My South America Trip #18 – Chilean Cuisine: “Ode to Caldillo De Congrio ” by Pablo Neruda


Chilean cuisine stems mainly from the combination of Spanish cuisine with traditional Chilean ingredients, with later influences from other European cuisines, particularly from GermanyItaly,France and the Middle East. The food tradition and recipes in Chile stand out due to the varieties in flavors and colors. The country’s long coastline and the Chilean people’s relationship with the sea adds an immense array of ocean products to the variety of the food in Chile. The country’s waters are home to unique species of fish and shellfish such as the Chilean sea bassloco and picoroco. In addition, many Chilean recipes are enhanced and accompanied by wine because Chile is one of the world’s largest producers of wine. The country’s immense geographical diversity allows for a wide range of crops and fruits to be present in Chilean food.

A characteristic of Chilean cuisine is the variety and quality of fish and seafood, due to the geographic location and extensive coastline. The Humboldt current causes a supply of seafood that gathers along the Pacific coast perpendicular to Chilean waters. These include squid,soleidae (sole), albacorecodfishhake, corvina, salmonbatoidea and tuna. Seafood such as abaloneprawns, clams, crabsshrimp,oysterslobsterspercebes, picorocos, and eels are also fished in large amounts.”

We only stayed in Chile for 3 to 4 days, and yet we had quite a good variety of some typical Chilean cuisine and wine. On this post, I would like to feature a popular dish called Caldillo de congrio, which some of us tried at the last lunch we had at Santiago before we flew back home.

This is a picture I took.  It may look very simple, but read the following about the ingredients and how it is made. No wonder Pablo Neruda wrote an ode particularly for this dish!


Congridae or in Chile known as congrio can be deep-fried in batter, or seasoned and baked. It may also be made into a stew.  This popular dish, called Caldillo de congrio, was praised in an ode by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.”

What Is Caldillo De Congrio?

“Originating in the South American country of Chile, caldillo de congrio is an eel based dish. Caldillo de congrio, translated from Spanish to English, means “broth of conger,” or conger chowder. The dish is named after its main ingredient, an eel called conger.

The eel of caldillo de congrio belongs to Congridae, a family that consists of almost 200 species. A subcategory, the garden eel, lives in colonies and protrude from the sea ground like plants. Garden eels are very hard to catch, as they retreat into the hole-shaped dwelling places upon the sight of a human. Some other conger eels, however, are easier to come by, one of which is the congrio colorado, or red conger. This eel species is usually found in the part of the Pacific Ocean that surrounds or touches the shores of Chile known as the Chilean Sea, and it is the order of fish used for preparation of caldillo de congrio.

Making caldillo de congrio starts off with chopping up and cooking the eel in a pot of water, producing the broth. Meanwhile, vegetable or olive oil is heated in a pot. Then chopped onions, garlic, jalapeno or bell pepper, tomatoes and carrots are added and sautéed until all items are soft. The mixture is seasoned with salt and black pepper.

After about five to 10 minutes of cooking in medium heat, the broth is added to the sautéed items. After another 10 to 20 minutes, the cooked eel is added, and the heat is reduced to let the contents simmer for approximately five minutes. The cream can be stirred in during this time. When done, caldillo de congrio is usually garnished with parsley, coriander or scallions. The soup is traditionally eaten with pieces of crusty bread and some wine.

There are some variations of caldillo de congrio, mainly based on the cook’s preferences or location of preparation. Some people opt to buy the broth and cook the eel with the sautéed ingredients, and many recipes include shrimp or potatoes. In places where eels are inaccessible, people substitute the conger with other types of fish such as whiting. In popular culture, caldillo de congrio is best known for being the subject of the poem Oda al Caldillo de Congrio, or Ode to Caldillo de Congrio. The ode was penned by celebrated Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971.”

How to make the Caldillo de Congrio?  Perhaps it is easier to look at a video. I found many videos about this popular dish in Spanish.  This is the only English version I found on You-Tube..

This is good, but I like the Spanish version more. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, I think it is easy to understand.

Since there are so many articles that talk about the ode that Pablo Neruda wrote, I searched extensively throughout the internet.  Finally I found the English translation of this ode by Pablo Neruda who had written many odes on common things.  I am so happy when I found it!  You can just read the ode instead of the cooking instructions, because the instructions are in the ode! Enjoy! “You may know heaven”, said Pablo Neruda!  Perhaps some of you will try out cooking this yourself at home.  Let me know what is your “verdict” (quoting a fellow blogger Sybaritica).

Caldillo de congrio


English version
Ode to conger chowder
In the storm-tossed
lives the rosy conger,
giant eel
of snowy flesh.
And in Chilean
along the coast,
was born the chowder,
thick and succulent,
a boon to man.
You bring the Conger, skinned,
to the kitchen
(its mottled skin slips off
like a glove,
leaving the
grape of the sea
exposed to the world),
the tender eel
to serve our appetites.
you take
first, caress
that precious
its irate fragrance,
blend the minced garlic
with onion
and tomato
until the onion
is the color of gold.
our regal
ocean prawns,
and when
they are
when the savor is
set in a sauce
combining the liquors
of the ocean
and the clear water
released from the light of the onion,
you add the eel
that it may be immersed in glory,
that it may steep in the oils
of the pot,
shrink and be saturated.
Now all that remains is to
drop a dollop of cream
into the concoction,
a heavy rose,
then slowly
the treasure to the flame,
until in the chowder
are warmed
the essences of Chile,
and to the table
come, newly wed
the savors
of land and sea,
that in this dish
you may know heaven.

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