Although I desperately miss the variety of food available in Philadelphia and in other parts of the U.S., I must admit that Chilean food does have its moments. Although Chile is a country known for its bland food, there are plenty of tasty dishes if you know what to order. The other day my friend took me to eat the best completo in the area in a little place called Cevasco. For those who don’t know, the completo is basically the Chilean version of the American hot dog. However, in reality, the completo is much more than a simple hot dog. The completo is the main source of Chilean pride. It is the go-to fast food, party food, whatever-time-of-day food for all Chileans. It is the cornerstone of Chilean cuisine. It is the food that can bring a whole country together. From young to old, all love and worship the completo.
Beyond its immense cultural importance, the ingredients of the complete highlight all the best parts of Chilean cuisine. The base is a freshly-baked hot dog bun, denser and much more bread-like than the typical potato bread bun that we Americans eat. Next, comes the hot dog itself, or, as it’s called here, the vienesa. The quality of the vienesa is comparable to the U.S., but what comes next is the real game changer, the icing on the cake – or, in this case, on the completo. It’s piled high with freshly-chopped tomato and ripe avocado and then topped with creamy, homemade mayonnaise. It may sound like a slightly weird combination, but, once you try it, it all comes together and makes sense.
Something I have discovered in my time down here is that there is a certain strategy to eating a completo. It’s a skill that I assume all Chileans are born with, but, unfortunately for me, I had to figure it out through lots of trial and error. I’ve recently perfected my technique (after six long months), and now I can successfully eat a completo without destroying it and making a mess of myself in the process. This sounds easy enough, but I swear it’s harder than it looks. The problem with the completo is that, if you bite it the wrong way, all of the toppings will slide off and likely fall on your clothes and ruin your day. So, to avoid such an unfortunate sequence of events, one must eat very carefully and be sure not to tilt the precarious dog the wrong way.
Despite the potential dangers of eating completos, it’s definitely worth the mess, especially once you’ve got your technique down. Although I don’t leave Chile for a few more months still, I’m already getting a little concerned about the lack of completos in Philadelphia. The good news is that the recipe isn’t too complex, so at least I’ll be able to prepare my own when I finally return to the U.S.