Seafood and curanto are the go-to meals in Ancud. Cocinerías Mercado Gastronómico is a tucked-away plaza of market stalls selling cazuela (meat and vegetable stew), chupe (fish casserole) and other set lunch menus for around CH$2000 to CH$5000.
Curanto: Chiloé's Culinary Coup
No words can quite prepare you for the first moment a piping hot bowl of curanto lands on the table in front of you, but 'What did I get myself into?' comes to mind. Rest assured, however, your slack jaw will come in handy when it's time to shove all that food in. Chiloé's most traditional dish is of unknown origins, but historically its preparation harks back to the earth ovens of Polynesian culinary ancestry. Traditionally curanto was made by heating up stones in a hole in the ground until they crackled, then directly piling on shellfish, pork and chicken, followed by nalca (a rhubarb-like plant) or pangue (a native plant of Chile) leaves and damp cloths before the whole shebang was covered in dirt and grass and left to simmer for nearly two hours. Locals still prepare it this traditional way, called curanto al hoyo, in a few places around the island, including Restaurant Quetalmahue in Quetalmahue, a small fishing village 12km from Ancud (high season only unless you are a big group with advance reservations). If you can't make it there (curanto ready from 2pm to 4pm; a taxi runs a negotiable CH$15,000 or so round-trip from Ancud with waiting), the next best thing – minus the pit and dirt – is Kuranton in Ancud and El Chejo in Quemchi.