Spain is incredible, and I mean that even though I strongly dislike it’s party culture. I don’t know about you, but when teenagers stumble through the door between 4 AM and 10 AM in the morning drunk on calimocho (Coca-Cola and wine), high off of I don’t know what, or drunk and high at the same flippin’ time, it kind of drives me up the wall. I’ll let that go for now though and focus on some of the most popular and typical Spanish foods to try in this post.
First of all, HOLY MACARONI. Everything tastes good in Spain. Well, except gazpacho. It’s cold and way too peppery and somewhat overrated. Well, at least the kind that you can pour out of a carton and buy from the supermarket. Spaniards say that el gazpacho andaluz is something else though, so it doesn’t hurt to give it a shot. Still, if you don’t try it, you’re not missing much. Tranquilo.
Remember how I said I’d let the partying go though? Just give me another minute. Because as far as Spanish (alcoholic) beverages go, I have nothing to say about them, and I've never cared to try them. That’s right, study abroad people: you all could learn something. So if anyone’s wondering how a sangria or a Spanish cerveza (beer) or a mojito tastes, I GENUINELY DON’T KNOW. That’s a question for Google.
Now back to the food. If you’ve ever been to a tapas restaurant in the United States, and you don’t live in New York (La Boquería), Washington D.C. (José Andrés-owned restaurants), or a region heavily populated by Spaniards, I can almost bet that you’ve never had authentic Spanish food. Sorry. I live in Chicago, and even though the city’s humongo, I still haven't stumbled across slightly-better-than-edible Spanish cuisine.
Then again, maybe you could say that about any cuisine. I don’t know. It depends on how particular you are about the food you eat, I guess.
So what have you heard about Spanish gastronomy? What have you tried? Most people will recommend that you try Spanish tapas, but I'll tell you right now that that’s a pretty general recommendation because there are HUNDREDS of tapa dishes.
*I'm not sure how many people know this, but Spaniards don’t typically eat tapas for lunch. They usually order tapas at a restaurant bar when they sit down for an afternoon snack and an ice-cold cerveza before dinner. That's why traditional tapas come in small portions.
Let's start with the most typical tapas. Even if you know close to nothing about Spanish cuisine, you’ve probably heard of la tortilla de patata (Spanish omelet), patatas bravas, and croquetas (croquettes). They're all considerably well-known, and they’re delicious.
La tortilla de patata can easily be made at home with the right recipe (and a mayonnaise and ketchup dip if you’re looking to spice things up), las patatas bravas is a dish you’ll probably order no matter what if you’re in Spain or at a Spanish restaurant (even though I ONLY like the patatas from La Mejillonera), and croquetas are croquetas—the Spanish kind, not the French. There’s really nothing else to say about them. They’re delicious, and the jamón y queso (ham & cheese) ones are always at the top of someone's list.
Then there’s Spanish seafood. I’m not even a seafood person, and I still eat everything when I'm in Spain: salmon, sardines, mussels, shrimp, cod, squid, octopus, calamari, EVERYTHING.
As with any country, the different regions of Spain have their own specialties. Every region is famous for something: a dish, a fruit, a vegetable, olives, olive oil, ham, seafood, or some other commodity.
If you’re ever in Galicia, try Pulpo a la Gallega. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s the best octopus I’ve ever had, and it’s to die for.
If you’re ever in Valencia, order a paella valenciana to share. I hear you can’t leave Spain without having a genuinely delectable seafood paella (or a vegetarian one if you’re not into seafood). Just remember that good paella is hard to come by. I warned you, so do your research beforehand.
If you’re ever in the west of Spain near Madrid, visit the ham museum and try some ham. Prices correspond to the quality of the ham, so don't be surprised or outraged by how expensive a few slices of jamón can be.
My favorites are jamón serrano, jamón ibérico, chorizo, longaniza, and salchichón. Fuet is another popular one, but I've never been all that crazy about it.
Oh, and if you’re ever in ANY part of Spain, order el flan de huevo for dessert because it is phenomenal. If it tastes anything like the one my host mom makes (and you like eggs), you're sure to enjoy it.
To be fair though, it's kind of hard for Spanish food not to be exquisite. It’s a fact, and if anyone wants to argue it, I’ll let you go first, but just know that you’ll lose. In case you didn't get that, I'll say it again: EVERYTHING is good in Spain (food-wise). The bread, the cheese, the salads, and even the magdalenas (muffins/cupcakes) from traditional Spanish panaderías are mouthwatering, so take advantage of the real, authentic Spanish food all around you while you're in Spain.
On that note, I think I’m going to do the same and head over to the local panadería in Jaca after la hora de la siesta. I'm visiting over the summer right now, and it’s actually my host parents' anniversary today, so I think I’ll drop by the pastelería for a cake too.
¡Hasta la próxima!
And stay tuned for my top picks of "Spanish foods to try in Spain."
This post features some VERY typical and popular Spanish dishes, but the ones on my own list may be completely new to you!