Culinary guide to Spain

Girls eating tapas

Colourful, aromatic and based on natural local ingredients, Spanish cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the world. Although it is dominated by seafood and vegetables, there is plenty of room for meat and sweets. Spaniards are among very few nations that appreciate joint meals, and they are quite lavish when it comes to time spent of slow feasting. Enjoy reading our guide to traditional Spanish food. Be warned though, it can make you really hungry!

Tapas – Spanish dishes for those with a small hunger

One of the first words that come to our mind when we think about Spanish cuisine is tapas, which means light snacks normally served with drinks at Spanish restaurants. The name itself comes from the verb tapar (to cover) and is rooted in an old-days' habit common among Andalusians, who used to cover their glasses of wine with a slice of sausage to prevent flies from landing in the drink. 

Popular Spanish tapas include, among others, patatas bravas, i.e. potatoes fried in deep fat; tortilla española, which is a kind of an omelette with potatoes and other ingredients; small skewers called banderillas; as well as olives, small sandwiches and sausages. Seafood is a separate category altogether. When in Spain, particularly in seaside towns, try squids fried in deep fat. The best octopuses, cooked with paprika and sea salt, are served in the Galicia region in the north of Spain.

Tapas in Spain

Spanish dishes for those with a bigger hunger

As is proper for a country of the South, where summer temperatures can soar unbelievably high, in Spain large dinners are eaten in the evening, and joint feasting often lasts well into the night. Served then are such full-bodied delicacies as paella, a Spanish dish made from chicken or rabbit meat, rice and saffron served on a frying pan; fried pastries called empanadas; fabada, a one-pot stew made from beans, cold meats, onion, bacon and hot peppers; and huevos rotos (literally, broken eggs) – eggs fried on fried on ham and potatoes.

If you happen to visit Spain in summer, you will certainly make friends with gazpacho, a cold soup made from tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic, vinegar and herbs. The ingredients may vary slightly from region to region. For instance, ajo blanco, the Eastern Andalusian version of gazpacho, tomatoes will be replaced with ground almonds, garlic, water, olive oil and bread. Whatever the version, gazpacho is an excellent choice to satiate you hunger and thirst on a scorching day.

Spanish paella

Spanish cuisine for meat eaters

Iberian cuisine offers not only no only light vegetable dishes, but also excellent seafood. It also some meat dishes as well. Unless you are vegetarian, you must try serrano, a dry-cured ham from a pig's leg with a bone. El Valle de los Pedroches in Andalusia's Cordoba Province is famous for the production of serrano. Produced from black Iberian pigs and considered the queen of hams, Jamón ibérico is another Spanish delicacy. With both these hams, it is very important that they are appropriately cut in thin slices. The art of slicing has even got its own name – cortador de jamón – and in exclusive restaurants it is the domain of dedicated ham maestros.

During your culinary journey around Spain, don't forget about chorizo, a traditional pork sausage with the addition of smoked peppers. Its flavour is going to stay with you a long time after you come back from Spain.

Time for dessert and something stronger

Fans of sweet foods will certainly have no reason to complain in Spain. Indeed, it is the country of churros, i.e. a type of long and thin fried dough served with chocolate, not only for dessert, but also for breakfast. Other typical desserts include flan, i.e. baked cream made from eggs and milk covered with a layer of caramel, a slightly similar crema catalana, and the almond flan de Santiago. In the Christmas period, Spanish tables offer turron, a type of nougat confection with nuts and candied fruits and cut in cubes.

What other flavours does Spain have in store? It is, of course, sangria - punch made from red wine, fruits and stronger alcohol. In summer, you can try the increasingly popular tinto de verano, i.e. wine with carbonated lemonade.

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