One of its salient features is the wide ranging use of the potato, a main ingredient in almost all dishes, prepared grated and mixed with flour or mashed. For each dish there is a specific variety of potato, chosen for its taste or consistency.
In addition to shellfish and fish, typical dishes include pork, lamb and beef, all raised in the countryside. The varieties of apples, from Asturia and Wales, are small and bitter; they are used to make cider, little pies and jam.
Typical Chiloé dishes
All these dishes and similar ones were the preference of locals, who believed that only these foods gave them the strength to face their work and moreover assured good health.
Chiloé Stew (Cazuela chilota): there are two dishes known by this name and both are substantially different from the typical Chilean Cazuela. One consists of a thick broth of large, dried mussels, potatoes and cabbage, in addition to an occasional sea violet (piure) and other vegetables, while the other dish is a stew made with chunks of lamb meat or innards, peas, seaweed (luche) and potatoes.
Chapaleles: these are made out of dough consisting of a mixture of flour and potatoes boiled in water or in curanto (a Chiloé casserole).
Curanto: this delicacy is cooked in a hole dug in the ground and lined with hot stones. The sundry ingredients—clams, a variety of different mussels, barnacles (picoroco), sometimes piure and other types of shellfish, meat (pork, sausage, chicken), potatoes, chapalele and milcao—are piled on top. Each layer is then covered with pangues (leaves of the nalca plant, a Chilean rhubarb of sorts), and sealed tightly with a plastic lid, locking in the steam that cooks the lot for about an hour and a half.
Lloco or yoco: this dish, prepared during pig slaughtering, consists of meat sautéed in lard, potatoes, sopaipillas, donuts and blood sausage. The name lloco was originally coined to refer to any dish brought to friends and neighbors who were unable to attend the celebration.
Milcaos: these are made by grating potatoes, squeezing all the water out of them and setting them out to dry. Then they are added to a bowl of boiled, mashed potatoes, which all together form dough to which lard and salt are added. Chopped up pork rinds are often thrown in for good measure. They are shaped by hand into round rolls and either cooked in the curanto pit, fried, oven-baked or boiled in water.
Mazamorra: This is made with uncooked or cooked flour mixed with gooseberries or apples, to which a little water and sugar is added. Sometimes instead of flour, toasted wheat, ground by hand between stones, is added.
Seasoned toasted flour: A mixture of flour toasted with shortening and hot water is a dish traditionally prepared for breakfast.
Preserving Native Potatoes
Every scientist who has ever studied potatoes would agree that they are native to the Americas. What they cannot seem to agree upon, however, is from where specifically on this vast continent did potatoes actually come.
Internationally, Chile and Chiloé, in particular, are considered as the sub-center of origin of the potato crop and account for a wide variety of related species, since the Chilean potato exerted significant influence over the dissemination of new potato varieties around the globe.
In the Chiloé province, the potato crop has always been known for its enormous genetic richness, experts having estimated the existence of nearly 1,000 varieties in the years prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. For a handful of different reasons, this genetic pool has been reduced gradually to approximately 268 native potato varieties found in increasingly far-off and remote areas throughout the archipelago. These varieties will be registered with the National Agriculture and Livestock Service, thus fostering their protection and use by island farmers in the local produce trade.