way for you to enjoy it at home. A pressure cooker or pot on the grill will do. Follow the simple recipe below to get started!
*Curanto: “hot stones.”
*Archipelago: An extensive group of islands/island chain.
*Nalca leaves: similar to rhubarb but native to Chile.
*Mestizo: (in Latin America) mixed race, especially one having Spanish and indigenous descent.
Recipe from InternationalCuisine.com
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 pound mini Yukon Gold potatoes
1 red pepper sliced
1 medium white onion sliced
1 banana pepper or several small jalapenos thickly sliced
1 tablespoon garlic chopped
1 large Savoy cabbage leaves torn off
2 Spanish chorizo sausages cut in thirds
1 pound smoked pork spare ribs or pork chops 2 pounds clams
1 pound mussels
1 cup white wine
- Heat oil in a large grill-proof wide pot over high heat on the barbecue.
- Add chicken & cook until lightly brown.
- Add potatoes, red peppers, onions, banana peppers and half of the garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook for a few minutes or until softened.
- Cover tightly with cabbage leaves.
- Add sausage and spare ribs and cover with more cabbage leaves.
- Add clams, mussels and remaining garlic, pour wine over top and cover with a final layer of cabbage leaves.
- Cover the pot tightly with a lid.
- Keep barbecue heat at about 325 F and cook for about 40 minutes or until everything is cooked and steaming hot.
- Remove the pot from the barbecue and put all the ingredients clams, mussels, sausage, chicken and pork on a platter.
- Serve cabbage as well.
Does this sound like a meal you have in your own culture? Have you ever made a similar type of meal, or would you like to? Would you travel to Chile just to enjoy Curanto the traditional way from the ground pit?
Recommended Cookbooks about Chile and Argentina:
- Food & Cooking of Chile: 60 Delicious Recipes From A Unique And Vibrant Cuisine
- Hatch Chile Cookbook
- A Taste of Latin America: Culinary Traditions and Classic Recipes from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico & Venezuela
- Melissa’s Hatch Chile Cookbook
- Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America
Recommended Books for Families:
- Manners Begin at Breakfast: Modern Etiquette for Families
- The Breakfast Bible: 100+ Favorite Recipes to Start the Day
- Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day [A Cookbook]
- Family Cookbook Recipe Journal: A Blank Recipe Book for Family Favorites
- Our Family Recipes Journal
- Recipe Keepsake Book – Favorite Family Recipes
- Recipe Keepsake Book – To My Daughter: With Love from My Kitchen
Recommended Cooking Books for Kids:
- Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook: Healthy, Kid-Friendly Recipes to Cook Together
- Kid Chef Junior: My First Kids Cookbook
- Super Foods for Super Kids Cookbook: 50 Delicious Recipes Kids Will Love to Make
- Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)
By: Alexx J. for The Adventures of Pili. This is the latest post in the Pili´s Explorers Cookbook conceived by Kike Calvo and the team of The Adventures of Pili, which profiles interesting information, research and thoughts on nutrition and food around the world for families and kids. Click here to read the previous article.
Cited sources: Internationalcuisine.com, atlasobscura.com, potatopro.com, vice.com
Banner Photo: Kike Calvo