By Brooke Herron
If you’re like most of us you’ve dreamed of going to or have visited Spain at some point in your life. And who are we kidding–a big part of the reason we’re obsessed with the country is what we’ve heard about how good the food is right?
But what we think we know about Spanish food before we arrive in Spain turns out to be either plain wrong (nope Spaniards do not eat a lot spicy food, this is a surprise to many people; especially those from heavily Latin American influenced countries) or is just a tiny piece of the much larger and more delicious puzzle.
There are too many regional specialties in Spain to cover them all in one post but here are seven (in alphabetic order) to get your mouth watering, that you may or may not have been familiar with before this post.
A huge pot of soupy rice cooked with an entire lobster in it for hours so the rice soaks up all the lobster juice goodness. Well, that’s the short version anyways–and what more needs to be said? You had me at “lobster.”
This is a dish that should be had in a restaurant (and only restaurants which specialize in rice dishes or this dish in particular–there are many places to order this in the region of Galicia) as it’s incredibly time consuming and requires a super heavy cauldron type pot that most people don’t have hanging around their kitchens these days.
Bocadillos de Calamare:
Fried rings of calamari on a huge white bread roll? Typical Spanish cuisine? Yup that’s right. Madrileños (natives of Madrid) love their bocadillos de calamare, this “dish” is one of the most typical things to eat when visiting the capital city, which you know already if you have been to Madrid and hung out with any locals.
Belly up to the bar at one of the spots renowned for their version of this crispy seafood hoagie and don’t forget to order una cerveza to wash it down.
Flame grilled onions. No seriously, this is the dish. You might think barbecued onions don’t sound very exciting but these sweet, char-grilled onions, roasted over a flame stoked with grapevine clippings, are really important in Catalonia. So, if you are visiting Barcelona, or even more importantly if you decide to live or study in Barcelona, you will likely find yourself noshing on these deliciously simple, somewhat visibly bedraggled yet mouth smackingly enjoyable little scallions more than once.
Don’t miss the opportunity to attend a calçotada, or barbecued onion feast, which run from January through Spring and happen all over the region.
Cochinillo is a dish of roast suckling pig. Or, more specifically, an entire suckling pig that has been roasted slowly until its skin is cracker-crunchy and the meat is so tender it falls apart at a touch (no knife needed!). This is a specialty that will certainly cause vegetarians anywhere within view to cringe as it arrives at your table so best to leave your veg friends at home if you plan to sample this regional delicacy.
Cochinillo is a Castilla-Leon specialty and Segovia, Arevalo, and Penaranda de Bracamonte (in the region of Castilla-Leon) are also known for being the best destinations in which to sample it. These cities are full of restaurants specializing in the dish and streets are permanently filled with the heady, smoky aromas of young pork being prepared in huge ovens.
A simple Andalusian dish consisting of a base of tomatoes, cucumbers (sometimes), peppers, garlic, olive oil, and bread served cold with different toppings to taste. This is a go-to dish in Andalusia during the summer and a nice respite from other heavier dishes that stay on the menu all year long. Bonus: You can make it easily at home. Why not try it out with these preparation guidelines?
Translated literally as “wrinkled potatoes” this dish is typical in the Canary Islands and is served with either a red or a green mojo sauce of varying levels of spiciness. This is one of the few dishes I’ve ever eaten in Spain that can be actually spicy (though still not very spicy for me, a Californian used to eating Mexican salsas and lots of spicy Thai food).
The potatoes are boiled with lots of salt and then dried over heat after removing the water until they are wrinkly.
The basic ingredients for mojo sauce are peppers (red or green depending on preference), garlic, cumin, paprika, vinegar and oil. Do try this at home.
THE dish of Galicia! I have never been anywhere in Galicia that did not have pulpo! There are two main ways pulpo is served: A Feira or a la plancha. The former is the most common way Galicians serve it. The octopus is steamed and served on a round wooden platter with boiled potatoes and seasoned with paprika.
Pulpo is something locals most often go out to restaurants to eat-and the best pulpo is almost always found at pulperias!
Californian, 15-year wine industry professional, and lover of off-the-beaten-path destinations, Brooke Herron is now a local in Europe thanks to dual passports, a Spanish fiancee and a love for all things European. Her focus is on finding better ways to connect with locals while traveling and experiencing thing beyond the typical must-see sites. When she’s not working on marketing and social media projects for clients, freelance writing, or posting on her blog, you can find Brooke hiking, drinking good wine, or somewhere near an ocean.