Sandwich and carb lovers, gather round. When I heard that Pochito, the popular Chilean food stall from Ramsgate Markets had opened up their very own eatery in Mascot I put it on the top of my list to visit. There's a range of classic Chilean sandwiches and Chilean empanadas!
Pochito's mother and daughter team Patricia and Paulina Bustamante come from an extended family that all work in the food industry. Paulina says, "My parents and I emigrated to Australia in the late 80's. My mum grew up in Chilean restaurants, delis, and butcher shops. She is the aunty in the family you know when you come over to her house you will get a great feed with food constantly flowing out of the kitchen."
For those of you unfamiliar with Chilean cuisine Paulina explains, "Most people think Chilean food is Mexican food with tamales and burritos and our food is spicy. Our food is actually not spicy and we don't use much chile at all. People may not know Chilean food is all about great produce, we have some of the best seafood!".
Monica and I both share an unabiding love of a sandwich (don't get us started on Liz Lemon and the Sandwich Day episode of 30 Rock) so I knew exactly who to visit Pochito with.
"The sandwich in Chile is part of the nation and part of the culture. If you ever go to Santiago there is a sandwich shop (Sangucheria) along most of the streets. Chileans love their bread, we have several different sorts of bread which we will always have on the table for breakfast, lunch, dinner and 'once' afternoon tea. Sandwiches are the combination of what we love and enjoy, pork/steak, avocado, mayonnaise (a key ingredient in any sandwich and in any Chilean household)," says Paulina.
When I pull up and walk inside I all the patrons appear to be South American which is a good sign (Monica and I are the only non South Americans). It's a small cafe with a few outdoor tables and some indoor share and single tables and ordering is done at the counter.
Pochito means a moment of post prandial bliss where body and mind are in a happy-drowsy state after a satisfying meal. And yes carbs on a cold and windy winter's day help enormously in that regard.
Monica leaves it up to me to order because we share food brains-we both want to eat the same things. We share a Mote con Huesillo drink, one of the drinks I tried and loved in Chile. It's a peach drink scented with cinnamon with barley at the bottom and a whole sun dried poached peach in it. It's not overly sweet which I like and it's fruity. I think this would be delicious both hot and cold-hot would be a little mulled wine-ish.
We've basically ordered one of almost everything on the menu. We start with the empanadas (and a warning: they do sell out quickly because they are popular). The most popular is the beef empanada with a baked pastry and filled with saucy spiced beef mince, onion, olive and egg. It's warming and delicious especially the filling.
I have to say I love deep fried empanadas a bit more than the baked one because hello deep fried! These are made using a different pastry and we try the four cheese one (cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan and feta), all gooey deliciousness especially when you add a little hot sauce to it for a bit of kick.
The prawn and cheese fried empanada has some garlic and chilli in it as well as tasty, chopped prawn mixture. Next time I'll ask for a bit of pebre (coriander, tomato, onion and garlic salsa) on the side too.
If the beef empanada is the classic empanada, the lomito is the classic sandwich. So what makes a good lomito? "A good lomito starts with the pork. The pork has to be full of flavour, tender and juicy. There's nothing worst then biting into a dry lomito and having to add condiments like mustard," says Paulina. Indeed, their lomito has the softest melt in the mouth oven roasted pork, smashed avocado, tomato, mayonnaise and pebre on a milk bun it is a perfect mix of meat, salad and bread.
There are two completo hot dogs, the original one and an Italian version and we went for the original. The original has a juicy smoked pork frankfurt sausage with sauerkraut, smashed avocado, tomato and mayonnaise. We adore this combination as the sauerkraut and avocado gives the rich sausage a necessary lightness and tang. Paulina explains, "Avocado is life in Chile, and we put it on everything even before the hipsters knew about smashed avo on toast. Avocado is used on most of our sandwiches and even our national hotdog 'El completo'".
The choripan is a simple but delicious hot dog filled with a grilled South American chorizo and pebre on a long roll. It's tasty but I think out of the three sandwiches we really loved the lomito and the complete original the best because of the salad component.
"What do you think that is?" Monica says eyeing the sandwich the woman next to us is eating. After a quick discussion ("Should we get it?" "Yes, we'll take leftovers home to the boys") we head back to the counter to order it along with another sandwich. The soft, warm milk bun is filled with ham off the bone and melted cheese. It's simple but done well and although we've eaten a lot we eagerly finish our quarter portions.
We were just going to have a bite of this. And that Dear Reader is how we ended up convincing ourselves to order the Chemilico too. It's lean rump minute steak, plenty of grilled onion, a free range fried egg on a soft milk bun. The beef is very tender and this is such a tasty breakfast sandwich with a runny yolked egg that spurts out the yolk. "That's very suggestive!" I say.
I have so many memories of eating sopapillas aka pumpkin fritters. There's a salty version as well as a sweet version in a citrus sauce. I like both because they remind me of my travels to Chile. The dessert version isn't overly sweet or citrusy but balanced quite nicely.
It's time for house made sweets and there are two on the counter, a calzone rotos, a biscuit dough that is deep fried with lemon zest. The name means "broken undies" and I guess they are twisted undies. I like the alfajore shortbread sandwich filled with dulce de leche in the centre. It's perfect with a cup of tea.
The tres leches or three milks cake is a sweet, milk soaked sponge. Although South American sweets can be very sweet, I liked that this wasn't overly sweet. There is a layer of fluffy coconut cream on top, berries and edible flowers.
Before we know it, it's 3pm and it's time for them to close. But then people keep streaming in wanting empanadas and food and they accommodate them. We can see why they got so busy that they didn't have time to go back to the markets.
So tell me Dear Reader, Have you ever tried Chilean food? Do you ever see something that someone else is eating and order it? Are you a sandwich lover?
This meal was independently paid for.
1021 Botany Rd, Mascot NSW 2020 Monday & Tuesday closed Wednesday to Friday 8:30am–3pm Saturday 9am–4:30pm Sunday 9am–3pm Phone: 0412 603 100 facebook.com/pochitosydney/