Yesterday we drove down from Puerto Varas to Chiloé, where we’re staying for a couple of days. Chiloé is Chile’s biggest island, with a unique culture based heavily on Mapuche Indian traditions. You can see the native influence in the names of villages: Llau-llao, Pil-pil, Chonchi and Dalcahue don’t sound Spanish at all. The vernacular architecture is fascinating, with houses covered in intricately patterned shingles and churches based on Hispanic and Italian renaissance structures but made entirely from wood. They’re really stunning and I’ll post more about the island when I’m reunited with my laptop back in Santiago. For now, though, a little taste of Castro, the Chilote capital.

Down by the waterfront in Castro is a fish market where you can see businessmen in suits slurping down oysters and ceviche in the morning. It’s next door to th artisanal crafts market, which is where the tourists more likely congregate in high season. The knitwear and basketry stalls were all but deserted when we arrived, and instead we were drawn by the siren song of freshly caught seafood.

Here’s the woman who makes the ceviche the businessmen are enjoying. (We didn’t try it as we’d just eaten but it looked pretty good.)

And here’s the morning’s catch of erizo, or sea urchin. I have several foodie friends for whom this shot will be food porn, so think about having a sit down before you scroll down…

I know, right? Pretty exciting. For dinner we went to a restaurant called Sacho, supposedly the best in Castro. I didn’t think it was particularly special, although the staff were super friendly, but one thing it did have was a wonderfully excessive use of the erizos. Mr Lemur ate congrió, or conger eel, smothered in erizo sauce. And when I say smothered, I really mean smothered, pork chop style. It isn’t much to look at but the sea urchin flavour was pretty intense.

(This is where I have to admit, in a spirit of full disclosure, that I am not the world’s hugest fan of sea urchin. But Mr Lemur is and I was pretty excited to see them so fresh and in such enormous quantities.)

 

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