I read a blog a few weeks back about 40 countries rated by their cuisines. Britain sadly was disappointingly low on this list, Spain however was higher up, and will typically feature in any foodie top ten list.
Spanish food is quite rustic, nutritious, and delicious – we’ve really enjoyed going out and trying as much of the local cuisine as we can for ourselves. My recommendation to anyone wanting to try Spanish food is to be brave and don’t be afraid to try small Spanish restaurants where tourists don’t normally visit. As our blog suggests we like to get out and about as much as we can, we’re always out for a walk, ride or drive somewhere and keep our eyes out for new places to eat.
Choosing somewhere to eat in Spain can be a little daunting, especially when you don’t speak the language, but the Spanish are very welcoming and don’t forget you always have your friend the Google Translate app to help you translate the menu! The trick is to not just go by online reviews, but to take notice of where the Spanish are, if a restaurant is busy it must be worth a look. If you take the time to have a proper nosy in all the little back streets you may just come across a real gem.
It’s also very handy to know there are five main different mealtimes in Spain:
- Desayuno (breakfast) 7:00 – 9:00
- Almuerzo (brunch) 10:30 – 12:00
- Comida (lunch… the main one) 14:00 – 16:00
- Merienda (no real English equivalent but a light meal before dinner) 17:30 – 19:00
- Cena (dinner) 20:30 – 22:30 (later in the summer months)
Something else you need to know about when eating out in Spain is ‘Sobremesa’. The literal translation is ‘on table’ but this is the time after the meal when you loosen your belts, sit back, relax and take your time to let your meal go down and talk. The Spanish can spend hours over this and as such you will never be rushed to vacate your table in a Spanish restaurant.
Now that we’ve been in Spain for a while and have eaten in many Spanish restaurants, here are the top 10 most popular Spanish dishes…
Number 10: Fideua
Fideua is a sort of a Paella but with pasta rather than rice. Typically, this is prepared with seafood (fish, prawns, shellfish and calamari) with tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and paprika. It’s very much created as a main meal for the whole table to share and is delicious.
Number 9: Pisto
Pisto is such a simple, versatile, and utterly delicious dish. In a nutshell it’s roasted Mediterranean vegetables. Sliced and/or diced tomatoes, peppers, courgette and onions, roasted with garlic, salt, pepper, a decent splash of olive oil. It makes a great snack, side dish (especially with fish or meat dish), or main meal with crusty bread.
Number 8: Tortilla Española
You can’t have a Spanish food list without the Spanish omelette or Tortilla Española. This is a classic and one of the most popular Spanish dishes which you’ll find on every menu. It’s also so easy to make yourself – gently fry up some onions and potatoes and then, add some egg. We have this for lunch in the summer, usually with a little light salad at Almuerzo.
Number 7: Croquetas
You already know these, but probably as croquettes. Many countries have a version of their own and Spain is no exception. Croquetas are found everywhere in Spain, and the most common variety by far is queso y jamon (cheese and ham), which are fantastic accompanied by an ice cold cerveza on the side! If you find yourself in a cool little artisan café or bar, you may find more adventurous fillings such as crab or shrimp.
Number 6: Calamari
Calamari are deep fried squid rings, and very popular in Spain. A common theme with Spanish cuisine is its pure simplicity, don’t mess with the core flavour, give it a little something like a crunchy batter, a bit of chilli, a squeeze of lemon and there you have it. An ideal starter or tapas.
Number 5: Pimientos de Padron
Another super simple dish is roasted Padron peppers. Padron peppers are small green peppers fried in olive oil, garlic and pepper, with coarse ground salt to finish. These are often found on the tapas menu, or as a side dish to roasted meats. They’re usually fairly mild, but beware that every now and then you can come across a super-hot one – this is affectionately called ‘Spanish roulette’.
Number 4: Patatas Bravas
Another of the mot popular Spanish dishes, Patatas Bravas translates as ‘brave potatoes’ and this tapas dish makes an appearance everywhere in Spain. Pretty much any café, bar and restaurant will have patatas bravas on on their menu, though you’ll notice that each place has their own style of sauce. The dish is little potato pieces deep fried and drizzled with a sauce typically made with chopped tomatoes and onions, paprika, chilli and olive oil.
Number 3: Gambas al Ajillo
One of my wife’s all-time-faves here, Gambas al Ajillo or Garlic prawns. Typically cooked in a small skillet with olive oil, garlic (lots of garlic!), a squeeze of lemon, parsley, and some chilli. With some crusty bread to go with it, this dish is great as tapas or just a snack.
Number 2: Churros
It maybe just me, but I think the Spanish do savoury foods way better than they do sweet. However, Churros are a Spanish masterpiece! Churros are basically long donuts covered in sugar and cinnamon, traditionally accompanied with a bowl brimming with liquid chocolate to dip them in. Heaven! You can find them in many bars and cafés, as well as at markets and events.
Number 1: Paella
What else would be number 1 on a Spanish food list?! Paella is our favourite Spanish dish and we have it fairly often. It’s a great comfort food and so incredibly easy (and cheap) to make. We’ve also really enjoyed trying different paella dishes across the region as everywhere will do it slightly differently. The best place in our opinion to try paella is Valencia, as this is where it originates from.
So, which popular Spanish dishes are you looking forward to trying? Do you have any other favourites we haven’t listed?
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