“To know a country best you must dive deep into the flavors and colors of food” is a quote I heard once upon a time when I was younger and it’s stuck with me ever since. I truly believe that the greatest way to familiarize yourself with a new destination is to try the food. Learn the basics of where the flavors and techniques came from and open your mind (and taste buds) to try something new.
Food is VERY important here in Spain. It seems like the day is surrounded by your meals. Business meeting at 2? Forget about it, that’s lunchtime. Happy hour with pinchos or tapas?….duh! Since it’s so important here they take care with their quality and preparation. Most food items are made in-house and shortcuts in the kitchen are rare. I do understand that some things may already come prepared like bottled salsa brava or mayonnaise in some places or pre-cooked items that are just nuked in the microwave but for the most part, things are done right here.
Recently I took a trip to Andalucía where good food and siesta are the most important. Quality seafood, insanely delicious cured meats, the best olive oil, and fresh produce are some of the things you’ll find in restaurants and markets there.
I’ll show you some of the things we ate while I was in this incredible gastronomic region.
I’m sure you’ve all heard this typical Andalucian soup. It can get crazy hot in the south of Spain during the summer months so this soup is perfect because it’s a cold soup. It’s made with tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, onion, bread, and un-Godly amounts of olive oil. It’s perfect….unless you don’t like tomatoes I guess.
2. Sangria// tinto de verano
Sangria is the drink that most people associate with Spain. I don’t really know if the Spanish invented it but let’s just give it to them. Sangria is basically made with wine, brandy, orange juice, and sugar then assorted fruits are thrown in. Personally, I’d prefer the tinto de verano like most Spaniards here. It’s really similar to sangria however there are far fewer ingredients therefore easier for your waiter to whip up and this will make it much quicker to get to your table (Spanish waiters are notorious for taking their sweet time) Red wine and sparkling lemon soda are all you need to create this delicious concoction at home.
3. Grilled fish in Malaga
When you’re sitting pretty in your bikini on the Playa Malagueta the last thing you’re thinking about is eating heavy food right?….orrr is that just me? Anyway, I like fresh fish caught just off the shore and grilled right there on the beach. Growing up in Minnesota my friends and I would catch some sunfish from the lake and grill it on an open fire for dinner and seeing these skewers of fish on the “boat grills” brought those memories back. Plus they are delicious!
Salmorejo is the bigger badder cousin of gazpacho. It has almost the same ingredients but this version has a heck of a lot more garlic, soaked bread is added, and it’s garnished with hard boiled egg and bits of jamón. I had it in Cordoba and it was more like a rich dip than a soup but it was delicious nonetheless. Just be sure you have some mints or gum after you finish.
5. Eggplant with honey
I don’t know why but I saw this dish everywhere in Cadiz and Malaga. Maybe the Moors brought the idea with them when they sailed over from Africa. Who knows…I just know it’s delicious.
6.Grilled/fried clams, squid, or shrimp
Obviously, we had to throw some seafood in here. Andalucía is bordered with both the Mediterranean and Atlantic which means it’s always supplied with the freshest selection of fish and seafood. When you get it grilled you’ll usually get it accompanied with garlic, sea salt, and olive oil. It sounds so simple but that’s what makes it so perfect. They also serve these critters up fried and getting a whole basket of a mixed variety is the best choice. We had a batch of mixed fried fish and seafood at Freiduria Las Flores in Cadiz and I HIGHLY recommend getting the cazón en adobo.
7. Rabo de Toro
I had absolutely no idea that rabo de toro was created in Cordoba but that probably explains why it was on almost every single menu of the day. It’s very popular in Andalucía and I wrote about it here back in September. It sounds very strange but it’s so good!
This guy…is a heart attack but it’s amaaaazing. It’s sort of like cochopo from Asturias if you’ve had that. This meaty-delight is a flattened out pork loin wrapped around many pieces of jamón and fried (the traditional way). I’m not making this up… It’s definitely not a daily meal but you should try it at least once.
Now I first had this dish in Castilla La Mancha but I’ve read that it’s prepared the same way. It actually started in Andalucía as a “poor man’s dish” since it only contains flour, water, garlic, and olive oil. It regained popularity during the Spanish Civil War after being ousted by potatoes and rice. Toppings usually depend on your region and it can have different consistencies. Gachas in Andalucía can come in sweet versions as well. These are flavored with anís, cinnamon, and sugar instead of garlic and salt.
10. Tortillitas de camarones
This was I think the first thing I ate in Cadiz and I really wish I could find it here in Burgos. It’s almost like a really thin crab cake except these are made with shrimp. The rest of the ingredients are flour (usually chickpea or wheat), onion or shallot, parsley, salt, and pepper. These are incredible and if you happen to stumble upon the chance to try them do it!
I know there are probably a dozen more dishes, drinks, and sweets that I am missing but these are just the ones that I’ve tried. Got any other ones you like? Leave a comment below so we all can try them!
*Writing this post I’ve realized how bad I am at actually taking pictures of my food before I eat it. I…just didn’t want it to get cold?