Latin American cuisine is a particular combination of cultural fusion and innovation. On this continent there are as many gastronomic similarities as there are differences. A Tamale in Mexico is called a Humita in Chile. An empanada in Chile is a Salteña in Bolivia. A tortilla en Mexico is the size of your palm, while in Central America it’s the size of a pizza.
In Mexico, the obvious choice for fast food is the Taco. In Chile, the star of junk food and late-night snaking is the Completo.
“Completo”, which literally means complete, perfectly describes this overloaded hotdog that has it all
- Melted cheese
- Mashed avocado
- Diced tomato
Set this upon a skinny hotdog inside a thick bread roll, and you have a bullet of gooey goofy flavors. It’s also a disastrous mess to eat. That is unless you have had years to prefect the specific technique—a delicate side bit that keeps the pile of condiments from squeezing out the top, or worse, onto your face.
Completos also come in two sizes, chico, the size of your regular new york style dog and grande, the size of your forearm.
Upon first impression, the Completo may seem like an over dressed hotdog. However, when traveling to Chile the Completo is as essential an experience as the Andes.
The Completo is an inescapable part of Chilean life, but information remains scarce about its origins in the country.
Most agree that Completos have their origins in the American hotdog. Its arrival in Chile occurred around 1920, according to a 2003 report in Chilean newspaper La Cuarta, when businessman Eduardo Bahamondes Muñoz opened a cafe near Santiago’s central square, Plaza de Armas.
Selling an exciting new snack he had encountered on a trip to the United States, the ‘hotdog’, his cafe “Quick Lunch Bahamondes” became an immediate success. Other hotdog bars began to appear, with vendors adding traditional local toppings – above all, the ubiquitous avocado – and before long Completos were being sold all over the city.
For most Chileans, however, history matters little. The Completo is a thing of the present – full of possibility and potential, always evolving, always there and ready to eat. Vendors continue to add their own unique touches, the option of chorizo instead of a vienesa, six flavors of mayo, specialty toppings like bacon, and gourmet ketchup—always innovating, always adding to the indefinable nature of this ultimate street snack.