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Curanto Feast in the Chiloe Archipelago, Chile

People digging out shellfish

The Chiloe Archipelago is just south of Puerto Montt, Chile, the country’s apple growing region and home to a vast aquaculture business. We recently traveled for three nights around the archipelago’s hundreds of islands on the Ona, a hand built motor cruiser, and enjoyed some surprisingly delicious real food adventures.


The Ona was built by island craftsmen in the style of the local fishing boats. Thanks to the extensive efforts of the young boat builders who dreamed up this project as part of their industrial design school curriculum, the boat’s interior is impeccably finished and features four en suite rooms.

Boat Built by Hand

The motor cruiser Ona was built by hand in the style of local Chilean fishing boats.

Sailing on the Ona provides plenty of time to relax, read, or visit the area’s islands. We spent time walking on the islands, visiting churches (protected by UNESCO), and experiencing local history and geography. This is a place where the union of the land and the sea impact everyone who lives on these islands.

Chiloe is a land of self-sufficient farmers and fishermen. It is also a place that supports a large Chilean aquaculture business. Fortunately, the staff of the Ona are local people and they’re connected to the local fishermen and native shellfish purveyors.

Seafood, Ribs, Potatoes and More

Picture of potatoes

Potatoes are an essential part of the typical curanto feast.

There were many eating delights on this trip with wonderful flavors coming out of the small galley kitchen, including ceviche, grilled hake, oysters on the half shell, fresh bread, and locally grown fruits and vegetables. A real highlight was a Curanto meal, a traditional Chilean shellfish bake.

Fire pit for seafood, pork, chicken and veggies.

The fire pit is ready for seafood, pork, chicken, and vegatables.

The heavens threatened rain so the crew arranged for our meal to be prepared in a special shed designed especially for rainy day Curanto preparation. Curanto is essentially a Chilean clambake, but with unique Chiloe flavors. The islands belonged to the Mapuche indigenous people for thousands of years so the Curanto has a long history. In theMapuche language, Curanto means “stones place” and the feast is customized to ingredients that are fresh and seasonally available.

Seafood, salad and wine on table

Our Cuarto feast included a fresh salad and Chilean wine.

Typically, a pit is dug on the gravelly shores along the beach and a fire is built in the pit. Our Curanto shed had the pit ready for the ingredients that included seafood, side-pork and ribs, chicken, Chiloe potatoes, and a special biscuit called chapalele made with fresh herbs. The cooks layered all the ingredients, covered them with large Chilean rhubarb leaves called nalca, and steamed them for several hours.

People sitting at dinner table

Friends, including Tom Barry (first right) and author Breanda Christensen (4th left) gather to toast the Curanto cooks.


Finally, our meal was ready and what a feast. The only problem we had with our Curanto meal was we couldn’t stop eating it! We enjoyed our feast with a fresh salad and lovely Chilean wine while watching the beautiful colors of boats plying the waters in front of us.

by Brenda Christensen, RFT Contributor, photos by Brenda Christensen and Tom Barry

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Brenda Christensen and Tom Barry

Brenda Christensen and Tom Barry are worldwide travelers extraordinaire. They spend much of their time searching the far reaches of the planet for interesting people, terrific food, and authentic travel experiences. When they aren’t in some exotic locale, they make their home in the San Francisco Bay area and British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast where Brenda delights guests with gourmet meals and Tom is a master woodworker.

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