Local Treats in Santiago, Chile

Written by Mark McElroy

Kenna, the hostess at Casa Moro, asked, “What do you guys want for lunch?”

“We like local places,” I said. “The kind of place you’d go.”

She grinned. (She knows everything, this Kenna.) “It’s pretty humble. I’m a grandma stuck in a very young body, and I like home cooking from holes in the wall.”

I grinned back. “Perfecto!”

So she sent us to a place about two blocks away — a joint so small, it has no name, but people recognize it by the big red “38” painted above the entrance and the colorful tablecloths printed with huge drawings of tropical fruit.


We ducked inside and squeezed ourselves between the three or four narrow tables. The owner — a beaming man who speaks just as much English as I speak Spanish — came over, glanced at us, and said, “Cazuela para dos?” (Cazuela for two?) Si. Si!

And, minutes later: cazuela. They call it a soup; I’d call it a stew. In addition to huge hunks of tender beef, you’ll find chunks of corn on the cob, whole peeled potatoes, whole peeled sweet potatoes, fresh vegetables, and rice. This is all swimming in broth that’s clear, save for the faintest tinge of yellow.

Clyde and I worked for words to describe it. Simple? Fresh? We settled on what may seem a peculiar description for a dish — “honest” — but if there were ever a way to distill honesty into a bowl and serve it as soup, this would be the result. So, so good … and so, so satisfying. We paid about two bucks each for bowls you’d need two hands to carry.

There’s hot salsa on the tables (you’ll find that, actually, in many restaurants here), and it’s technically for the bread (a practice I plan to adopt at home). But with just a spoonful of hot sauce in my cazuela, I was a happy little man.



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Mark McElroy

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