The Sagrada Familia and the Alhambra have their own allure, sure, but it’s a fact that no experience was ever made worse with a second dessert in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Every traveller has faced the question. The question that challenges your resolve, your frailty, your strength-of-will over your bodily limits: “Am I too full to eat that?”
Sitting in a café, with a serving-for-three for one, pants unbuttoned, and wiping chocolate from your chin as you struggle to breathe through your food sweats…can you finish the last churro? How full is too full? Could you bring yourself to throw away something so delicious? Have you ever been one to back down from a challenge?
A journey through Spain is a culinary experience as much as it is a cultural one. Here are our eight unmissable Spanish eats from around the country.
Essentially fried doughnut tubes, these beautifully simple snacks are best sprinkled in cinnamon and sugar or dipped in warm melted chocolate. A treat for every occasion (and easy to share… or so we hear anyway) the best churros are fresh and warm – don’t get caught out buying from just any café. The best churros are usually from churrerias that specialise in their craft, churning out churros as quickly as they’re being scoffed down.
Pulpo a gallega
A specialty of Galicia, pulpo, or octopus, is some of the freshest seafood you’ll find on the northern coast. Simply pan-fried with paprika, and maybe with potatoes, it’s a common tapas dish that is popular all over the country. If crispy fried calamari is more your jam, calamares fritos is a beautifully battered alternative. Seafood fanatics, take note: if it comes out of the ocean, you’ll find the best of it here.
Your simple and staple tapas. Add egg, potato, onion, salt and enough oil to drown your holiday body aspirations, and there you have it – the Spanish omelette. Sold literally anywhere, it’s good hot or cold, easy to grab, keeps in a sandwich, and you can chuck in your bag for a busy traveller’s lunch on the run.
Unmissable in any Spanish grocery or jamóneria, you’ll identify this particular meat as the giant legs hanging from ceilings by their hooves. An off-putting sight to some *represses childhood memory of being chased around with a foot by one’s brother*, this delicious cured ham can be incorporated into countless dishes, but holds its own when eaten simply with fresh bread and olive oil. Jamón Serrano is the more affordable, more readily available of the jamóns, while your pata negras and jamón ibéricos rank at the top of the quality and price chart. When your pigs are free range and fed entirely on acorns, those pampered babies will sell for a pretty penny (up to €150+ per kilo!).
Chorizo is popular cured pork sausage that is one of the most beloved Spanish delicacies exported outside of Spain. Eaten by itself, in sandwiches, and atop everything from pizza to paella, it’s a punch of smoky flavour that comes in every variety imaginable. For the more adventurous palettes, you have morcilla. Think of it as Spain’s answer to the question no one asked, “where’s the blood pudding?”
Where you’ve got red wine and hot weather, you’re going to have sangria. A combo of wine, juice, fresh fruit and sugar, it’s no surprise sangria is such a popular summer drink. Synonymous with Spanish culture, sangria’s popularity is also the reason we can end up paying more for the good stuff than we would for a great bottle of wine. Be warned – when demand drives prices up, places with especially high numbers of sangria-drinking tourists can charge incredible amounts for a drink that is reasonably cheap and easy to make. Be wary of how much you’re paying for watered down drinks to avoid spending €15 on a pitcher of glorified OJ.
Popular around the holiday season in December, but easy to find any time of the year, turrón is a nutty nougat that can be either soft and chewy, turrón blando, or tough like peanut brittle, turrón duro. It’s a sweet treat that is great to fit in your backpack for presents to take home.
Proudly originating in Valencia, the rest of Spain took paella and ran with it, mixing what was traditionally a seafood dish with inland meats and, thus, giving life to the mixed paella. If you peer into any kitchen or street markets cooking paella, you’ll see the bathtub sized pans it’s cooked on and understand the notion that this dish is definitely made to be shared.
Every day in Spain is a food tour. Traditional foods tell a story of culture and history, and offer an unforgettable adventure that travelling through Spain would be incomplete without.
And always, ALWAYS, eat that last churro.
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