When it comes to visiting or living in Spain, one of the most pleasant parts of it is tasting the dishes of the Spanish gastronomy. Year by year, the Spanish cuisine has been recognized as one of the best ones in the world, as well as some Spanish restaurants top rankings of the world’s most respectable restaurants with the most delicious dishes. This page will help you to get to know more about the Spanish gastronomy, the country’s traditional dishes, and regional differences in the Spanish cuisine.
The role of history in the Spanish gastronomy
The Spanish gastronomy, which is, beyond any doubt, extraordinary and distinguished nowadays, had to go through a series of events in order to reach this stage, in a same way as the country did. The first introductions to the Spanish cuisine appeared in the times of the Roman Empire, when the Romans taught the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula to collect and eat mushrooms, as well as they introduced the tradition of viticulture.
After the empire broke up and a large share of the peninsula was conquered by the Muslims, the Spanish cuisine experienced an introduction of a large number of new ingredients from India and Persia, including almonds, oranges, peaches, lemons, watermelons, eggplants, spinach, sugar cane, sorghum, and rice. Surprisingly, but it is hard to imagine Spain without some of those fruits nowadays.
The large wave of ingredient introductions took place in 1492, with the discovery of the New World. At that time, such culinary ingredients like chocolate, cocoa, vanilla, paprika, spicy peppers, bell peppers, corn, potatoes, cucumbers, and tomatoes were introduced, and that gave a boost to the formation of the Spanish cuisine, adored by many gourmets nowadays.
Traditional dishes in Spain
Even though Spain is a greatly diverse country, there are certain traditional dishes that can be found across all regions in Spain. Those dishes are actually something we always associate Spain with.
One of the most popular dishes, which you can find perhaps in every Spanish restaurant, is empanada. Basically, empanada is a bread cover stuffed with various ingredients, such as meat, cheese, or other. Considering that this dish is quite international (and yes, it is widely spread not only across Latin America and Spain), it can be found with very different fillings and in diverse forms.
Paella is a traditional dish in the province of Valencia
Another inherent dish of the Spanish gastronomy is paella, which derives from Valencia and which represents a rice dish that can contain vegetables, seafood, fish, and meat. Saffron, used during preparation of this dish, allows gourmets to enjoy a unique taste and peculiar yellow color. In Spain, chiefs recognize three main types of paellas: original Valencian paella, mixed paella, and seafood paella.
Jamón can also be found in almost every restaurant. This dish actually represents dry-cured ham, served in very thin slices. There are two different types of jamón: jamón ibérico and jamón serrano. Jamón serrano is usually made of the Landrace white pigs, which causes its much lower price than the one of jamón ibérico, prepared from the black Iberian pigs. Considering the name of those pigs, such jamón is also frequently called in Spain as jamón de pata negra.
Tortilla española, known also as tortilla de patatas or Spanish omelette, is another classical dish of the Spanish cuisine. As one is able to understand from the dish’s name, it is an omelette, prepared with such ingredients like garlic and/or onion, potatoes, and eggs. Even though it is frequently served as simply a cold snack, some people also tend to it as their lunch or breakfast.
Gazpacho is a traditional and most famous Spanish soup
If you appear to be a sweet-tooth, perhaps you have to give a try to churros con chocolate. As the name suggests, this is basically a pastry-type dessert, fried and covered with chocolate. However, there are also people who tend to dip their churros in café con leche, dulce de leche, or champurrado.
Who hasn’t heard of such a soup as Gazpacho? Originated in Andalucia, south of Spain, this soup, consisting of raw vegetables, is usually served cold. Actually, this soup appears to be important not solely for the Spanish gastronomy, but even for the Spanish culture. In particular, the soup is often featured in a number of movies, TV shows, and TV series.
Diversity of the Spanish cuisine across regions
It is definitely difficult to describe all the differences of the Spanish gastronomy across regions, as the country’s cuisine may differ even in the same region. In many provinces, the cuisine is divided into coastal (seafood) and rural (vegetables, olives, meat, etc.).
In Valencia, apart from the already mentioned paellas, also can be found such dishes and desserts like arrós negre, arroz con nostra, fideuá, arroz al horno, coffee liqueur, nougat, and chocolate Alicante. In Catalonia, popular dishes include tomato bread, escudella, bean tortilla, farigola soup, samfaina, and Coca de recapte. Also, this region is famous for its sauces, such as picada, bouillabaisse, aioli, and romesco.
Basque Country, known for its authentic culture, also has peculiar dishes, including cod prepared in different ways (cod Bilbao, bacalao al pil pil, etc.), bonito, anchovy, bream, changurro, fig lead quail, and marinated geese. If it happened to you to visit Galicia, traditional dishes of this region include the Galician soup, Caldo de castañas, pork with turnip tops, Galician octopus, barnacles, scallops, and Galician empanada. Madrid is well known for its great variety of dairy and sweet products.
Murcia is characterized by such unusual dishes like Murcia tortillas, pipirrana, zarangollo, michirones, mondongo, and rice scribe, while everyone has to taste at least once lamb stew, Iberian pork, and perrunillas in Extremadura. La Rioja is also known for the love of its inhabitants to eat pork in large quantities, while you can taste morcilla, hornazo, sopa de ajo, and lechazo in Castille and León. Authentic dishes of Navarre include relleno, Ajoarriero, and Tout Navarre Style.
Traditional Spanish restaurants
Madrid is naturally the first city that started to attract foreigners, and that is the reason why it started to abound with lots of restaurants in the 19th and 20th centuries. Casa Lucio, for example, is frequently visited by the Spanish King, as well as Penélope Cruz and Bill Clinton had a dinner there as well. The classic restaurant La Bola Taberna is still managed by the family that launched it in the 19th century. The restaurant’s distinct dish is a lamb stew, beloved by many of its visitors. El Sobrino de Botín appears to be the oldest restaurant in Madrid and entire Spain, while the restaurant’s owners managed to preserve its authentic looks.
Exterior of La Bola Taberna, which is still run by the same family that founded it back in the 19th century
Actually, Spain can definitely be named as a country of restaurants, so you can be certain of finding a good, authentic restaurant in every province of the country. You should definitely have a dinner in Bogeda Biarritz and Blavis upon your visit to Barcelona.