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Spain

a country with a rich food culture

Spanish food culture

Discover the amazing world of Spanish food culture. While the French and Italians get all the credit for developing European cuisine, we also deserve some recognition . We’ve created a fantastically unique range of dishes that combine a mix of cultures to create something special and distinctly Spanish.

Food plays a crucial role in Spanish society, as well. Eating is seen as a communal activity, something to be taken slowly and truly enjoyed. Spain has a more laid-back pace of life than other parts of the world, where fast-food rules supreme. Social time is highly rated in Spanish culture and what better way of socializing do we have than sharing food?

If you ever choose to visit Spain, then you’ll find that food forms a massive part of your trip. With that in mind, why not learn about Spanish food culture? Below, discover some of Spain’s most incredible cuisine. 

Gazpacho

Soup is a popular dish in almost all food cultures. It’s the perfect way to use up a lot of delicious ingredients all at once. However, while many cultures like a warm bowl of soup to pick them up in the winter, the Spanish eat a cold soup called gazpacho. Naturally, Spain can get incredibly hot in the summer so cold soup might be exactly what you need.

Gazpacho originates from Andalusia and couldn’t be simpler to make. It’s simply a case of blending raw vegetables and tweaking the seasoning until you get the exact flavor you’re looking for. The most common vegetables to use are tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, bell peppers, and plenty of garlic. It’s traditionally served with some stale bread that’s coated in olive oil.

Tapas

Tapas is less a single dish and more a style of eating. The Spanish love to eat and would rather have lots of small dishes than one big one. This gives you the opportunity to sample plenty of different foods all in one sitting. Anywhere you go in Spain, you’ll find a tapas restaurant where you can be sure to eat well. Rather than ordering one main course, you’ll order a bunch of appetizers.

These appetizers can be hot or cold, ranging from cheese and olives to deep-fried vegetables. Your servers will be constantly bringing food to your table, giving you something new to try and talk about with your fellow diners. Eating tapas really is a unique way of dining but, arguably, the best way of doing so. Why have one thing when you can sample the entire menu?

Paella

Originating in Valencia, paella is one of the most quintessentially Spanish dishes. You can get it around the world but the stuff you find in Spain is the real deal. This is a rice-based dish, which is unusual in European food culture. The rice is cooked in a wide and shallow pan and then loaded up with whichever toppings you most desire. Commonly, it will be served with peas and chicken but you’ll often find a variety with seafood called paella de marisco.

Like much of Spanish food culture, paella is inspired by other cultures. In particular, this rice-heavy dish was brought to Spain by Muslims in the 10th Century. That’s what makes this dish less European and more North African. It may also come with a fair amount of spice, which is popular in warmer climates.

Calçots

Most cultures share vegetables but Spain has its unique variety that you may not have tried before. More specifically, the is a kind of green onion that originates in the Spanish region of Catalonia. This region is known for being fiercely independent and having its own identity, which is why these veggies should be known as part of Catalan culture, rather than Spanish food culture, as well as many other dishes.

They may not seem like much but they’re an incredibly popular treat, eaten with an exquisite sauce called “Romesco” and especially during Lent. Spain is a religious country and these festival traditions mean a lot. If you happen to be in the country around the Easter period, then give calçots a try. Find a local Spaniard who can show you the correct way to prepare, cook, and eat these versatile greens.

Tortilla Española

The Tortilla Española is among the most commonly eaten Spanish dishes. Also known as a Spanish omelet, this is a filling and delicious egg dish. By combining the eggs with potatoes and onions, you get a filling and satisfying meal. For that reason, Spaniards don’t eat this for breakfast like Americans might. Instead, it makes for a substantial late afternoon or evening meal.

The Spanish tend to divide their cuisines by region but this is the one dish they unite over. Among Spanish citizens, the Tortilla Española is undoubtedly considered a national dish. If you’re in the country, then you have to try it.

Churros

Looking for a naughty but delicious treat? You can’t go wrong with churros. It’s simply fried dough sprinkled with sugar but the result is a sweet and satisfying snack. If you wake up hungry, then have a churro for breakfast for a quick burst of energy. Churros are now popular around the world but Spain is where they were first invented.

There are many ways to serve churros, ranging from sweet to savory. Pick a version that satisfies your cravings. These are quick treats that are usually purchased from food stalls to be eaten quickly when they’re hot and fresh. You shouldn’t eat them every day but when in Spain, eat like the Spanish, eh?

Patatas Bravas

Spain may take influence from Africa and the Middle East but Spanish food culture is still distinctly European. No food is more European than the humble potato. From feeding the entire nation of Ireland to helping the Polish invent vodka, the potato really is doing more than its fair share of heavy lifting. It accompanies currywurst in the form of French fries and makes up the ‘mash’ component in British bangers and mash.

The Spanish have somehow managed to create yet another version of potatoes: patatas bravas. The potatoes are cut into wedges and then fried in oil until crispy. They’re then doused in a spicy sauce to give it that international edge. Is there anything more satisfying than spicy potatoes? Patatas bravas is most commonly eaten in Madrid but forms part of tapas meals across the country.

Croquetas

Another hugely popular choice on tapas menus across Spain, croquetas have a crunchy texture and delicious fillings. Croquetas start out life as a dough full of flavors. There are so many different variations and fusions to try. Serrano ham or cheese are very popular croqueta fillings. Some people will add various vegetables to the mixture. Others will add onions, garlic, and spices for a sharper flavor. 

Once the dough has cooled a little, it is rolled into little cylinders. Those delightful bitesize treats are then covered in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. Finally, they are fried in hot olive oil. This gives them a delightfully crispy first bite, before the softer flavors of the dough roll along your taste buds. Croquetas are a great appetizer and go well with any tapas order. Wholesome and hearty, they keep you coming back for more!

Bocadillo

You can’t travel far through Spain without seeing a delicious bocadillo in the window of a bakery or restaurant. Bocadillos have been eaten for centuries in Spain. Initially, it was simple, cheap food that the poorest in the country could eat with relative ease. But through the years, the bocadillo slowly became an important part of Spanish cuisine. The key to a classic bocadillo is in the bread. Spanish bread, similar to a French baguette, is cut lengthways, not from top to bottom. When it comes to filling, as you can imagine, the choices are endless. 

Millions across Spain enjoy bocadillos in so many ways. Cold meats are very popular. A bocadillo filled to the brim with delicious dry-cured jam or salami, with cheese, is divine. Cheese bocadillos, including Tasmanian feta or cheese spread, also go down a treat with l ocals.Bocadillos taste delicious cold. But you can also have them baked. That crispy bread and delicate meat combination is truly special.

Crema Catalana and Natillas de Leche (Custard)

For so many Spaniards, just the sight of natillas bring back plenty of childhood memories. This famous Spanish dessert is adored by generations of Spaniards. Along with desserts like flans and crema catalana (Catalan version of natillas with a caramelized or burned sugar layer on top), natillas are true comfort food. 

The origins of the dessert can be traced back centuries to nunneries across Europe. It is believed nuns originally came up with the recipe. Natillas essentially is a Spanish egg custard. It’s deliciously sweet with a creamy texture. 

The common recipe uses vanilla, which helps give natillas their beautiful yellow color. Spaniards commonly infuse the mixture with cinnamon and lemon to intensify the sweetness. As Spanish foods go, this one captures the heart of so many throughout Spain. You’ll find them in many shapes and sizes. So, so yummy!

Embutidos

Cured meats, or embutidos’ as they are known in Spain, are one of country’s finest gastronomic specialties and most popular exports. We’ve compiled the ultimate list of the most delicious Spanish cured meats you need to try. 

The most popular ones are Jamón Ibérico, Chorizo, Sobrasada, Salchichón, Fuet, Salami, Morcilla or Botifarra, Lomo, Jamón Dulce o Cocido, Mortadela and Pavo.

Embutidos are usually used for Bocadillos and added in soups, pasta, croquetas, stir fried meals and in many other dishes. We Spanish love to eat them plain as well, or with a piece of bread, specially when we go hiking or to spend time in the nature! Tastes even better!

Spanish most popular soups

Spanish soups may not be the first dishes that come to mind when someone asks you about the traditional foods of Spain. Even so, they’re delicious, and believe it or not, you’ve probably tried or at least heard of a few of the most popular ones. We present you the most delicious and traditional ones, hot and cold, from north to south, east and west!

Cold ones, usually eaten in summer: Gazpacho, ajoblanco, salmorejo.

Hot ones, usually eaten in winter: escudella catalana, cocido de garbanzos, estofado de patatas, lentejas, fabada asturiana, caldo gallego, caldo de papas, menestra de verduras, sopa de almendras.

 

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