“Touring around countries is one thing. Eating their famous foods is another. Both go hand-in-hand and where one fails to do the other, it is highly incomplete.” – Carey Thomas John
Spanish cuisine is as rich and varied as the country itself. It boasts quality ingredients, excellence in cooking, and wise old traditions. To define Spanish cuisine in terms of food, think olives, extra virgin olive oil, fresh vegetables, garlic, chicken, fish, seafood, Iberian cured meats, and great wine. All this sums up the essence of the main gastronomic ingredients of Spain.
Every place you go will have its own local dishes. The most famous is probably paella (originally from the region of Valencia). The most popular tapa in the country could be tortilla de patatas—potato omelette.
The best-known casserole-type dishes include cocido and fabada. Tender roast meats are popular, such as cochinillo (suckling pig) and lamb known as ternasco in Aragon and cordero elsewhere. Some of the most notable seafood dishes include the little fried fishes or pescaíto frito of southern Spain, and pulpo a la gallega (octopus with paprika).
If you’re visiting in summer, a refreshing gazpacho or salmorejo is a must. The following are a few dishes tourists usually try out in Spain:
1. Paella valenciana
Paella is perhaps the most famous Spanish dish of all, and certainly one of the most abused. Authentic paella originates from the region around Valencia. It comes in two varieties: paella Valenciana with rabbit and chicken and seafood paella. Saffron gives the rice its colour, and the base should be left to crisp into a mouth-watering black crust, called the socarrat. It is always eaten at lunchtime.
2. Patatas bravas
The potatoes are cubed and shallow fried and are served the same everywhere. The sauce can come in a number of ways, from spicy ketchup to garlic mayonnaise with a dusting of pimiento (smoked paprika), or both.
This tomato-based Andalusian soup is most famous for being served cold. This can be quite a shock for those who aren’t expecting it, but in the searing heat of a Seville summer, the attraction becomes clear.
4. Pimientos de padron
A common dish on tapas menus, pimientos de padron are green peppers that hail originally from the town of that name in Galicia, in Spain’s lush, rainy northwest. Pimientos de Padron is fried and served with a deep sprinkling of salt. Although generally sweet and mild, their fame stems from the fact that the occasional pepper will be fiery hot—lending a Russian Roulette element of surprise to eating them.
Less well known to tourists, fideuà is a type of Spanish pasta similar to vermicelli. It’s popular in Catalonia and Valencia in seafood dishes that rival paella for their taste and intricacy. Fideuà is typically cooked in a paella dish.