Central Market of Santiago

Central Market of Santiago – Where to eat fish and seafood in Chile

One of the first things I did as soon as I arrived in Santiago de Chile, after a long sleep that made me recover from the 18-hour time difference, was go to the central market to eat the much praised and world-famous Chilean fish.

In Latin American countries, as in Asian ones, the markets are the ideal place to eat well, local things and obviously at low cost.

a room filled with lots of furniture and decor

I already knew that in Chile the typical and excellent ingredient was fish, just think that it is the longest country in the world and that if on the eastern side the Andes divide it from the rest of Latin America on the west the whole country overlooks the Pacific Ocean, thousands of kilometers of coastline, and so the mission of the day was to find where to eat fresh fish without spending a fortune.
Pablo, with whom I couchsurfed and who hosted me for 4 days, explained to me that unfortunately Chilean meat, unlike what I thought, is not good. This is why he advised me to wait until I get to Argentina. There is only one reason why the meat is not as tender as that of neighboring countries: in Chile there are no plains and therefore the animals make more physical effort, making the meat tough. Simply put, Chilean meat is all muscle and little fat.

To eat well, at low cost, locally, my choice should have been fish or seafood and to do it “local” I had to go to central market.
Without a map and disorganized as always but only with a map in hand I had the metro stop to reach the city’s central market marked with a red pen, just to make it stand out on the map. In 30 minutes, between subway and walking, I found the Eldorado. Right at the exit of the subway stood the chaotic market which later became a fixed stop for me during my stay in Santiago.

There are 4 entrances, in the central area there are restaurants and a greengrocer, a strange combination or perhaps a sensible and strategic one (in case some vegetables run out and are therefore needed urgently). Fresh fish stalls alternate with typical restaurants that compete fiercely with each other.
The prices are more or less the same, where more or less, but before sitting down I recommend doing a reconnaissance tour. My yardstick of choice has always been the high number of locals versus the low (or no) number of tourists. Obviously the more rustic inn and dive it seemed, the more the restaurant was the right one for me.
Generally speaking all the restaurants are quite rudimentary with friendly and polite staff. At the entrance they are a bit aggressive, inviting you to sit and eat at their restaurant but this is part of the game, in Chile and in most of the world.

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Dining prices start from $2500 pesos that is $5 of the mixed fried food to reach 5000 or $10 in few cases these figures are exceeded. A drink costs between 700 and 1500 pesos or $1.20 and $4. Total for a fish lunch with drink between $6 and $10 per person.
What I liked perhaps even more than the food, I say perhaps, is that the restaurants are always full of people, mainly local, and the tables are very close to each other, all conditions that can make a lunch alone a lunch in company .
I happened to taste fish offered to me by the couple sitting to my right and drink wine offered to me by the couple to my left. The joys and fortunes of sitting in the centre, looking like (being) a tourist, and asking for help and advice with bravado and in italianish (a mix of Spanish and Italian).

I consider the market of a city like the bathroom in a house: essential for understanding something more than the place you are in and essential for giving your approval or disapproval. At the market in Santiago I understood for the first time how kind and sociable Chileans are, or rather I remembered it, given that I met some Chileans during my trip to Central America and they always proved to be affable, nice and friendly people. above all generous.
In a European city like Santiago which has little to envy of our European capitals, a few hours at the market makes you feel outside the western city and different from the idea of ​​a South American capital that we have and touch that rustic and popular side that we want, I want at least, to know and discover .

The market is located a few meters from the Puente metro station Lime and Song, the yellow line to the historic center of Santiago. From there after lunch it will be easy to walk to the famous one Smoky ride, a pedestrian area, where one after the other colonial buildings, modern and contemporary structures and diva street artists will entertain you and make you laugh. Equally close to the market is the Accademia delle Fine Arts. Entrance costs 600 pesos or just over a dollar. The structure is beautiful, the gallery and the installations are nothing exceptional but the works are all by Chileans and given the low cost a visit wouldn’t be so bad.

What to eat at the central market

When I arrived at the market I was taken aback by the constant shouting and invitations to sit in all the restaurants and because I had no idea what to choose. Even though I spoke Spanish, none of the names of the “comidas” meant anything to me. Accustomed to choosing between the unimaginative rice and beans (rice and beans) in Central America, here the numerous names of the dishes could say everything and could say nothing.
Having decided on the restaurant where to eat, I was accompanied to the fishmonger and indicated the fish that would be used in the dishes that the waiter was listing. After 15 minutes of chatting in front of the fresh fish counter I chose the mussels and clams parmesana style.

Typical Chilean dish although once I sat down I saw certain delicacies crowding my neighbors’ tables. Curious to know what it was, I asked, and in some cases I even tasted, their dishes so as to have a full stomach at the end of lunch and a notepad full of dishes that I should have eaten before leaving the country. I kept my promise of course.

Don’t miss the jaivas cake, chioco cake (i.e. corn batter), the marina boiler a sort of seafood soup, machas (clams), parmesana and Ceviche Corvina dish already tried many times in Central America but needless to say, excellent here too.

Marina Paila

Cevice is nothing more than raw fish or seafood, marinated with lemon and seasoned with salt, pepper and parsley, generally accompanied by biscuits or crackers.

For the aperitif then it is absolutely worth trying Pisco sour. Pisco is the typical Chilean drink, this drink must be prepared with pisco (Chilean alcohol), lemon (lime or yellow lemon depending on whether you are in Peru or Chile), sugar and egg.
The result is an alcoholic and frothy cocktail, perfect for the aperitif that is had before lunch in Chile.

pisco sour

Meat is not the strong point of Chilean cuisine and it would be a shame to eat it or ask for it at the central market in Santiago. For that it would be enough to move a few kilometers and go to Argentina or just under two hours from the capital and move to Valparaiso to eat the casserole that is, boiled meat, which costs just $2 and is a panacea on cold and rainy days.

The central market of Santiago de Chile is located in Direccion San Pablo #967 and is open every day from 6am to 4pm (Sunday to Thursday), from 5.30am to 8pm (Friday), from 5am to 5pm on Saturday.

Read also: What to eat in Colombia

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