Chile being geographically so long country of South America comprises of variety of landscapes and thus it makes Chile a land of vast range of foods and drinks. In the Chilean cuisine the seafood has a special significance because of its diversified coastline of 2,647 miles. The unique species of fish and shellfish such as the Chilean sea bass, loco and picoroco found in the waters of Chilean seaside are special ingredient to Chilean cuisine.
One of the most popular and traditional food of Southern Chile is Curanto. Curanto is a word in the araucano language and it means hot rock. It is a classic form of a pit oven in which shellfish and other foods are cooked. This is the most characteristic and the most ancient dish of Chile. In fact, if we call it as one of the oldest food dishes of the world, it might not be wrong. The archeologists discovered the remains of a 6,000 year old curanto from the archaeological site of Puente Quilo on the north coast, west of the city of Ancud. Many other meal remains like bones of nutria, sea lions, sea birds, fish and whale, as well as hooves of the southern pudú and shells of scallops, snails, Chilean abalone, surf clams, mussels, hard shell clams, and razor clams were also found.
The Chileans are still carrying on their traditional way of cooking Curanto. The oven is about a meter deep hole, which is dug in the ground. The bottom is covered with stones, heated in a bonfire until red. The ingredients of Curanto contain shellfish, any form of meat, potatoes, milcaos (a special potato bread), chapaleles, and vegetables and also some other fish. Without any specific quantity each one of this ingredient is covered with nalca leaves and other seasonal herbs. Cloths and dirt is put on top and only a kind of side chimney is left open to make combustion easier. The food takes approximately one hour to get ready.
In the central parts of Chile, Curanto is also cooked in Pulmay which is a large stew pot which is heated over a bonfire or grill or in a pressure cooker.