You can find Spanish a plate of croquetas in almost any restaurant or bar, each made to the establishment’s ownÃ‚Â Ã¢â‚¬â€œ sometimes secret Ã¢â‚¬â€œ recipe, combining ingredients such as jamon (cured ham) or bacalao (Atlantic cod fish) withÃ‚Â bÃƒÂ©chamel sauce, which is then breaded and fried. The creamy cheese (queso) croquettes pack a smooth flavour, or try the croquettes of local sweet-spiced black sausage (morcilla) or Spanish blue cheese (queso de Cabrales) for unique Spanish flavours.
It’s also a good yardstick for comparing food in Spain: the quality of a bar-restaurant can often be judged by their ability to handle the Spanish tapa staples of croquettes or bravas (Spanish potato chips). The traditional, scrubbed-down bars usually serve the best.
2. Tortilla Espanola
3. Gazpacho or salmorejo
This zesty, chilled tomato soup has claimed space in supermarkets and on menus around the world, but few compare toÃ‚Â refreshing Spanish gazpacho made with full-flavoured Spanish tomatoes. Usually eaten as an appetizer Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and sometimes drunken straight from a bowl or glass Ã¢â‚¬â€œ this thick soup is made from blending a whole heap of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, garlic, onions, vinegar and herbs. It’s the perfect Spanish food for summer, as well as a low calorie and healthy dish. Salmorejo is a similar Andalucian version combining pureed bread, tomatoes, garlic and vinegar Ã¢â‚¬â€œ also served cold Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and sometimes varied with a bit of ham or egg slices on top.
4. Pisto Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Spanish ratatouille
This vegetarian top Spanish dish is for all ages, eaten in Spain as a tapa, appetiser, a side dish to meats, or even as a meal with a fried egg on top or chorizo. It’s a Spanish ratatouille of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, garlic, and of course, olive oil. The palatable competition of intense roasted flavours makes this a tasty recipe to try at home. You can find it in restaurants around Spain, and especially in the towns across the plains of La Mancha, south of Madrid.
5. Cured meats Ã¢â‚¬â€œ jamon, chorizo, salchichÃƒÂ³n
Jamon is ubiquitous in Spain, carved thinly off cured legs of pork that you will see hanging in most bars and restaurants. Jamon is a serious business and an art in Spain, with many factors in place to determine quality, such as what the pigs are fed, the type of pig and the curing process. JamÃƒÂ³n ibÃƒÂ©rico de bellota is the top category, where Spanish pigs (IbÃƒÂ©rico) are free-range and acorn-fed (bellota); other types include IbÃƒÂ©rico (corn-fed) or Serrano ham, which are typically cheaper.
Another Spanish favourite is chorizo, a cured sausage with sweet and spicy flavours, identified by its red smoked-pepper colouring. You’ll also see the softer-flavoured salchichÃƒÂ³n served on mixed charcuterie platters.
6. Pulpo a la gallega
This boiled octopus dish gets its unique flavours from maceration in three simple ingredients: paprika (pimenton), crusty rock salt and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s a signature Galician dish and you’ll find it on the menu in many Galician restaurants around Spain, and especially in the many polbeiras (octopus restaurants) dotting the Galician region. This top Spanish dish is usually served with a potato or two, on top of a wooden platter.
It was traditionally cooked at fairs in copper cauldrons, which supposedly gave the octopus a unique taste that couldn’t be achieved with other ways of cooking. You can still see this fair-style cooking in some places, such as in Lugo where the dish is the celebratory food for the fair of its patron saint (San FroilÃƒÂ¡n).
This rice-based dish is well known internationally, although in Valencia you will find many authentic variations that equally vie for attention. Some consider this a national dish of Spain, but many consider it a Valencia dish, from where it originated and you can typically find the best paella. The most traditional Valencian paella is a mixture of chicken or rabbit (or both), white and green beans and other vegetables, but seafood is also common, where you can find an array of seafood suprises among the flavoursome rice, such as calamari, mussels, clams, prawns, scampi or fish, depending on the type you order. For the adventurous, a black rice stained by octopus ink is a must try (arroz negro), and if you find paella with less common ingredients such as eel (anguila) or duck (pato), don’t miss the rare chance. Fiduea is tasty twist on the rice-based paella, as it uses a small curly pasta instead.
9. Fried milk
You might not find Ã¢â‚¬Ëœleche frita’ on every menu, but it is a classic Spanish dessert to try for something unique. Its firm, cool, milk-pudding centre contrasts with a warm, crunchy encasing of flour and egg, dusted with sugar and cinnamon. A similar popular Spanish dessert is torrijas, a mix between french toast and bread pudding, where large slices of bread are soaked in milk and sugar, and then lightly fried in a pan and topped with sugar and cinnamon or honey; their pudding-like consistency make them an impressive but easy dessert to make at home. If that’s not on the menu, it’s hard not to like the Catalan version of crÃƒÂ¨me brÃƒÂ»lÃƒÂ©e, Crema Catalana, that can be found with variations of orange or lemon zest or cinnamon in many Spanish restaurants. You’ll also see many churrerÃƒÂas, stalls or cafes serving up thick Spanish hot chocolate andchurros, a thin long donut-type pastry that you can dip in your hot drink; the thicker, less-sweet version,porras, go great with coffe. If you visit at Christmas time, the must-eat sweet is turrÃƒÂ³n, a Spanish-style almond nougat.
9. Prawns in fried garlic
As in many top Spanish foods, simplicity and drawing out natural flavours of fresh ingredients are key, and this is easily seen in this tantalising yet simple dish gambas al ajillo. Small Spanish prawns are typically lightly cooked in a small clay dish of hot olive oil, roasted garlic and usually a small chilli that gives this dish a little kick. It’s hard not to want this sizzling dish when the fried garlic smell hits your nostrils.