By Stephen Bugno
What to Eat When You’re Visiting Spain and Where to Find It
Food is definitely one of the highlights of Spain and the regional diversity only makes criss-crossing the country a real culinary pleasure. There are certain specialties that you shouldn’t miss while visiting. From the dry, distinctively Spanish region of Andalucía to green hills and rugged coastline of Galicia, here are my top ten favorite foods from Spain:
Jamon is dry cured ham, thinly sliced from the bone. The pure bread Iberian pig, cerdo iberico, spends a lifetime freely roaming the countryside eating fallen acorns to produce the first-rate, highly sought after variety which can be extremely expensive. Where: Extremadura, in southwestern Spain. The town of Monesterio has a Dia del Jamon (Jamon Day) every year during the first week of September.
The rice-based dish synonymous with Spanish cuisine often includes some combination of mussels, shrimp, chicken, rabbit, green beans, butter beans, snails, artichokes, and a subtle saffron taste. Although genuine paella Velenciana doesn’t mix meat and fish. Try it in the province of Valencia, specifically in the towns of Perellonet or El Palmar.
The Spanish omelet is made from simple ingredients: potatoes, onions, and eggs, prepared on the stovetop. The perfect light meal or snack anytime of day. Where to eat it: any bar in Spain.
Pulpo a la Gallega
Galician Octopus is traditionally cooked in a big copper vat and served on a wooden plate sprinkled with salt and drizzled with olive oil. Find pulpo anywhere in the seafood-rich region of Galicia, in northwest Spain. Wash it down with the young, fresh, cloudy white wine: Ribeiro, a local favorite.
Chorizo is a flavorful and sometimes spicy pork sausage that Spain takes seriously. It gets its deep red color from dried smoked red peppers. Chorizo is eaten everywhere across Spain, but if you get a chance, try it in Cantimpalos, in the province of Segovia, where it is especially good and cured with paprika.
Served chilled, gazpacho is a refreshing soup from the southern region of Andalucía made with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, oil, vinegar, garlic, and salt. Sample it throughout the region because recipes differ within Andalucía.
Pimentos de Padron
Small, shallow-fried green peppers served whole and sprinkled with sea salt. Where to eat them: ideally in Padron, but anywhere in Galicia in the summer is a fine place to try them. If you’ve just finished walking the Camino de Santiago, enjoy pimentos de Padron in Santiago de Compostela. ¡Ten Quidado—one in ten is supposedly hot!
Dunk these ribbed fried dough rings in coffee for a Spanish breakfast. Or many consider them best eaten with thick, rich chocolate in the morning after a long night of drinking and dancing at the clubs. Where: anywhere in Spain, preferably at a churraria.
Although many varieties of empanada can be found throughout South and Central America, this stuffed pastry is originally from Galicia. The Galician variety is usually prepared with cod, chicken, or some variety of shellfish, and baked into a pie with peppers and onions. Find empanada anywhere in Galicia.
Sopa de Ajo
Originally a poor person’s soup, you can now find sopa de ajo in finer restaurants. Made from frying bread in lots of garlic and sprinkled with paprika, the stock is added and complemented with beaten eggs. Where to try it: the region of Castilla.
Stephen Bugno attended both Pueblo Ingles and Vaughn Town in the summer of 2008 and remained in Spain for another nine months teaching English. For more than a decade he has worked, volunteered, and traveled his way around the world. He blogs at BohemianTraveler.com