Drawn by the allure of “superb seafood and great wines,” not to mention a summer break from damp and dreary Vancouver, celebrity chef Nathan Fong recently came to Chile in search of culinary inspiration and new flavors.
The result: ten exciting recipes to spice up your kitchen, and the perfect wine to accompany them.
Like most visitors, the Canadian began his Chilean adventure in the capital city of Santiago. Immediately impressed by the soaring buildings against the backdrop of the Andes mountain, Fong headed straight to the culinary heart of the capital – the huge market buildings in the city center.
At the iconic Mercado Central, the chef discovered a “vast variety of seafood” from Chilean staples like sea bass and salmon to more unusual fare like gooseneck barnacles and wild abalone.
Fong’s next pit-stop was La Vega, the sprawling center of fruit stalls that is hugely popular among locals, where he was lucky to experience the “glorious bounty” of early summer harvests, from cherries and strawberries to the more exotic chirimoya.
After his tour of downtown, Fong discovered one of the privileges of Santiago living – the rural and natural wonders that are just beyond the city limits.
It was here that he made a discovery that made the biggest impression of his trip – “the passion, the history and the quality of wines” that are produced in the country, including, in the words of the chef himself – “the most biodynamic and organic productions that I have ever encountered.”
On the recipe front, Fong was impressed by the local ceviche, a dish of Peruvian origin in which fresh seafood is marinated in lemon juice spiced with chili, cilantro and onion.
Another local favorite to rate a special mention was the empanada, the “wonderfully baked or fried savoury pastries stuffed with a variety of fillings from aromatic minced beef and chicken to cheese.”
Meanwhile a whole new world of seasoning was opened up to the Canadian chef when he discovered merkén, the smoked chili spice of Chile’s indigenous Mapuche people.
Fong includes his own take on merkén in his list of 10 recipes, which can be seen here.