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Spanish Food 100
A tourist remembers a place he visited by his taste buds. Spain is a gastronomic paradise because it offers the tourist incredible choices of food to eat and wine to drink. The tourist who wants to learn should try the following food that is very typical of Spain.
1. Pata Negra
Pata Negra is a ham from a pig which has black hoofs (pata negra), that comes from an Iberian pig that is native to Spain. The pigs are descendants of native Iberian wild boar. It is the most famous and most exquisite of foods that the Spanish treasure!
If you have the good luck of traveling in the province of Huelva in Andalusia or the provinces of Extremadura, you will notice that you will be passing many oak forests. The trees are not dense because the farmers trim the trees and allow only a certain number of trees per hectare. This allows the sunlight to get through and makes the trees healthier. The pigs that roam in these oak forests feast on the acorns of the trees that fall on the ground and each pig is given so much land to live on. The pigs are fattened during fall with 10 kilos of acorns a day and they gain 1 kilo of weight daily. They have exercise walking through the forest and this produces a lean ham. You will notice that there are armed guards patrolling the forests with the pigs. The pigs are worth a fortune and the guards are there to protect them from robbers!
After the pigs are killed, they are salted and cured in mountain caves for two years or more. The hams lose their fat and are converted into low cholesterol ham, good for the health (scientifically proven). Eating the ham lowers your cholesterol.
When the ham reaches market, it is marbled with golden fat and has the flavor of nuts, coming from the acorns the pigs eat. The ham is sliced paper thin when it is sold. The Spanish treasure this food over every other food and consider this the food of the gods! The best producers of this ham have waiting lists that are several years.
Jabugo is the town in Extremadura that is the most famous town for this ham. A leg of ham in Spain of Jabugo costs 400 euros. You do not have to buy a whole leg to try it. Go to your nearest bar and ask if they have it, so you can just try a sandwich of it. Otherwise, go to the El Corte Ingles Department Store supermarket, where they have a supermarket and just buy 100 grams of the ham. Then buy some bread and make a sandwich!
2. Spanish Tortilla
The Spanish tortilla is not the Mexican tortilla, which is made from corn flour and made into a thin pancake before being roasted in an oven. Citizens of the USA are the people most confused with this food, since they are next to Mexico and have many fast food Mexican restaurants in the USA.
No, the Spanish tortilla, or omelette is made with potatoes, eggs and sometimes onion. The potatoes are peeled, sliced into thin strips, and then cooked in olive oil with finely chopped onion. When the potatoes are soft, beated eggs are introduced into the frying pan. When one side is done, the mixture is flipped over so that the other side cooks. The flipping is the hard part and is usually done by placing a plate over the pan and inverting it. There are variations, such as introducing little pieces of ham or shrimp, or both. Every bar has its own recipe. When you go to the bar, ask for a serving of the tortilla (una porcion). You do not have to order the whole tortilla because it is usually very big. Some tortillas measure more than 2 inches in height.
When you go back to your own country, perhaps you will try to make your own tortilla. There is an easy way so that you do not have to flip the tortilla. Flipping is quite difficult and one needs to have experience. After you have added the beaten eggs, just put your frying pan in the oven and bake it!
Go to a good Spanish restaurant and order the paella. Usually two people must order it and it takes about an hour to prepare it. You want to order the mixed paella (chicken or (and) pork and seafood paella), which usually has a variety of seafood, such as shrimp and oysters, and meat such as chicken, pork and beef. The ingredients are usually cooked with olive oil and then the water and rice are added, together with the saffron and the yellow coloring, and perhaps some spices and salt. There may be other ingredients, such as red pepper. Every restaurant has its own recipe. The food is prepared on a shallow flat pan (You may want to buy one while you are in Spain. Look for a pan lined with Teflon so that you do not have to spend time cleaning the pan).
Many restaurants in tourist areas sell pre-cooked paella which is mass-produced and reheated in a microwave oven. Be aware - they are nothing like the real thing! If a restaurant has a board outside offering many different types of paella, they are certainly pre-cooked.
Gazpacho is a type of soup that originally came from Andalusia, the southern part of Spain. It was made by workers in the fields by mixing stale bread, garlic, salt, water, olive oil and vinegar in a wooden bowl. If they were lucky enough to have tomatoes, they would add them too. Today gazpacho is a soup that is popular all over the world and is served in restaurants all over Spain, each restaurant having its own recipe.
Gazpacho is served chilled with ice during summer, because it is
very refreshing and very healthy. In parts of Andalucia you can get
the hot version, which is very comforting in winter months.
In Andalusia, they have a variation called Ajo Blanco (white garlic), which is made with almonds, bread, garlic, vinegar and olive oil.
5. Bacalao a La Vizcaina ( Biscayan Cod)
Bacalao is dried and salted cod. The cod is allowed to soak overnight in water to remove the salt. The recipe includes potatoes, chick peas, sweet red peppers, tomatoes, and green olives. The recipe comes from Vizcaya, a Basque province in the north of Spain. The Basques have the fame of being the best cooks of Spain and they have reason to have this fame!
6. Gambas al Ajillo (Sauteed Garlic Prawns)
This recipe calls for a lot of garlic, olive oil, salt, chile and paprika. There are many variations. The prawns are spicy and wonderful and are sautéed in olive oil with the other ingredients. Many times the prawns are cooked in their shells. This is served all over Spain.
7. Cochinillo Asado (Roast Suckling Pig)
The cochinillo is one of Spain’s gastronomic wonders. The best cochinillo comes from Segovia, where they have a special company that coddles the pigs since they are born. They are fed a very special diet so that they will taste wonderfully when they are roasted. To try it in Madrid, go to El Botin. If you go to Segovia, go to Restaurante Jose Maria near the Cathedral.
8. Manchego Cheese
Manchego cheese is made in the middle of Spain, near Madrid, in Castilla-La Mancha. The cheese is made from the milk of a special type of sheep, called Entrefino. The sheep eat the rest of the grain harvest, as well as local plants that give the cheese its very unique flavor. Manchego is a special denomination that covers this area of Spain only. The cheese is slightly salty and is usually eaten with pata negra. It can be bought at any deli or any bar.
9. Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician Octopus)
The recipe comes from Galicia, but it can be tried all over Spain. The octopus is cooked with garlic, salt, and olive oil. Do not worry, because you will not recognize that it is octopus. The tentacles are cut up into small pieces and you will not know what it is! The best place to try this is Santiago de Compostela or La Coruña, but try it anywhere in Spain if you cannot go to the source!
10. Fritura Malagueña or Pescadito Frito (Fried Fish)
These are the typical dishes from Malaga and Andalusia. Pescadito Frito consists of any fish that is deep fried in olive oil, and slightly salted. This dish is usually eaten with the fingers, to debone it. The “Fritura Malagueña” is a variety that usually has sardines, shrimp, salmonetes, calamares, and chopitos. If you do not like to debone fish, ask for rosada, which is a large flat fish without bones.
In Cádiz, you will often see the word "Pescadito" written as "Pescaito". This is because in the local dialect, they leave out the letter D before the O at the end of a word!
11. Ribera del Duero Wine
Ribera del Duero is a special denomination of the wine growing along the Duero River in Castilla and Leon. The river is bounded by the cities of Burgos, Soria, Segovia, and Valladolid. This wine is the trendiest wine in Spain and the favorite wine also. It uses the red grape Tempranillo and is a wine that ages well. Anyone who visits Spain and does not try this wine has missed half of his journey of discovery!
12. Wines of Jerez
Jerez is the sherry wine produced around the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de la Barrameda, in Andalusia. This is known as the "sherry triangle" and is located in the province of Cadiz. Sherry is fortified with brandy, so it is stronger than table wine. Jerez was producing wine since the times of the Phoenicians. It continued under the reign of the Romans. When the Moors came, its production was allowed. There are 6 types of sherry, but the most popular is the “Fino”, the dry sherry. It must be served ice-cold. The other sherry wines are manzanilla (similar to fino and produced only in Sanlucar, where it is traditionally served with seafood), amontillado, oloroso, palo cortado, and a very sweet sherry known as Pedro Ximénez (PX), produced from the grape of the same name. The locals often drink a mixture of fino and PX, which is the basis of the blended drink known as "cream sherry" popular in the United Kingdom.
At local fairs or "ferias", people drink a long drink made with fino, lemonade and ice known as rebujito. This is often served in jugs (jarras) and shared amongst friends.
13. Malaga Wine
The wine made in Malaga is of the sweet variety. It is a fortified wine made from Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel grapes. This is a wonderful dessert wine that has been made in Malaga for ages and is now a favorite of connoisseurs. At present you can buy it in any wine store in Spain. If you have the good luck of going to Malaga, go to the white town of Frigiliana, where you can buy several bottles at one of the main sources of this particular wine.
14. Chocolate Covered Figs
This delicacy comes from Extremadura. As the name suggest, the figs are covered with chocolate and are one of Spain’s best delicacies. Go to the El Corte Ingles store and go to the section that sells chocolates. This is a good present to bring home!
The foods and wines you tried are the essence of Spain, the most representative Spanish foods. Every region of Spain has its own delicacies and trying them is the most wonderful way of enjoying your trip.