I present to you a culinary variable problem:
Where can I buy X in Chile? Now solve for X.
The parade of people who ask the question, “Where can I buy X” in Santiago is constant. Products that seem overpriced or unavailable at supermarkets are available cheaply, if you know where to look.
The following questions, commonly asked by newcomers, visitors and frustrated bakers and cooks, can all be answered in one word.
Where can I buy brown sugar?
Where can I get cumin seeds?
Where can I get the best price on walnuts?
Who has pecans?
Does anyone sell “real” hazelnuts?
Do I really have to pay four dollars for a bag popcorn kernels? Isn’t there an alternative?
In answer, I have one word for you.
A tostaduria is what I call a “dry goods shop.” I have no idea if we actually use that term in English, but it pretty much explains what it sells. Peanuts, almonds, walnuts, raisins, candied fruit, candied ginger, dried pears, various sizes of TVP (carne de soya), etc. Depending on the store, they may sell harina tostada, café en grano (whole coffee beans), or may even grind it for you.
Here’s a quick roundup of major (and a couple of minor) tostadurias you might pop by to build up your baking, trail mix or other supplies.
Near the corner of Puente/21 de Mayo and San Pablo, on San Pablo, about three locales in from the corner, on the right, no sign, but they have a display window with some of their goods. This is the most traditional of the lot. Go up to the register, say what you want, get a chit, take the chit to the caja to pay, and then go back to the counter and try to remember what you ordered. They have some pretty odd stuff, including bluing for laundry. They will do bulk orders if you order in advance and give you a lower price, i.e. for soy milk or coffee. Standout product: Medjool (or similar, unpitted) dates, and sweetened, condensed soy milk (have not tried, but seems like a lifesaver for the milk-averse). Items are pre-bagged in portions (30 grams of spices, 1/4 – 1 kilo for other items).
Miraflores 308 (near Huérfanos)
Tobalaba 2051 (near Bilbao)
Portugal 1801 (nearish Grecia/Estadio Nacional)
A few locations, including near Huérfanos and Bilbao near Tobalaba. Bagged goods, most of which you can peruse on your own (not behind the counter). A good source for soy milk, but slightly more expensive than above, also european hazelnuts in season. Added bonus, they deal with the US embassy concession, as the last time I was in for passport rigamarole, I noted a bag of Tostaduria Talca salted peanuts in the vending machine. I have not been to the location at Portugal 1801, but if anyone has and would like to opine, you’re welcome to.
Two locations, one on Avda. Matta 912 (centro, nearish Parque O’Higgins), the other at El Bosque Norte 032, a few steps in from Apoquindo, on the left hand side. The store on Matta is quite a bit bigger, but they seem to have about the same goods. Good source for brown sugar (drier and coarser than what you know from the states, but still a good taste equivalent). They were one of the first places to reliably get pumpkin seeds (pepitas), but those are now more commonly-found. They also have that big “maíz salado” (like corn nuts) that show up in Peruvian restaurants as a snack sometimes. They’re open to carrying different products, so if there’s something you want, at the Matta store (the main one), you can ask, and see what they can get.
Frutos del País
Providencia 1148 Most everything sold in bulk (not bagged), including dog food, so don’t go here if you’re easily bothered by such things. In season they have unshelled pecans for a reasonable price, and they have a bunch of different kinds of candied fruits facing the street. There is rumored to be another location at Bilbao, but I have not been there.
Irrarazaval 2907-A. Probably the largest, and most likely place to buy items in bulk, as in unbagged. They are happy for you to come with your own bags or containers, and buy in any quantity. Good selection, good prices, and more convenient to Ñuñoa than most. They have a good selection of Middle Eastern foods, such as tahini and the elusive (and horribly overpriced throughout Chile) red lentils, and bulk teas, bulk spices, and many different types of flours, almond, gram, etc.
Cuarto Centennario 1038 Local 3. I have not been to this one, but I imagine they have the same products available as at the Irrarazaval store. If someone wants to report back, that would be great.
On Huérfanos, a block or two before the Sta Isabel (about 4 blocks east of the norte-sur). This is a small one, but they roast their own peanuts, often have porotos pallares (white butter beans, hard to find!), and will sell tiny quantities of snackables without grimacing. They sell more basics, less odd stuff like stevia or ground linseeds, but what they do have is good quality to price ratio.
Near the Vega, Artesanos 801, on a corner. A German-owned tostaduría, very tidy and clean, with some hard-to-find items (caraway seeds, for example). Prices higher than some, and a 100g minimum for everything, but can fill directly into jars instead of bags. Someone comes around the store with you and helps you, as opposed to standing at a counter and jostling for attention.
If you know of any other tostadurias you think are worth a visit, leave a comment, and I’ll include it and credit you for the information. Almost all of these stores are open normal business hours, close by 7 or 8, and are open only half a day on Saturdays. Closed Sundays.
There are also other locales in the Vega, but that’s for another post. Happy snacking/hiking/baking/money-saving!