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Searching for Curanto

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What to do with a mountain of seafood?  (Map this!)

What do you do with a “mountain” of “mariscos”? You dig a hole in the ground, heat up some stones and dump the shellfish on top, add spicy sausage or longaniza, chicken and pork for good measure and potatoes just because you grow a hundred different varieties, then cover it all up with the local Nalca leaves and steam it for a couple of hours. The “curanto” is now ready to be enjoyed with a glass of Chilean wine.

The “curanto” is a chilote speciality, from the island of Chiloé. Blessed with many types of clams, mussels and the really strange piura, the Chilotes have found this admirably simple method of cooking seafood. Before tasting it, I would never have believed that mussels and clams could be cooked for hours and taste anything better than carbonized lumps. But this method of slow cooking gives it a rich, creamy texture that we have never tasted in them before.


For a higher resolution video click here

After having visited Chiloé once before and tried the curanto, we couldn’t resist returning to try it one more time, this time arriving in enough time to watch the complete preparation from the beginning. This video traces the path of the curanto from the “oven” to the table.

In the video, we see “chapalele” and “milcao” being added to the curanto. We could not capture the explanation on tape, but here it is. “Milcao” is potatoes grated and mixed with pork rind or “chicharon” and “chapalele” is mashed potatoes mixed with flour. These are wrapped in plastic to prevent dirt from getting in them and added to the whole delicious mix.

For a related post on Chiloé, click here.

9 Responses to “Searching for Curanto”

  1. madhuri says:

    Enjoyed the video. The stones are any normal stones, or some particular kind that retain heat for long?

  2. Neena says:

    Hi Madhuri,
    They seemed just normal stones. Apparently if they are being heated for the first time, you are not supposed to stand too close to them they might split!
    Glad to see your comments back on the blog! Missed them.

  3. madhuri says:

    oh i see.

    i went into lurking mode for a while, too lazy too comment :-)

  4. Lakshmi says:

    Hi Neena,
    When I was child, in my grandparents’ place, I remember they put hot stones directly in a rice dish to cook it and it gave a very unique flavour that I really liked. I haven’t seen them or anyone else cook that way since then. Another loss due to modern quick cook and eat philosophy.

  5. Shreesh says:

    Hi Lakshmi,
    Although understandable, it is really sad that we are losing the old traditional ways. Cooking is just one of them, how many people wear saris (in India) nowadays? If we are not careful, the sari will go the way of the Japanese kimono…
    I try to do my bit; I NEVER drink Indian tea made with tea bags (YUCK!), grind my own masalas, try to make as much from scratch as I can. But somehow, these customs should be preserved, otherwise all the food and dress in the world will become the same…how boring!

  6. Suhasini taskar says:

    In India, we cook a traditional dish called “Undhio”- a mixture of different vegetables, spices and oil in a covered pot that is sealed with a paste of flour and slow cooked with coal on the top and below for several hours. This slow cooking along with a peculiar smell of coal gives it a unique taste. Did you have chance to taste Undhio in India?
    It is really delicious.

  7. Neena says:

    Hello Aai,
    Yes, I have had Undhio and I love it. Although I did not know that it was cooked with coal. We have the recipe for Undhio from Tarla Dalal’s book, but without the right vegetables it is a bit difficult to get the exact taste.

  8. jessica perez says:

    Hola, Junto a mi pareja (la persona a quien entrevistan en el curanto)hemos visto su sitio, nos da mucha alegría que hagan esta difusión de algo que para nosotros es tan nuestro, y que gracias a ustedes está llegando a todo el mundo, le damos las gracias y esperamos tenerlos muy pronto en nuestro chiloé para poder compartir muchas otras tradiciones. Felicidades y los esperamos en Quetalmahue.
    Alex Mayerovich y Jessica Pérez

  9. Neena says:

    Hola Jessica y Alex,
    Hemos disfrutado mucho de Quetalmahue y el Curanto. Chiloe tiene un lugar especial in nuestros corazones.