16 December 2016

Mapuche Cuisine: the Secrets of a Millenary Tradition

A strong connection with nature distinguishes Mapuche cuisine from others, a culinary tradition that has slowly gained presence within the Chilean culinary scene.

In 2003, chef Ana Eplulef opened the culinary school and restaurant Mapu Iyagl close to her hometown Curarrehue (located 40 km from Pucón). Since then, Epulef has devoted her life to safeguard and disseminate the secrets of the Mapuche cuisine that her mother and grandmother passed on to her. On the other hand, by the end of 2015 chef José Luis Calfucura opened the first Mapuche restaurant in Santiago. These are only a few examples of the growing interest for the cuisine of this indigenous culture in Chile.

Mapuche cuisine is based mainly on the recollection of the cereals and legumes available depending on the season, honoring the strong connection with nature that is at the core of Mapuche beliefs and of their everyday life.

Sauteed pine nuts with Merkén

This preparation has the fruits of the Araucaria tree, part of the flora of the Araucanía region, as its main ingredient. The pine nuts are boiled and then sauteed with garlic, oregano, and salt. The final touch is given by merkén, another classic component of Mapuche cuisine. Merkén is made with ground smoked chilli and some other spices; this combination produces a spice of an intense flavor.

Rescoldo (ember) tortillas

Even though the rescoldo tortilla is present in more than culinary tradition in South America, it also an important component of Mapuche cuisine. The dough for the tortilla is made like any other tortilla; however, the cooking is process is rather different. The dough is placed in a hole that is covered with hot ember, which give this preparation its unique flavor.

Digüeñe Empanadas

During spring in the south of Chile, the digüeñes begin to bloom in the oak trees of the area. These mushrooms of chewy texture are used in salads and casseroles, and also as fillings for empanadas (a popular pasty-like snack with different fillings). The digüeñe filling is made of a mixture of onions, parsley, peppers, boiled eggs, and the digüeñes, of course. The filling is wrapped with the dough giving this preparation its pasty-like consistency and shape. The empanada is then cooked in the oven.

Mültrün

Also known as Katuto, mültrün is the equivalent of bread within Mapuche cuisine. Made mainly with wheat flour, mültrün is given an elongated shape and it is usually spread with honey or jam.

Muday

Even though Muday is not a dish but a drink, it is also an essential part of the Mapuche diet. It is an alcoholic beverage made with fermented cereal grains, which are served in the final drink. Muday’s alcoholic strength is rather low and its use also has religious significance as it is one of the elements that make up nguillatun,a Mapuche ceremony that seeks a connection with the spiritual world.

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