Curanto

Curanto, like Spanish paella, is one of those national dishes which are no longer prepared at home and have become a tourist attraction. Such is the case that in my travels in Chile it was impossible for me to find it, not even at the curanto's meca, Chiloé island. This cooking process consists on digging a hole on the ground and filling it with red-hot stones. Over them you put the ingredients displayed in different layers separated by leafs from plants such as the pangue or tepes, following a hierarchy according to which you cook from the most natural to the most cultural: in the first layers, closer to the heat, you put the meat and the seafood, and in more superficial layers you put the pulses and milcao (raw and cooked grated potato dough) and chapalele (wheat flour and potato dough). The holes usually have one meter of diameter, therefore cooking lasts for some never ending hours (about 2 or 3 actually).

The name of this soil pot comes from the mapudungún (mapuche language) cura=stone and antü=heat. In Chiloé's tradition, stones are used in magical rituals to improve the fields fertility. For example the copuca stones, taken from Chepu mountain in Chiloé, are rubbed over the seeds before sowing to ensure the harvest success. Therefore it doesn't seem strange that this stones are also used to gestate the abundance in the womb-pot that curanto is.

Despite the lack of curanto, pulmay is always available, which is curanto in a pot. With no stones to protect it, pulmay is the orphan version of curanto, and, in my opinion, without the rite or tradition, it just becomes an avalanche of ingredients in a pot, like a boiled exquisite corpse. However they do try to perfection it, like in the New Chilean Cuisine prize: