Chile’s Most Iconic Sandwich: El Lomito

by Liz Caskey on June 5, 2009

Fuente_Alemana_03Take an informal poll among Chileans of what food they crave when they are in country, out-of-country, any time of the day, and in many cases, would call the “unofficial” national dish of Chile, and they will tell you: El Lomito. This towering, mammoth pork sandwich is Chile’s most ubiquitous and beloved “fast food”. Chileans scarf them down enthusiastically and round-the-clock at joints throughout the country. Its popularity can only be compared to the hamburger in the US.

Of all the places in Chile that serve them up, none compare to Fuente Alemana off of Santiago’s central Plaza Italia. After all, they were born here. Even after 60 years of business, El Lomito is still king. In fact, I would say if you want to really understand classic Chilean cuisine, you must visit Fuente Alemana on your visit to the capital. Generation after generation has been well fed at this Santiago institution. It’s comfort food in the form of a sandwich.

Enter off the deafening Alameda, grab a stool around the U-shaped counter, and let the veteran waitresses/cooks, clad in white like nurses, attend to your every sandwich need. Not a whole lot has changed since opening. It’s pretty simple. Solo diners and friends come to scoff down 6-inch high sandwiches and frosty mugs of schop, draft beer. As you wait, the sizzle of the griddle and the waft of meat slowly browning, primes your taste buds for what’s to come. Tranquilo, sandwich heaven is only five minutes away. Observe as the cooks rhythmically assemble these gargantuan sandwiches from the central grill while taking orders, clearing plates, serving beer, and never missing a beat. An art? Absolutely—those ladies have been doing it for 30-odd years.

The Siri Brothers, who founded Fuente Alemana, are responsible for El Lomito’s creation. The sandwich is perhaps the greatest gastronomic homage paid to Chile’s Germanic roots. Marinated pork loin is slow- braised for six hours with aromatics and secret spices. The pork is hand-shaved into paper-thin slices that are kept warm in a flavored broth (the owner would not divulge exact ingredients) until use.

Fuente_Alemana_02A typical lomito is layered with half a pound of pork on a freshly baked bun (6-inches wide). From there, order your fixings directly with the counter ladies. Try some of the perennial favorites: melted mantecoso cheese, mashed “green gold” (aka avocado), thick slices of fresh tomato, tangy sauerkraut, copious amounts of homemade mayo (a national passion). If you just want the italiano, you’ll get the lomito plus avocado-tomato-mayo. If you get the works, completo, they’ll serve you all of the above.

Do not, and I repeat, do not, attempt to eat this with your hands. The natural laws of the universe, err…gravity, make this an impossible feat. Use a fork and knife to tuck into this baby. If it seems peculiar that a simple sandwich could induce a nationwide fever, just lay into one and by the end you’ll understand. And probably either lick the plate clean or order another. Yes, it’s that good.

Fuente_Alemana_01

Fuente Alemana
Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins (aka Alameda) 58, between Vicuña Mackenna and Ramón Corvalan

Phone: 639 3231

Metro: Baquedano (Green/Red Lines)

{ 18 comments }

Pepe June 5, 2009 at 7:29 pm

I’m drooling just reading your description of the lomitos. Yum.

Kathy Loh June 5, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Yum – I remember eating these in Chile. You have such a wonderful knack for letting me taste things through your words. Blog on!

Goldie July 14, 2009 at 3:17 am

Anthony Bourdain just featured this delicious sandwich on No Reservations. I am jealous. I’ve never been to Chile and I have never tried el lomito. Now, I want to go to Chile and need to try el lomito! Any recipes would be appreciated greatly!

Brenda July 17, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Hi, I was just wondering if you ever got a recipe for this lomito. I paused the Chile episode of Bourdain just now to check it out. I seem to be hitting snags finding a recipe.

Thanks for sharing!

missleay2k@hotmail.com August 15, 2009 at 3:24 pm

GO TO http://WWW.GOOGLE.COM, AND TYPE IN LOMITO FROM CHILE. enjoy ! Leah

Liz Caskey July 18, 2009 at 11:11 am

El lomito is king…however, I pleaded with the owner of Fuente Alemana for the recipe to the meat (pork) and he would not give. He says it is a family secret. I am going to have to play around in our kitchen.

My theory is that the pork is brined with some aromatics (more Germanic in flavor, perhaps clove) and then slow roasted and sliced down.

If you want to try a version of it, you can always substitute paper thin slices of steak, called churrasco here, and put on the classic toppings. Tony had the italiano which has a soft, round bun, piled high with about 200g (half pound) of meat, then sliced tomatoes lightly salted, mashed avocado with a little salt and pepper, and then mayo (to taste). In Chile, they pile it on, but put as much as you like. Usually they ask if you want it spicy or not with fresh chilis. And of course, a beer is mandatory.

When I eventually nail the recipe for the pork, I will put it up.
In the mean time, hope this is satisfies your hankering–and curiosity.

Goldie July 21, 2009 at 1:44 am

thank you! thank you! thank you! i can’t wait to try it!

Patrick August 19, 2009 at 4:25 am

I will be in Valparaiso were can i get a great one there?

Liz Caskey August 19, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Try the Fuente Brazil on Av. Brasil 2406 open all day until 4am most days. It is a pub at night and serves up a ton of sandwiches. Try the lomito italiano (what Bourdain had) and the chacarero is great–seared beef with green beans, tomato, and chili. Along with “schop”, draft beer, and you are set. Let me know how it goes. Cheers!

Michelle August 21, 2009 at 7:44 pm

if you live in the NY area there is a Chilean sandwich shop opening up:

http://www.barrosluco.com

i hope it opens soon

Patrick August 23, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Thanks lomitos, chorallians, and competeos all awesome! I live in San Diego thank you for the advice! Any body know what to eat in lima Peru? :u)

klark kunsttman August 26, 2009 at 3:57 am

just one clue for the meat… it has a litle bit of oregano and…. fin it your self is almos in every kitchen at least here on chile

Teresa November 4, 2009 at 8:18 pm

I’m already hungry for a Lomito Mmmm. I just arrived from Santiago-Chile. I stayed in a hotel 2 blocks from the 2nd Fuente Alemana @11 de Septiembre Ave.(Los Leones Metro Station).
I went for Lomitos almost every day for lunch and dinner with different customers or people from the office I was visiting. Food still the same, no changes in flavor or service

If someone got the recipe. PLEASEEEEEE send it to us!!!.

Do not go Chile just for the food, but also for the wonderful people, places, and the good wine.

Perry P Perkins November 3, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Never had one myself, but I just watched the NR episode and everything I love is in that sandwich!

I wonder if this is close…

http://chileanrecipe.com/chilean-pork-loin/

Thoughts?

-Perry
http://www.burninloveblog.com

Perry P Perkins November 3, 2010 at 6:48 pm

(sorry, hit the post button to quick, lol)

So, basically, it looks like a traditional roast pork loin, with some herbs and a simple Italian giardinera used for flavoring (which seems oddly out of place…)

clawde November 29, 2010 at 1:13 am

la review was great,I can wait to have one yummmmyyy…

Dilip Samarasinghe January 6, 2011 at 6:45 am

I watched a fascinating programme on TLC where Anthony Bourdain visited Chile and, among other things, tucked into a Lomito at the Fuente Alemana.

Liz Caskey January 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Yes! We did the stories and production for that show when they were in Chile. Fuente Alemana and their lomitos are an institution here. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

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