What is chacarero?
Chacarero is a Chilean sandwich prepared with grilled beef, tomatoes, green beans and jalapeño peppers. In 2014, Time magazine elected chacarero one of the 13 best sandwiches in the world. This sandwich is typical of the city of Santiago.
Chacarero started to be exported to the United States in the beginning of the twenty-first century and its sales have exploded since then. In Chile, chacarero is sold in small establishments called fuente de soda or schoperias. They correspond to the American or British “greasy spoons”, that is to say, small restaurants where fried cuisine is served with coffee or beer.
How to make chacarero
To prepare a chacarero, you first fry the meat that has been flattened with a mallet. Once cooked, add the vegetables and peppers and put everything in a buttered bread called marraqueta. Green beans can be cooked whole or cut, steamed or boiled in a pot of salt water. They must remain crisp and green. To do this, they must be immersed in a bowl of ice water immediately after cooking.
Churrasco is the name given to grilled meat preparations. The word comes from Portuguese and Galician. Meats can include beef, chicken or pork. It is heavily salted and cooked on the grill. It is then cut into strips to serve in a bread roll or as an accompaniment to fries and green salad. The bread used to make good chacareros is the marraqueta, also called pan batido in Valparaiso or pan francés (French bread). This bread made with wheat flour, water, salt and yeast is fermented longer than other breads made in Chile.
This bread does not contain fat, which gives it a particular shape and makes it very crispy. This bun is found in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Uruguay. It was invented by two French brothers named Marraquet. When they arrived at Valparaiso in the early nineteenth century, their bun became an instant success. This bread indeed resembles Alsatian soubrot. According to the French botanist Claude Gay, marraqueta was already eaten in Chile in the eighteenth century. So it is hard to be formal about the origin of this crispy bun.
What is the origin of chacarero?
The word chacarero comes from the quechua word chakra which means “farm”. A chacarero is therefore a “farmer”. Juan Hurtado first had the idea to prepare this sandwich and sell it at a food cart. In the early years, the chacarero was not a huge success. Finally, once the rumor spread, the sandwich became widely popular. This initial failure was due to the presence of green beans in the sandwich, an idea that the Chileans found rather strange before tasting.
Chile is one of the largest consumers of bread in the world after the Germans with about 200 kilograms of bread per year per person. Although bread is nourishing when combined with animal protein, it is not very digestible. The presence of many green beans, peppers and tomatoes, however, makes this sandwich rather balanced compared to its cousin the hamburger.
What are the other versions of chacarero?
Mayonnaise or ketchup can be added to the sandwich. In the southern region of Magallanes, green beans are replaced by lettuce and peppers are not added. There are sometimes versions of chacarero containing cheese such as Münster. Avocado can also be spread on bread.
The sandwich is a great and easy way to eat a piece of meat (or fish). You can eat quickly, in the street at lunch break without too many stains. Although meat and bread are not very digestible together, they are extremely nutritious. And especially delicious!
- 1 marraqueta (bread roll)
- 2 thin beef steaks (sirloin)
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 6 oz. green beans
- 1 large tomato (very ripe)
- A few slices green hot peppers (e.g. jalapeños)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Wash and trim the green beans. With a small knife, cut them in half lengthwise.
- Cook for 10 minutes in a large volume of salted water. They must be crisp.
- Remove from heat, drain and cover with ice water to stop the cooking so they remain green.
- Once cold, season with olive oil and salt.
Pound the meat with a mallet to a thickness of about ⅛ inch (3 mm) and season with black pepper.
- In a pan, heat the sunflower oil on high heat, and cook the beef for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Season with salt.
- Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt.
- Cut the marraqueta in two, grill it lightly and spread butter on it.
Place the thin slices of meat, then the tomato, the green hot peppers and finally the green beans.
- Serve immediately.