There’s something for everyone in Spain – a country that is more diverse than you can imagine. Food and wine are two things every Spaniard is passionate about. From delicious seafood, tortilla, tapas and paella to delectable sangria, cava and world famous Spanish wines – the food alone is worth the trip to this country.
Spanish cuisine enthralls you with its colors, textures, fragrances and burst of flavors. Each region has its own speciality and taste. Whether you dine at a local earthy bar or a Michelin starred restaurant, you’re in for a gastronomic treat. While discovering its gorgeous towns, sophisticated cities, calm countryside and postcard beaches, don’t forget to explore the culture that is hidden in their kitchens. Spanish cooking is fairly simple that involves the use of minimum spices and condiments so as to bring out natural flavors. Most people follow traditional recipes that have been handed down through generations.
Ma Purificación Hernández Gajate, Chancellor – Consulate of Spain in Mumbai says, “Good food is a way of life in Spain. We prepare special foods for every occasion – be it a birthday, anniversary, festival or any kind of celebration. Here, food brings people closer. Even though the country is small, the diversity of food is very big.”
So no matter how many museums you’ve set foot in or how many markets you’ve visited, you don’t really know Spain until you’ve got a taste of its local food. Here’s a list you cannot miss:
Considered to be the national dish of Spain, Paella is a rice preparation, available all over the country that can be enjoyed either as a starter or as a main dish. Traditionally, it is served in a large shallow pan with rice, chicken, saffron, seafood, olive oil and beans. However, if you want to try an authentic, flavorful and aromatic version, there is no better place than Valencia! Valencians regard this dish as an identifying symbol as it originated there. Though there are many variations available all over, the original one is called paella Valenciana.
You can’t leave Spain without trying its world famous Spanish tapa! It’s like visiting London and not seeing the Big Ben or visiting Dubai and missing out on the Burj Khalifa. You just cannot! Tapas are little meals/appetizers that can be enjoyed anywhere at any time. Though small in size, they are packed with flavors. Be it sweet, spicy, tangy or savory – there’s a myriad variety to choose from. Patatas bravas, chopitos, croquetas are some of the most famous Spanish tapas.
Bocadillo con Tortilla:
In Spain, you are sure to find various forms of tortilla – some with a thick texture while some others that are thinner. However, the traditional Spanish tortilla is made with potatoes, onions, eggs, olive oil, salt and pepper. It is an easy to prepare dish that can either be enjoyed as a Spanish omlette – tortilla de patatas or tucked into two slices of bread and served warm and crusty as a Spanish omlette sandwich – bocadillo con tortilla. It is easily available in almost every bar and is extremely popular all over the country. Madrid, however, is known for its bocadillo’s – most famous ones being the squid bocadillo and the ham and cheese one.
Gambas al Ajillo:
Perhaps the most common tapa in Spain, gambas al ajillo or garlic shrimp is mainly admired in the south and centre of the country as it is cheap, easy-to-make and delicious. Fresh prawns doused in garlic, olive oil and chilli peppers make this dish a luscious and satisfying one, best enjoyed with a chilled glass of vino. Garlic and chilli pepper infused olive oil when coated on the shrimp bring out all the natural flavors that make it absolutely irresistible. Buen provecho!
A world famous cold soup, originally from the southern region of Andalusia in Spain, Gazpacho is ideally served in summer months because it is nutritious and refreshing. Blended with tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and served with croutons and ice cubes, it is perfect for a hot sunny day.
A smoked pork sausage seasoned with chilli and paprika, Spanish chorizo is easily available fresh, dried or in a semi-dried form. It’s the Pimentón – smoked Spanish paprika that lends its distinctive red color and smoky flavor. Available at most supermarkets or delis in two variations – spicy (picante) and sweet (dulce), chorizos are undeniably mouthwatering and can be enjoyed in any savory dish, slow-cooked stew, pasta or on a baguette with cheese – recipes are limitless.
Spain’s Basque Country has become a destination for epicureans. The region boasts of almost 40 Michelin starred restaurants that serve Basque cuisine that is considerably unique and different from traditional Spanish cuisine. What makes it stand out is the use of seasonal top quality produce and fresh ingredients sourced from the Cantabrian Sea (fish & seafood), local farms and gardens. A quintessential Basque dish includes Salt Cod in various forms and peppers to be enjoyed with a Sidra (cider) or Txakoli (white wine). Pintxos are another distinguishing feature of Basque cuisine popular at all their restaurants and bars. They are small plates of skewered foods, served with various toppings (combinations are endless) – bite-sized, quick, and easy to prepare even at home. Marmitako, a Basque fish stew prepared with freshly caught tuna, potatoes, tomatoes, spices and peppers is also a must-try.
Horchata de Chufa:
Made from tigernuts (chufas), water and sugar, horchata is Spain’s most loved beverage. It is super healthy (minus the sugar) and energizing so even if you’re vegan or lactose-intolerant, you can surely try this! Tigernuts or chufas are grown in the fields of Alboraya, a small village near Valencia, well known for its top-quality horchata. It is usually served ice-cold with fartons – an elongated, spongy sweet pastry, glazed with sugar, best enjoyed when dipped in a horchata.
If you’re looking for a sweet treat, these long, fried, sugary-sprinkled dough sticks are ubiquitous with Spain. Dunk them in a cup of creamy hot Spanish chocolate and you’re in for an indulgent treat. History has it that they were invented by Spanish shepherds since the fried dough was easy to make in the mountains. It is a typical Spanish breakfast delicacy that usually comes in two types – a thinner and knotted variety popular in cities like Madrid and Barcelona and a thicker type famous in Andalusia (also known as Porras).
Sidra or cider flows like a river in Spain. Drop in to any sidrerias and you’ll see Spaniards filling glass after glass. Made from wild apples, Cider is a living drink, fermented with wild yeast. It keeps developing as it is not pasteurized, filtered or undergoing any other process. Every sip that you have from a fresh barrel will taste different each time you have it. There’s a particular way of serving this drink, which is best experienced at restaurants in Asturia where locals drink more than 14 gallons of cider. Your hands are meant to be as far apart from each other as possible while pouring it from the bottle to the glass. Servers are certified to do this without spilling even a drop on the ground. If you’re in Spain, this should surely be on your priority list.
For more details on Spain, log onto http://www.spain.info/