This post has been a long time coming, but I’m excited to finally share it with you!
As I mentioned, one of my favorite things that we did on the whole trip was a cooking class with Chilean Cuisine Cooking Classes in Valparaiso, Chile! One of my friends found the class on TripAdvisor and it ended up being such a great find. It was so much more than just a cooking class. It was a great way to see parts of the city we wouldn’t have otherwise seen, to learn about the culture from locals, meet some fellow travelers, and enjoy an amazing meal together. The whole experience went from about 4 pm to 10 pm, so for about $80 (USD) it was a steal. Dinner, drinks, a couple bus rides and 6 hours of entertainment.
The class started when we met up with the instructor, Carolina, at a cafe in town. There ended up being 11 people in the class. We had 6 people in our group (Nick, me and 4 of our friends), plus a Midwestern family– a girl studying abroad in Santiago, plus her visiting mom and brother, and a German couple who spoke English. The whole class was in English, which was definitely nice after many days of trying to navigate in Spanglish.
Carolina walked us through a traditional Chilean cookbook and gave us several options of what we could make. We had to pick an appetizer, salad, main course and dessert. Plus we’d also make three Chilean staples– pebre (a Chilean salsa-like sauce), empanadas, and Pisco sours, the national drink. The group had to decide what to make. We all settled on stuffed avocados as an appetizer (we had some of the most amazing avocados ever on this trip!), a tomato salad, a traditional Chilean corn pie, and marinated cherimoya (a South American fruit most of us had never tried) for dessert.
After we decided on a menu, we got on a city bus and headed to the markets to shop! First stop was the Mercado Cardonal, a huge indoor/outdoor (it was mostly indoor this particular day as it was raining) farmer’s market with a ton of vegetable stands and other vendors. We did a ton of shopping here– avocados, cherimoya, olives, lots of veggies.
After we had all the veggies, we walked down the street a bit and hit up two different meat markets and a bakery for eggs, chicken, beef and bread. I asked the American exchange student if this is how they always shop– making several stops for one meal– and she said that they do also have traditional grocery stores for one-stop shopping. Which I guess is pretty much like Europe. They do have supermarkets, but most people prefer to buy fresh and local ingredients at the specialty markets.
Once we had everything we needed, we hopped on another bus and headed to the cooking school’s kitchen. Here we got to get all dressed up! If there was any time to act like a silly tourist, this was it!
Carolina immediately started assigning everyone tasks and we got to work preparing the meal. I don’t know how she managed to coordinate all 11 of us, but she sure did. As we chopped, mixed and cooked she told us a little about each dish.
The first course we made was pebre, which was like a very finely chopped salsa-type sauce with paprika, cumin and merken, a Chilean spice.
Many of the restaurants we went to served pebre with the bread, and that’s how we ate it too. Most of the Chilean bread we had was very dense and baked in flat, round rolls. Quite delicious! We picked up some bread from the bakery in town and dipped it in the pebre, while we prepared Pisco sours, Chile’s national drink.
Pisco is a Chilean brandy with a smoky flavor similar to tequila. So it’s no surprise it would be delicious in a drink similar to a margarita. A pisco sour is pisco, mixed with lemon juice and simple syrup and shaken with a bit of egg white to give it nice frothy head. They tasted really similar to a good homemade marg!
After snacks and cocktails, we moved onto our stuffed avocado appetizers. They were stuffed with a mixture of chicken, olives, a crema-like sour cream and cheese. Can you really go wrong with that? We also had a few different Chilean wines to go along with dinner.
Next was corn pies, or Pastel del Choclo, and a tomato-onion salad. The Pastel del Choclo consisted of a ground beef and onion filling, chicken, raisins, hardboiled egg and olives, all topped with a tamale-like corn crust and baked in a clay bowl.
Quite an interesting combination, but they were delicious!
We were pretty full at this point, but since we had worked so hard at making our empanadas, we had to stuff them in.
Nick learned how to make the dough…
Mixing it up…
And putting a little elbow grease into it…
The empanadas were filled with many of the same ingredients as the corn pies– meat filling, a slice of hardboiled egg, a few raisins and one olive. A perfect little package!
Lastly, we had dessert. After eating 5 courses, I was really glad we had opted for the fresh fruit dessert instead of something heavier. The dessert was simply fresh cherimoya marinated in fresh orange juice. The cherimoya was very interesting. It looked almost like fish or lobster! But it was sweet and almost pineapple-like with the texture of a really ripe pear. It was the perfect way to end the meal.
We had such a great time with Carolina and our fellow guests. I would definitely recommend this activity to anyone visiting Valparaiso! My friends who aren’t QUITE as into food as I am had just as great a time. It was the perfect way to experience the markets and learn about all the traditional Chilean foods!
After the class, Carolina emailed us all of the recipes so that we can make the dishes for our friends at home! That’s the perfect souvenir, if you ask me. 🙂