The Localist

Oh, the bread of Chile



you rise

from flour,


and fire.


How simple

you are, bread,

and how profound!

Fragment, Oda al Pan, Pablo Neruda, in Odas Elementales


Today I woke up wishing I could eat avocado on a toasted marraqueta.  The mashed salty avocado spread over a soft crunchy bun… it’s just heaven.  I miss a lot of food from Chile but bread is definitely on the top of my list. Other places have nice bread, true, but it’s just not the same.

In Chile we love bread. In fact, according to certain studies, the average Chilean eats about 95 kg of bread per year[1].  Every household will always have bread, almost for every meal, but especially for the “once”, our version of the English teatime.  “Once” means “eleven” in Spanish, and rumour has it that once was a code name used by miners in the north when they went to drink aguardiente (a hard liquour, the name has eleven letters) after work so their wives wouldn’t find out.  So they invited each other to “tomar once”.

Nowadays, the once – by far my favorite meal of the day – consists of tea and bread, and if you are lucky, ham, cheese, avocado, manjar (caramelised milk) and jam. The two most common kinds of bread are marraqueta and hallulla, and you will find them in all the panaderías (bakeries) in Chile. Marraqueta, also known as whipped bread or french bread, is a soft spongy bun divided into four pieces.  Hallulla is a flat round bread with the perfect consistency for a sandwich.  If you go to the countryside you will probably get the chance to try pan amasado, a traditional homemade bread with a dense consistency that’s made with animal fat and baked in a clay oven.

As much as we love bread, we love sandwiches.  Chile is definitely a sandwich nation. There is no better thing on a summer afternoon than an italiano with a fanschop.  An italiano is a sausage on a soft hot bun with tomato, avocado and mayonnaise (the colors of the Italian flag, hence the name…).  A fanschop is cold draft beer with Fanta.

Other popular sandwich choices are completos (again a hot dog, but with sauerkraut and tomato), churrascos (thin beef slices, on bread) or barros luco (churrasco with melted cheese, the favorite of a former president called Ramón Barros Luco).  The lomitos (pork) with mayonnaise are also very popular.

In Santiago, every time I feel like eating a fantastic italiano I go to Schoperia Munich, a small shop in the corner of two very busy streets (Vicuña Mackenna and Santa Isabel) whose owner, María, is a huge soccer fan.  The walls are full of posters of Audax Italiano, her favourite soccer team.  An italiano costs about 3 dollars, same as the beer.  It’s a small and cozy place to hang out.

A really popular option is Domino (pictured), a traditional place to go for sandwiches since 1952. Now they have a lot of branches, but the original Domino is located in Agustinas Street, in the downtown area.  I remember going with my father when I was little and standing over a stool to reach the counter, as there are no chairs available to sit on.  The “maestros” behind the counter are amazing: they prepare your order really quickly, and they also offer natural fruit juices.

Another good choice (more expensive but a lot trendier than Munich or Domino) is Ciudad Vieja.  Located in the bohemian neighborhood of Bellavista, it’s a great choice if you need to grab a bite before going to a play or a concert in the area. They offer very original sandwiches and a huge variety of beers worth trying (Kuntsmann Torobayo, from the south of Chile, is the best for me!).

If you go to Chile, please don’t miss the chance to try out the bread and the sandwiches. You will probably gain an extra pound, yes, but you will not regret it.





Image. Photo by David Lansing.

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