Foodies around the world know that enjoying famous cuisine can be one of the most genuine ways to experience a country's culture. In order to live like the locals, travelers need to venture off of the main streets that are frequented by tourists to seek out the most authentic varieties of traditional dishes. Taking the time to enjoy local food immerses travelers in a new side of any country's culture. Here are five irresistible dishes you need to try the next time you visit Spain!
Sometimes, it's best to have dessert first. When you bite into a crispy churro, Spain's most famous dessert, you'll treat your taste buds to a delicious dose of cinnamon sugar. These cylinder-shaped fried pastries are found at fiestas and sold by street vendors throughout Spain and Portugal. Their sweet goodness has made its way to many other countries. Churros are a staple street food in many Spanish cities, much like hot dogs and soft pretzels in New York City.
In the U.S., we typically think of tortillas as chips or the soft shells that make up our favorite tacos. Tortilla Española is a completely different meal. Tortilla Española is a type of omelet that is made from a combination of eggs and potatoes. These omelets are often stuffed with cheese, spices, and vegetables. They can be found in many sizes and are typically served as appetizers or for breakfast.
Meat lovers will quickly find that Spain is a top place to treat their taste buds. Jamón, or Spanish ham, is just one of many popular meats found in Spain. Most types of ham that are considered to be traditional jamón are dry-cured varieties. Jamón Serrano is the most popular type of jamón, and up to 90 percent of the total jamón production in Spain is Jamón Serrano. Jamón is cured for up to eighteen months, and it may be found in smoked or other varieties. It is divided into several categories based on how the pigs are fed, such as free-range feeding or being fed certain special diets. Other categories include ham from Iberian pigs and white pigs.
While many Spanish foods are native to certain regions or vary significantly based on which city you are visiting, jamón can be found almost everywhere in Spain.
Tapas are another famous Spanish dish that can be found throughout the country. "Tapas" is actually a broad term that encompasses a variety of traditional, often savory, foods. Rather than full meals, tapas are generally small, appetizer-like dishes that feature a combination of rice, meats, breads, and vegetables. Visitors to tapas restaurants can sample a variety at a time. It is also common for tapas eaters to travel from restaurant to restaurant at once to try a variety style of dishes. This tradition looks similar to the American custom of traveling from bar to bar. While alcohol is often consumed with tapas, "tapas hopping" is common for families, and children are generally welcome.
Seville, San Sebastian, and Barcelona are among the most popular places to get tapas. Like with many local delicacies, savvy travelers know that finding the best tapas requires straying off the beaten path and eating in areas that are not as frequented by tourists. For example, if you're heading to Barcelona, you will encounter numerous tapas stands along Las Ramblas. While these tapas are convenient, it can be a good idea to walk a few blocks from the main street to find a more authentic tapas experience.
Paella, a type of Valencian rice dish, is arguably one of the best-known Spanish dishes. Valencia is third only to Madrid and Barcelona in terms of population, and the city's unique cuisine has gained fame throughout Spain and around the world. Many Spanish rice dishes are cooked in a particular type of pan called a paellera, and this pan lends its name to the country's favorite rice lunch.
Paella Valenciana, the most popular variety of paella, is made with rabbit and chicken. The dish can also be made with various types of seafood. Beans and other vegetables, as well as olive oil, are also included. Paella Valenciana is considered to be one of the most traditional foods that forms Valencian culture. While the most authentic paella can be found in the heart of Valencia, it is also available throughout Madrid, Barcelona, Alicante, and many other cities.