A guide to the many mercados (markets) of Chile, what you should be eating and buying.
Last month, I headed back to the country where my parents were born and raised, Chile. Not having been back myself in a decade, it was a trip that was long overdue. My brother, my mum and I were welcomed to the capital of Chile, Santiago with love and open arms by our family. Needles to say, there was lots of time spent around the table top catching up on the 10 years that had passed.
So here is one of my first guides to the mother land of, Chile, take a step into the haggle that is the mercado. The produce is fresh, tomatoes bright and juicy, fish caught and sold on the day. The Chilean mercado worker is bold, determined and proud of their produce. So get your pesos ready!
Mercado Central de Santiago - Ismael Valdes Vergara 900, Santiago, Chile
The Mercado Central opened in 1872, and is famous for its fish and seafood produce as well as the restaurants which cook the daily catches . Although the centre of the market looks a little more flash with its wrought iron structure. The real locals head to the outskirts of the market for a good-feed at a good price.
Our money is on El Muelle 19 (Mercado Central, San Pablo 973) a small local which serves up the famous chilean soup “paila marina” which is a broth with a mix of seafood, they cook the popular white fish of Chile reineta fried or grilled with an assorted salad, and the Chilean shellfish “Locos” come with mayonnaise and a mix of salads. Servings are huge, the food is flavoursome and the cost is low. Get a bottle of white wine, and you have yourself a first-class meal.
La Vega - Antonia López de Bello, Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile
La Vega is a real local experience, existing for over 100 years this is where a lot of people come to get their fresh food and supplies, whether its meat, vegetables, cheese, detergents or dog food, La Vega really has it all. Come prepared with small change and for a little push and shove in this heaving market. It really is a place to watch the locals do their thing, from the customers rustling for change to the vendors screaming out their specials, there is an air of magic in this market. I was lucky enough to be guided through the enormous market by my aunty who pointed out some of her “caseros” translating to “of the home”, basically stalls she trusts and knows will give her good produce every time.
- Los Gonzalez - have the best deli goods, and sell cheap soft drinks
- Carnes Carahue, served by Fernando everytime - here you can get everything for that South American Asado you where planning, from costillar, longanizas to kidney's and heart. Get everything trimmed and cut ready for the BBQ
- Frutos del Pais “El Huayteño” - for olives and all frozen goods
- Fruit & Veg - pick what is most fresh and the best bang for buck!
There isn't much haggling done here, if you are a regular you might get a discount, but basically what you see is what you get. So get amongst this local charm, and bring your finest chilean accent.
Ferias Libres - For your local commune head here
If you are looking for another in with the locals, head over to one of the many ferias held throughout the week in Santiago. The ferias are where people get their produce for the week, cleaning products and of course have a gossip with the people of the area. It really is a great place to take in the Chilean people and their community spirit. The feria's happen throughout the week on different days depending on the commune, this guide spells out the days and locations of the street markets. You must be forewarned that some areas on this list are quite dangerous for a tourist, and unless you are guided by a local who speaks the local twang, we wouldn’t advise all of them. Our top communes to check out, would be: Independencia, Las Condes, Ñuñoa and Providencia.
I hope you enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Chilean Mercado.
From The Table Top