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Sushi is king in Santiago

Sushi is king in Santiago

Posted by José Peralta on August 09, 2014

Following the results of a poll on the variety of restaurants in Santiago — which found sushi and Chinese food to be most popular — The Santiago Times spoke with a polling expert on the reasons behind such diversity: high disposable income and historical trends.

Zomato, a company that allows users to discover local restaurants through its various apps, conducted its first-ever restaurant census in the Chilean capital. The results, published by La Tercera, found that sushi took the helm with 663 established businesses in the capital, closely followed by Chinese food with 647 premises, while Peruvian restaurants came in third with 402 restaurants.

Sushi has become so popular in Chile over the last few years that in 2013, it made headlining news when a report from the Santiago Metropolitan Regional Health Authority warned diners about a food poisoning outbreak sparked by the commonplace Japanese menu item.

In an interview with The Santiago Times, Zomato country manager Walter Rosenkranz explained that history, in large part, accounts for the current variety.

“Chile is only 200-some years old,” he said. “So our food culture has not consolidated itself like in the case of other South American countries where [culture] is extremely marked. When you check places like Mexico, Brazil or Peru, their food is pretty much clear. But empanadas, for instance, are Chilean, but we share them with Peruvians, Argentineans and Bolivians. So we have so much variety because Chileans are still consolidating their culture.”

Responding to the the survey’s assertion that “over the last decade, gastronomy has experienced an important leap in terms of variety and quality,” Rosenkranz said higher disposable incomes accounted for this.

“With higher disposable incomes, people tend to spend money experimenting with different things. People start buying more experiences than products, and that experience is the restaurant,” he said. “So with higher disposable incomes, people want to try different things … and the market reacts to that. You look at the year 2014, and you see restaurants that serve … Swiss food and Indian food, all of which would have been more difficult to find five years ago.”

He added that Peruvian food’s popularity is tied to Peruvian immigration in the area, whereas sushi’s fashionable status is a matter of trending.

“It’s very much aligned with Chileans’ taste buds. It has rice and fish, and fish is abundant in Chile,” he said.
Chile’s fish industry is one of the most important in the country. In July, Chilean fisheries moved up on a report from the E.U. saying they are some of the best in terms of health control.

Corporate chef of the Culinary Institute Juan Pablo Mellado, who seeks to “save the country’s culinary heritage,” according to La Tercera, said the survey provided valuable information for his mission.

“A country that wants to be powerful must know the market it’s dealing with. It’s vital we know how much of our identity is present in what we eat and what the quality of the ingredients we use is,” he said.

Rosenkranz , on the other hand, said he did not find “non-Chilean” food’s popularity threatening to the country’s traditional cuisine.

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