Curanto is a traditional Mapuche dish from Patagonia, a sparsely populated region located at the southern tip of the South American contient. Part of Patagonia is Argentinian and part of it belongs to Chile.
Bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Atlantic to the east, it comes as no surprise that fish and sea food is included in many Patagonian dishes. The main ingredient in Curanto is shellfish, usually almejas (clams), cholgas (ribbed mussles) and picorocos (giant barnacles). Other types of shellfish can be added as well, and so can fish. It is a flexible dish based on what you happen to catch from the sea. In addition to shellfish and fish, curanto includes potatoes – both raw potatoes and potatoes prepared in various ways. Adding meat to curanto is also popular, often mutton or lamb since sheep is widely kept in Patagonia. Patagonia is also home to wild boar, pheasants and deer, which are hunted for their meat.
Curanto is a traditional food of the Chiloé Archipelago, but is today popular on the mainland as well.
Curanto means hot stone in the Mapudungun language, and this dish is prepared using hot stones in a hole in the ground. The hole should be roughly 1.5 meters deep. The stones are heated by a bonfire, and then a bed of leaves (nacla or maqui) is arranged on top of the stones before the ingredients are added. If you want too cook curanto but can’t obtain the right leaves, you can use cabbage leaves instead.
The ingredients are placed on top of the leaves, and are then coverd with more leaves, damp sack or other cloth, damp grass and a layer of soil. In a way, you are creating a big underground pressure cooker.
The quantities of the ingredients are not fixed.
- Almejas (or other clams)
- Cholgas (or other mussles)
- Picorocos (or other big barnacles)
- Meat cut into pieces
- Chapalele (dumplings made from potatoes and wheat flour)
- Prepare the hole in the ground and make sure you have all the materials you need.
- Make the bonfire to heat up the stones.
- Place leaves on the hot stones (see above) and add a layer of ingredients on top of the leaves. Cover them with more leaves, before adding a new layer of ingredients. Continue until all ingredients are in the hole. Cover with leaves, and then add damp sacks, grass and a layer of dirt on top.
- Leave the food to cook for about one hour before you dig it up.