Sampling Spanish cuisine is like taking a virtual tour around different parts of Spain. As you take the grand tour, you discover new culinary delights at every turn. Spanish cuisine is known around the world, and sampling the food on offer is a highlight for many travellers. The quality of food is unquestionable, with Spain being home to 2 of the restaurants that have taken the #1 restaurant in the world for 5 out of the last 10 years!
In some cases, past conquerors brought with them their own ideas about cooking and good eating which has subtly influenced the cuisine over the centuries. Also, local dishes are often reflective of what is grown or developed locally, but usually national dishes are available throughout the country.
It is fair to say that meat dishes, cured pork, fish and shellfish are extremely common in most dishes with Spanish cooking. However, there are plenty of delicious vegetarian dishes too. It is also possible to find Spanish vegetarian restaurants, especially in areas that receive many tourist visitors, and they will include alternative protein sources like tofu and nuts with their main dishes.
When considering what part of Spain to take one of those memorable Spanish holidays in many ways you can let your palette be your guide. Just like in France, this is never a bad place to start.
Below we highlight three of the most memorable dishes that can be ordered in Spain. There are surely many other tasty examples of Spanish cooking, but you’ll need to make a personal visit to sample them where they originated.
Paella is one of the most popular and well known Spanish dishes. It has rice as the basis of the dish, infused with saffron to lend it the yellow tint and subtly of flavour.
The idea behind paella comes from Valencia where it evolved over time into three distinctive types:
Valenican Paella (known locally as Paella valenciana) has ingredients of saffron rice, rabbit and/or chicken, duck, green vegetables, duck, beans and different seasoning.
Jamón serrano/Jamón ibérico uses dry-cured Spanish ham as the key ingredient. Jamón serrano comes from Landrace white pigs; Jamón ibérico comes from black Iberian pigs. The latter Jamón ibérico is far more expensive. This paella includes rice, vegetables and seasoning too.
Seafood paella (known locally as paella de marisco) which blends a mixture of seafood like prawns, mussels, shrimp and fresh fish with potatoes, vegetables and rice.
Tapas is often served as a snack between meals or as something to enjoy in a bar at lunch time. The idea behind tapas is that it offers small portions of a number of different types of food. This way you can enjoy the local flavours and pick what you like the most.
Potato bravas is a popular dish with tapas. It is potatoes with a tomato-based red sauce that is almost like a purée. Subtly spiced. Like an upmarket french fries which is especially popular with the kids.
Jamón serrano is popular with tapas as a strongly flavoured cured meat sliced into bite-sized portions.
Meatballs are common too. Plenty of herbs are used, not often very spicy if at all.
The round and thick tortilla española (or Tortilla de Patata) is strongly flavoured to add the light creamy textures of potatoes. This Spanish omelette includes plenty of potatoes, eggs, a yellow onion and a dash of salt. Lightly fried with olive oil for that healthy touch.
Spiced Potato Tortilla
The spiced tortilla is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It can be a full meal or just a snack depending on the portion size and how many people you have in your group.
This mouth-watering dish mixes beaten eggs, three curry spices (turmeric, cumin and coriander), a single red chilli finely shredded, with an onion, some potatoes and cherry tomatoes.
Spanish Potato Tortilla
The toasted subtly spiced tortilla chips act as the base for this dish. From chefs who are more presentation-oriented, the triangle-shaped tortillas are arranged pointing inwards and form a round circle on the plate with the topping over them. Sometimes either guacamole or occasionally hummus is offered as a dip.
This dish is vibrant with many colours on display, fresh coriander on the top with small cherry tomatoes acting both as decoration and a juicy contrast to the mix of spices.