A Boxful of Deliciousness

Chile is more than just a country in the southern hemisphere – it’s the land of incredible produce – from fruits, vegetables, seafood, meats, and nuts to wine – and the largest exporter of fruits in South America. When the Indian branch of ProChile, the agency of the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs that promotes exports from their country hosted a dinner for gourmands in the Capital recently, with the theme ‘Unboxing Chile’, it symbolized the literal and figurative discovery of the tastes and textures of this land, to stir interest, and forge relationships.

The Ambassador of Chile H.E. Mr Juan Angulo and the Trade Commissioner, Marcela Zuniga Alegria, 'unbox' Chilean fruits and wine on stage, at an event in Delhi

Did you know that Chile – the southern-most country in the world – is home to the driest desert, and some of the biggest icebergs as it adjoins Antarctica? Did you know that it has the longest coastline in the world – some 6,500 km – that embraces the Pacific, and the highest volcano in the world? Or that it is the world’s third largest exporter of kiwi fruit and one of the largest wine producers in the world? And did you know the real name for the Chilean Sea Bass (it’s Patagonian toothfish), and that Chile is home to the world’s largest swimming pool? All these facts and more, were tossed around during a lighthearted quiz at an exclusive dinner hosted by the Chilean Trade Commission’s ProChile, at The Leela Ambience Gurugram.

The Unboxing Chile evening at The Leela Ambience Gurugram

Mostly little known to Indians as it sits on the opposite side of the globe, literally – Santiago, Chile’s capital, is nearly 17,000 km away – it would take over 35 hours to reach (stopovers included). And the land of poet Pablo Neruda is a great attraction with its dynamic landscape and unique geographical desert-ocean-mountains-ice fields combo. “We are looking at attracting the experienced traveller – the one who has been all over the world, who wants to visit a country that is truly unique in all aspects,” says His Excellency Juan Angulo, Ambassador of Chile to India, before the evening kicks off, with Marcela Alejandra Zuñiga Alegria, Trade Commissioner of ProChile in India, making the case for her non-profit agency’s brand new international campaign to promote Chile and Chilean produce – ‘Unboxing Chile’ – that is launched this evening, unveiling the flavours, aromas, colours, and tastes of this beautiful country.

“Our aim is to bring Chile closer to India and improve the visibility of Chile as a supplier and partner of India,” says Marcela Zuñiga Alegria. “ProChile is an entity that promotes the export of goods and services from Chile, the role of which is to boost commercial relations between Chile and India. We are the channel that connects the Chilean exporter with the Indian importer.”

Unboxing Chile - a box of Chilean wine and fruits

Before the meal is served, guests are invited to ‘unbox’ the large red box they’ve been presented with, filled with juicy, plump Chilean cherries, a boxful of blueberries, fat kiwis, tangy apples, unblemished, sweet walnuts, and a bottle of Chilean ‘La Laguna’ merlot wine, at the same time as H.E. Ambassador Juan Angulo and Marcela Zuniga Alegria on stage. “Chile and India share a tremendous relationship that is based on shared values,” says H.E. Ambassador Juan Angulo. “We may be geographically far apart, but we have many commonalities: we have the same sense of humour; we care about family; we are religious in our own way. We don’t feel the differences when we meet Indian people, and we can create good links when we meet!” He goes on to say that as the economic partnership between the two countries continues to grow, food is an important part of this growth.

Juicy Chilean cherries Chilean kiwis

Today, Chile exports to more than 100 countries around the world – with countries like the USA, China, UK, Netherlands, and Brazil topping the list (in 2020, the value of fruits exported to these countries was more than US$ 3.6 billion; in the same year, fruits valued at US$ 33 million were exported to India). As it’s a long, thin country with a very varied climate – with the Andes to its east, the Pacific Ocean on the west, the glaciers in the south, and the Atacama desert in the north – it’s highly conducive to producing some of the most high-quality fruits in the world, from grapes, cherries, apples, plums, peaches, kiwis, avocados, and berries leading the way for the fruit industry.

Chilean walnuts and blueberries

As far as dried fruits are concerned, Chile is the largest producer in the southern hemisphere, with products such as walnuts, almonds, prunes, and dried apples, among others. In fact, Chile is the number two global exporter of walnuts in the world (which account for 74.8 percent of dry fruit exports) – with more than US$ 35 million worth of walnuts exported to India in 2020.

H.E. Ambassador Juan Angulo of Chile

“Indians are slowly getting a taste of Chilean foods and are beginning to appreciate the quality that Chilean produce brings,” says Ambassador Angulo. “Chile is bestowed with a unique topography that makes it a phytosanitary island. This is a primary reason for the high quality of produce that comes from there. Tonight, we are trying to introduce the concept of Chile with food – and wine, for those of us here who drink wine.”

A gateau made with Chilean fruits

And the carefully curated dinner prepared by The Leela Ambience Gurugram’s Executive Chef Ashish Bhasin, highlights the very ingredients on showcase this evening. There’s a Puglia Burrata with Tomato Gazpacho, served with a Chilean La Fantasia Merlot, a Butternut Squash Raviolo with Chilean Walnut Mousse and Brown Butter Amaretto Glaze served with a Chilean La Fantasia Sauvignon Blanc, a main course of Chilean Seabass or a Polenta with Porcini Cream served with a Chilean Temalo Cabernet Sauvignon, and a special surprise for dessert.

“We love to play with our ingredients to reach our guests’ hearts through their stomachs,” says Chef Ashish Bhasin. “The food today is very simple – we have crossed all boundaries, and we have played with these Chilean ingredients – which are outstanding. The moment one looks at the size of those cherries, the moment you put one in your mouth, it’s literally bursting with flavour.”

A Roomful of Desserts - made by the chefs at The Leela, using Chilean fruits Tarts made with Chilean produce

As the final surprise of the evening – guests literally walk into it – a roomful of desserts crafted by the chefs at The Leela, and lovingly made with Chilean produce, reveals itself, Chef Ashish tells us that that he let his chefs’ imagination run free this evening. “I did not tell them what to make – we just let all boundaries fall,” he says. As you take in the incredulous sight of a myriad sugary confections dancing before your eyes – which are doing a shimmy, by the way – you spot cherry and berry tarts, swan-shaped pastries, an ice-cream bar, a crepe station, macaron and raspberry tarts, tarte aux fraises, passion fruit cake, chocolate gateaux, crunchy opaly pearls oranjo, and much, much more. What a blissfully sweet ending to a great evening, and the beginning of a love affair with a magical country called Chile.


Priya Kumari Rana

Lifestyle Insider is a kind of junction point, connecting people with diverse interests that touch on the more luxurious aspects of lifestyle – fashion, design, travel, food and spirits, art, watches and jewellery, cars, yachts, and aviation, and technology. People today don’t fit into boxes and categories. In our individual ways, we are interested in diverse themes, products, and the challenges that face our world today. You will judge how well this effort of mine caters to your passions and proclivities.

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