I confess – I don’t really know much about Chile. Do you? I mean, apart from knowing it’s in South America and that Chilean wines are pretty good, I can’t say I know much else. Shameful, yes.
So, when I received an invitation to “Flavours of Chile” hosted by the Chilean Export Promotion Bureau (ProChile) and the Embassy of Chile, I immediately accepted without hesitation. Here was an excellent opportunity for me to sample some fine Chilean cuisine. Held at The Westin Kuala Lumpur, this event was an initiative to promote high quality food and beverage products from Chile among the Malaysian business community and consumers. The event also featured a Chilean celebrity chef – Chef Carlo von Muhlenbrock … the maestro behind the lovely dishes served that night. More about him later.
Guests that evening had an opportunity to browse through a variety of Chilean products on display at the foyer prior to dinner. Products ranging from canned seafood, snacks, wines, bottled pickles and fresh fruits were all featured on display stands for guests to check out while they sipped on Chilean wines – Cabernet Sauvignon-Vina Santa Carolina, the pretty lethal Pisco Sour and nibbled on cheese turnovers with merken seasoning, sopaipillas with Chilean avocado dip and Chilean croaker and clam tartare.
Finally, the doors of the Grand Ballroom were flung open and the guests made their way to their tables. A short video (beautifully produced) promoting Chile and its culture, people, produce and food was shown before dinner was served.
The organizers have also thoughtfully included a video clip showing how Chef Carlo prepared every dish that was served that night. The relevant clip was shown just before each individual dish was served so that guests can understand and appreciate the ingredients used and the inspiration behind each creation.
For starters, we had Quinoa Timbale with Avocado and Chilean King Crab served with a Sauvignon Blanc. I like the crunchy chewy quinoa, flavoured with a fresh tangy vinaigrette and the king crab was superb. Just superb. The sweetest tastiest 2 slices of kingcrab I’ve ever tasted and I wished there was more… everyone of us wished that!
I learned a lot that evening. From the beautifully crafted videoclips, I learned about Pablo Neruda – a famous Chilean poet and Noble Prize Winner. For his soup, Chef Carlo got his inspiration from Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to Conger Chowder“.
Thus, Pablo Neruda’s Conger Eel Chowder was served… in a way unique to this traditional fine Chilean soup…
First of all, a bowl of chunky vegetables, shrimp and that revered conger eel (described as “grape of the sea” by Pablo Neruda) was placed before each guest…but wait, where is the soup?! In a moment, the long spout of an elegant soup kettle appeared just above my bowl and a thin steady stream of hot broth was poured over the chunks of seafood and vegetables. Once that was done, we were told to squirt the cream out… from that long thin test-tube placed in the bowl. And only when all the cream has been squirted were we invited to taste the soup. It was divine. Despite having cream squirted all over it, the soup remained thin but very tasty from the seafood-simmered broth.
And that conger eel … white, tenderly succulent was like no eel I have ever tasted before. These are giant eels from the deep oceans. A Chardonnay was served with this chowder.
The main course was Smoked Salmon and Mussels with Coriander-spiced Barley, served with Pinot Noir-Vina Cono Sur…
The salmon was a tad overcooked but the smoked mussels were superb. With none of the chewiness associated with most mussels, these were tender and juicy with a subtle hint of smokiness. The coriander-flavoured barley pearls were fragrant and chewy and the crunchy “toh miao” – beansprouts gave a nice local touch to the dish.
Dessert was a simple refreshing sorbet, made from pureed Chilean berries. “Simple is Best” … that describes the dessert in a nutshell.
Now, let me present you the gorgeous chef behind the dinner menu…
Is it any wonder that he’s constantly mobbed by the female guests there that evening? They were clamouring to pose with him for photos at every table that he stopped by… pieces of menu cards were proffered for his autograph… it was pure adulation surrounding him!
A celebrity chef, a famous TV host chef, author of cookbooks, daily publications and magazines, a gourmet communicator, Chef Carlo is also the Face of promotional retail campaigns and Chef Manager of Chile representing the country abroad. Owner of the famous avant-garde “Osadia Restaurant” in Santiago, an extensive list of distinguished culinary awards and 20 years of cooking experience, Chef Carlo comes well-qualified.
Quite an impressive resume, wouldn’t you say?
More information on ProChile can be found here.