Typical Spanish foods that are a must!
Spain’s diverse, Mediterranean diet has dishes from all over the country, and here in Andalucía, we are fortunate enough to be able to feast on the foods not typical to the region, to those that are local. Here are a few of the steadfast classics that never fail to impress!
Queso Manchego, also known as “The Cheese of Don Quixote” due to the fact that Cervantes mentioned it in the legendary “Don Quixote de la Mancha”, is a very tasty cheese made of sheep milk. The original Manchego cheese is exclusively prepared in La Mancha region from a specific breed of sheep called “Manchega”, but, it can be found all over Spain.
You will see giant legs of Jamon Serrano and Jamon Ibérico hanging in local tapas bars and shops. Spain is the world’s number one producer of dry cured ham and is still made using century-old techniques. Jamon Ibérico or Iberian ham is made from black Iberian pigs that roam freely on the oak pastures of southwestern Spain, while Serrano ham covers most other varieties.
Enjoy a drink in a delightfully old-school establishment while the bartender cuts you impossibly thin slices of the delicious ham is a great, authentic experience that everyone should try while in Spain!
It may sound simple, but you haven’t tried olives until you’ve tried them in Spain. Olives are central to Spanish cuisine, whether in the form of that beloved all-purpose ingredient, olive oil, or in its original state. You’ll often be served a small bowl of olives before a meal or to accompany a drink—but if you want to sample the best of the best, you’ll find them in a local Spanish market.
PIMIENTOS DE PADRON
This simple and healthy dish is great to share. Most tapas bars in Spain serve these small green peppers fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.
The fun part is that although they’re mostly mild and delicious, occasionally you can come across a very hot one. That’s why the process of eating them is often called the “Spanish Roulette”.
PAN CON TOMATE
Possibly the simplest Spanish dish of all, pan tumaca (or pan con tomate) is nothing but bread, olive oil, salt, and fresh tomato spread. This is the perfect breakfast or merienda (afternoon snack) and can be found all over Spain—but it’s especially famous in Catalonia. One bite and you’ll never look back.
This is the Spanish version of an omelette and made of eggs, potatoes, and onions. After slow frying the potatoes and onions in olive oil, you add the beaten eggs to make a delicious dish. Like any omelette, you can add ingredients to your taste.
Is traditionally served cold and in summer as a refreshing lunch. The classic Gazpacho Andaluz is a delicious tomato soup usually made of tomato, cucumber, onion, stale bread, olive oil, wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Depending on the area of origin, it can be served with croutons, chopped vegetables, ice cubes, and even ham.
Each first week in August, the small town of Alfarnatejo, near Malaga, plays host to a delightful Gazpacho Festival where visitors have the chance to indulge in the iconic Andalusian dish and cheer themselves up with a traditional flamenco show.
GAMBAS AL AJILLO
Usually served as a tapa, Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimps) is easy and one of the tastiest Spanish dishes found in bars and restaurants all over the country but extremely popular in the south of Spain. Quick and easy to prepare, the classic recipe will always include a bit of dry sherry (Vino de Jerez), sweet Spanish paprika, fresh lemon juice, and parsley as well as the shrimps, garlic and olive oil.
This another common tapa you’ll find all over Spain, and each region has their own spin on it and varying amounts of spiciness. Although the sauces may vary, they all consist of chunks of fried potato.
This is possibly the most iconic of all Spanish foods. Paella is a traditional rice dish originating in Valencia. There are three common types of paella: Paella
Valenciana (white rice, vegetables, chicken, duck and rabbit meat, land snails, beans, and spices), Seafood Paella (rice, seafood, and seasoning), and Paella Mixta, which is a mixture usually made of rice, chicken, seafood (including clams), vegetables, olive oil, saffron, and other spices.
Though Spain has many different rice dishes, if you’re looking for something a bit different, try the Arroz Negro. The traditional recipe uses white rice, squid or cuttlefish, seafood broth, olive oil, paprika, onion, and squid ink, which gives it the intense dark colour. Don’t be put off it is well worth a try! It is usually served with allioli (aioli).
ALLIOLI, ALIOLI, AIOLI
Allioli, is a Catalan sauce made with garlic, olive oil, and salt – no eggs at all, while aioli is a Provencal term describing the same garlic and olive oil emulsion. It is served mainly with fish and some rice dishes and you will probably even find you are even dipping your bread in it!
If you happen to spend your vacation in anywhere in Andalusia or Costa del Sol, you should try the grilled fresh fish on the beach. The beaches are equipped with some ingenious boats filled with sand, where the fishermen themselves cook some of the most delicious sardines on burning coals. A nice, healthy, and cheap meal, just perfect for a hot summer day on the beach!
ANCHOVIES AND WHITEBAIT (BOQUERONES)
Spanish anchovies come in many forms from fresh, pickled or fried. If you’re a bit wary, try the deep-fried variety for an easy introduction, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.
Crema Catalan is a fabulous dessert which is always served cold and consists of a creamy custard, infused with lemon rind and cinnamon and a crunchy caramelized topping. A great finish to a meal.
TARTA DE SANTIAGO
This is one of Spain’s most famous cakes: the tarta de Santiago. This traditional dessert is made from flour, butter, almonds, sugar, eggs and lemon. It has an unmistakable nutty flavour and its origin dates back to the sixteenth century. The classic image of this cake is the cross of Santiago.