Chilean flavor

Attention foodies: Chile crowns the best empanada in Santiago

As Chile’s Independence Day approaches, top chefs tantalize the tastebuds as they compete for the title of most delicious empanada in the Chilean capital.

Thursday, September 01, 2011  
Empanadas are a beloved Chilean treat. (Photo:  scorbette37/Flickr) Empanadas are a beloved Chilean treat. (Photo: scorbette37/Flickr)

You’re never far from an empanada in Santiago. The savory, succulent, oh-so-simple pastry pies are a traditional staple of the Chilean diet, and never more so than in September, the month when Chile celebrates its Independence Day.

As September 18 approaches and Chileans begin planning for the barbecues, parties and cueca that accompany the holiday, the empanada becomes even more ubiquitous. If you don’t see, smell or taste an empanada at your chosen dieciocho gathering, you’re simply not in Chile.

Some of Chile’s most refined palates also turn their attention to the humble empanada at this time of year, as the Gourmet Writers of Chile Circle hosts its annual contest to rank the best empanadas in Santiago.

This year’s competition, held Friday Aug. 26 and Saturday Aug. 27, gathered more than 60 competitors representing 16 neighborhoods throughout Santiago.

The cooks were challenged to create a traditional baked empanada de pino with the trademark minced beef, onion, egg and olive filling. They were judged in a blind taste-test and ranked on a scale from one to seven, taking into account the quality of the pastry crust, the meat filling, and the overall appearance.

And the winning empanadas?

1st place, and the empanada crown, went to the Los Ciervos deli at Avenida Tobalaba 2113, close to Metro Francisco Bilbao.

2nd place was awarded to Empanadas Zunino, a bakery founded more than 80 years ago, in the 1930s. You can find them at Puente 801, Central Santiago, near Metro Puente Cal y Canto.

In 3rd place was the evocatively-named Los Gansos Dough Factory at Avenida Ecuador 4660 in the Estación Central neighborhood, not far from Metro Ecuador.