Spanish Food

A guide to what to eat when you visit Spain!

How should I ask for tapas and where?

Tapas are displayed in glass cases in many bars and restaurants in the historic quarter of most Spanish cities.

In the north of Spain, tapas or pinches may be taken directly off the counter by the customer. Once you are done for the evening, you inform the waiter of how many tapas and drinks he needs to charge you for. In some cities like Madrid, you need to tell the waiter that you are going to grab a tapa, and then pay before leaving.

Which is the best kind of paella?

Paella is an original rice dish from the Spanish city of Valencia, which is cooked in a wide but shallow pan known as paella.

Many ingredients are added to the rice, including vegetables, fish, seafood and meat, leading to a myriad of different recipes that vary according to the proportions of the ingredients. Originally, paella was a humble dish that used whatever ingredients were available depending on the season (either vegetables, game, snails, hard-to-sell seafood, etc.), and sometimes even chicken.

A good paella should always have fresh vegetables in it (if possible, garrofó beans, artichokes and peppers), plus any of the above-mentioned ingredients. The best paella is not the one that has the most ingredients, but the one that combines them in the most coherent way.

The cooking process is also important, as well as the quality of the rice itself, which has to absorb all the flavours of the ingredients in the pan.

What are typical Spanish fruits?

Because of the Mediterranean climate, Spain produces a wide variety of fruits.

At any given time in the year we can find fruits at their best, loaded as they are with vitamins. During springtime, the most abundant are fruits with seeds, like cherry, plum, apricot, peach, etc. We also have early fig, strawberry, watermelon and melon, among others.

In the summer, in addition to peach, watermelon and melon, we have fruits with pips, like apples and pears, of which numerous varieties are available. Also, grapes, raspberries and figs.

During autumn, in addition to pomegranate, quince, grapes and figs, we have citruses, specially oranges and tangerines. Subtropical fruits are also available, like custard apple, mango, papaya and guava.

Wintertime brings a wide variety of citruses (great for fighting colds, because of their high vitamin C content). Also have grapes, melon, late pears and delicious early strawberries.

How many kinds of ham are there in Spain?

Ham is the pig’s hind leg, treated and cured to achieve its characteristic aromas and flavours.

There are many kinds of ham. The best one is the ham that is obtained from acorn-fed Iberian pigs, which is cured for at least eighteen months in very specific temperature and humidity levels.

Ham is also produced from mixed-breed Iberian pigs, early breeds, pigs raised with fodder, etc., and sometimes the legs are cured in a sped-up process; these hams are known as: pata negra, recebo, Ibéricos de pienso, serrano,bodega, etc.

These are all of great quality, sometimes even excellent, but will never match the genuine, pure-acorn-fed Iberian ham. This kind of ham is protected by four Designations of Origin – Dehesa de Extremadura, Sierra de Huelva, Guijuelo (Salamanca) and Los Pedroches –, which guarantee its quality.

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