I guess I can’t give people too much crap for asking me how the tacos are here, considering that when I first went to Peru 6 years ago, I was expecting to eat the best tacos of my life. But one thing that we all need to realize is this: tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, and fajitas are all Mexican food. And as condescending as this is going to sound, it needs to be said: Spain is not Mexico! To get tacos in Spain, you will need to go to a Mexican food restaurant.
There are many countries that speak Spanish, because at one point or another they were ruled by Spain. I know it’s not the exact same, but think of Spain in relation to other Spanish speaking countries like England is to the USA. Spain gave them the Spanish language, but they already had their own cultures, food, language, etc. Every country has its own unique food and history. In Peru, they speak not just Spanish but also the native Quechua. Typical dishes include lomo saltado (lamb with peppers, rice, and spices), ceviche, and cuy (guinea pig!).
So, on to the point: Spanish food. They have many varied dishes, and each region in Spain has its own specialties. I’m not an expert on this subject in any way, so I’m going to talk about what I’ve tried here so far.
Let’s start with one of the most well known dishes of Spain: paella. Commonly eaten during family gatherings, this dish can be made with seafood, chicken, and/or sausage. The base is rice and it’s flavored with saffron. This is one of my favorite Spanish dishes. The first time I had it was during my trip last December–Diego, his mom, and his sister all made it for me at some point!
This next one, morcilla, is the type of food you have to try before being told what it is. At least that’s how I was introduced to it, and I actually really like it. It’s a common tapa, or small dish.
No one could ever go to Spain and not notice how much they love jamón, or ham. But the way that the Spaniards eat it is different than how Americans typically eat it. When you visit Spain and see jamón shops, you’ll notice there are huge pig legs hanging from the walls and ceilings. That’s because the meat is cured–and it’s sliced extremely thin. Then it’s typically eaten on top of a slice of freshly baked bread with cheese.
When you think of the Spanish word tortilla, it may bring to mind the thin outer layer of a taco or burrito made of flour or corn. But in Spain, the tortilla takes on a completely different meaning. Think of quiche, except without the crust. Spanish tortilla is made with onions, potatoes, eggs, and sometimes some additional ingredients depending on the type. This is a staple for many Spaniards, and can be eaten at any time of the day.
One of the most fun things to eat in Spain in my opinion is a pincho. Pinchos are appetizers or tapas made of a slice of bread with virtually anything on top of it. Think of it as a miniature meal on a piece of bread. They have a lot of flavor and are usually very creative, because they have to fit a lot in a very small space. The best pinchos I’ve had include ones made with morcilla, angulas (baby eels), fried cheese, stuffed peppers, mushrooms, and smoked salmon.
I can think of a few Spanish speaking countries that have adopted some form of the empanada (Peru, Venezuela, Mexico) but the type in Spain is a bit different than others. They are made about the size of a medium pizza and to me, are a mix between pie and a sandwich. They can be sweet or savory. My favorite is the emapanda made with tuna, as it’s got a flavorful center and a flaky, melt in your mouth crust.
I’ve had clams before plenty of times in the US, but trying navajas or razor clams was a first for me in Spain. The navajas that Diego made for me when I first came to visit were delicious–juicy, flavorful, perfectly cooked morsels of seafood. Why don’t we have these in the US?!
Now imagine something that’s creamy on the inside and golden and crispy on the outside. Croquetas are a treat that are usually made with some meat from a previous meal and take time and patience to cook but vale la pena (are totally worth it). They can be savory or can be made to be sweet as a dessert. They’re a popular tapa commonly eaten in bars and they are delicious–and very rich.
Last but not least, churros con chocolate. Okay, maybe you’ve had churros before, but the idea is a little different in Spain. The churros themselves are actually pretty similar to ones made in Mexico, although the most common type is not filled with anything, and are not coated in sugar and cinnamon. Instead, you order a bunch with a cup of hot chocolate–but Americans, prepare yourself for a very different type of hot chocolate. This kind is thicker, richer, and chocolate-ier than any hot chocolate you’ve ever had in the US. It’s commonly eaten for breakfast…ahhh so good!!
And there are so many more amazing Spanish dishes that I have yet to try! Just going to the grocery store here is amazing, because they have interesting ingredients that I’ve never seen before. The variety of the seafood section is incredible. If you didn’t know already, now you do: Spain is foodie paradise.