The 10 Best Spanish Foods
I came to Spanish food a little bit late. My first surprise on arriving in Madrid was that no, they don’t eat Mexican food here. I was 21 and suffering from the All-American ailment of total ignorance of everything outside your dismal suburb, and really didn’t know any better.
In addition, I was a vegetarian at the time. While vegetarianism is an interesting experience, I wouldn’t really recommend it at this point: either way, it was totally impractical for me to integrate into Spanish culture if I wasn’t eating animals. So after a couple of years, I gave up on vegetarianism. Sorry, animals.
Anyway, a lot of Spanish food is not exactly politically correct by American standards, and I have the feeling that many tourists come here and don’t have any idea what things are, so they end up in McDonalds. Bad idea.
Anyway, without further ado, here are my top 25 Spanish foods (in no particular order):
1. Pulpo a la Gallega: That’s Galician-style octopus. Yep, the tentacles. It’s purple on the outside, white on the inside, an delicious all over. In Galicia (in the north of Spain), they serve it with cloudy home-made white wine, sometimes in little ceramic bowls like in the photo.
2. Tortilla de patatas: Otherwise known as Spanish omelette, this one is pretty simple (most Spanish food is pretty simple, actually.) It’s potato and eggs. Sometimes onion. Sometimes a little bit runny on the inside. Great.
3. Paella: I’m not actually a huge fan of paella, but it seems to be pretty popular. Rice and various kinds of seafood (mussels, prawns, squid) are the usual ingredients. The yellow colour comes from saffron.
4. Fabada: Also from the rainy north, in the region of Asturias. This is a white bean stew with bacon and sausage. Thick and wintry. One of my favorites. Also, try the version from Cantabria, called Cocido Montañés.
5. Morcilla: Technicaly called black pudding; however, the name black pudding is somewhat misleading. Let’s call it blood sausage. Now don’t be a whiny baby, I told you some of this wasn’t going to be politically correct. Try the one with rice, it’s good for beginners. Yes, it’s made out of blood.
6. Jamón Serrano: Spanish people think that Jamón Serrano is the best food on the planet. They feel bad for the rest of us poor bastards who live in countries without it. Here’s the scoop: they cut off a pig’s leg, put it in salt for a couple of years, and then hang it on the wall, hoof and all. That’s it. When they want to eat some, they cut it off in thin slices. No cooking, no preparation. They actually have ham slicing contests here in Madrid.
7. Calamares a la Romana or Bocadillo de Calamares: Very typical in Madrid, these are rings of squid battered and fried. You can get them on a sandwich or just by themselves. There are several places around Plaza Mayor that make them for around 3 euros.
8. Tarta de Santiago: Get one of the authentic ones in Galicia, with just almond flour and no wheat flour. It’s a very simple cake, flourless, just sugar, eggs, almond flour and a little bit of lemon zest. I make the best Tarta de Santiago in the world, actually.
9. Bacalao a la Riojana: Cod with a sauce made of tomatoes, onions, red peppers and garlic. Really amazing. The salted cod they use is soaked in water for 24 hours before cooking, and has hundreds of recipes built around it in Spain, and in Portugal, where it’s the national dish.
10. Rabo de Toro: Bull’s tail. Usually served with fried potatoes. It’s not the most widely-eaten food around, but they tend to serve it in places close to bull rings.
I could go on and on with this list. Selecting just 10 foods is totally arbitrary, and there are easy 20 other things I could put on this list. Maybe another time.
P.S. Thanks to 100 Foods to Eat Before You Die (explained in this article, for example) and the related facebook quiz for the inspiration to make a list of Spanish foods. I’ve eaten just under 50 of the 100 foods on the list. The whole whole subtext of such things, of course, is HAVE YOU REALLY LIVED? Which is kind of a silly thing to go to a facebook app to answer. Anyway, I just figured, if these people can make lists, then dammit, so can I!
P.P.S. Spam and Hostess fruit pies are really on a list of foods to eat before I die? WTF, people?
P.P.P.S. I think I actually have eaten spam, once, when my parents made some kind of spam and potato chip casserole. I think the idea was to explain how life was different in the 50s than it was in the 90s. Or whatever.
P.P.P.P.S. I’ve also eaten snake, because I’m from Arizona, and that’s how we roll in Arizona.
P.P.P.P.P.S. I have lived. Have you?