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Snapshots from Chile: Hot Dogs and Sandwiches at Rapa Nui
From April 13 to 19, I traveled around Chile with two other American food journalists on a culinary media trip. Here's another snapshot from that week. —Robyn Lee
Just like my group's visit to a café con piernas, obtaining a completo, a Chilean hot dog impossibly overloaded with condiments, wasn't part of our itinerary. But everyone knew I wanted one. Because during the second half of our trip I would not-so-subtly remind them with each passing completo-less day that I still wanted a completo.
My last day in Chile started at Rapa Nui, a long-established restaurant in Temuco that, as far as I know, has nothing to do with being named after the indigenous name for Easter Island, but offered everything I could ever want: hot dogs and sandwiches. Looking around the dining room, we noticed other customers—from a small, young boy to an old woman—ringing in the morning with breakfast completos. We followed suit.
The completo came on its own special clear plastic tray with two ridges to elevate the hot dog for ease of handling and to ensure the integrity of the hot dog's upright position. Considering that the hot dog was densely packed in a bun with sauerkraut and impressively topped with a massive amount of avocado mash, a smattering of chopped tomato, a bit of mustard and hot aji sauce, and, most importantly, a heart-stopping splodge of creamy, mild-flavored, homemade mayonnaise, an overturned hot dog could've resulted in a disastrous mess. Although the actual amount of mayonnaise was probably less than what it appeared to be, we estimated that there was one-fourth to a half cup of mayonnaise per hot dog. Don't even bother calculating the nutritional value of this thing; nobody wants to know.
It's not a hot dog as much as a bun (which wasn't of the light and fluffy American sort, but a bread that was substantial enough to hold up to the gazillion ingredients inside of it) filled with condiments suffocating a skinny log of meat. I would've preferred more hot dog matter to even out the sauerkraut (maybe two hot dogs in one bun, unless Chileans see that as heresy against the completo), but otherwise, I enjoyed it muchly, relishing every mayonnaise-filled bite. I almost never eat hot dogs in New York City, but if more places could pull this off, I'd increase the frequency of my hot dog-eating ways.
Lomito Rapa Nui
The Lomito Rapa Nui, the restaurant's house sandwich, packed thinly sliced pork loin, sauerkraut, "salsa americana" (chopped pickles), tomato slices, mustard, aji, and a generous helping of mayonnaise between the halves of a hefty, crusty round bun.
Alas, my favorite meat had failed me; we found that the pork sadly lacked in taste. It wasn't bad, but the condiments outshone the pork. Like the hot dog, it seemed like the non-meat parts were key, with meat playing a supporting role.
The chacarero was the better sandwich, with sliced beef, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and a big honkin' mass of steamed green beans.
The beef was juicier and more flavorful than the pork. As for the green beans, I found them a nice change of green vegetable matter from the more typically found leafy greens. They didn't provide any crunch factor, but they gave a bit of green beany sweetness and the false sense of eating something nutritious even though it was topped with a gob of mayonnaise.
Chile knows the key to making awesome hot dogs and sandwiches, that key being mayonnaise. Lots. And lots. Of mayonnaise. And avocado. Or, more simply, lots of creamy, fatty goodness. Why we can't bring more of that magic over here, I don't know. Perhaps we need more Chileans, but after spending a week in Chile, I can see why they don't want to leave their country. Sigh.
Address: Aldunate 415, Temuco, Chile
Phone: (45) 910727