Like much of Europe, Spain is a country that carries with it a lofty sized history that is rich and vibrant. Its food is no different. A quick rundown of the history of Europe shows you that much of todays countries where once occupied by “foreign invaders.” According to All About Spain, the Spanish country was “visited” by civilizations like Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Goths (nomadic Germanic people who were always fighting with the Roman Empire), and most famously the Moors (who were there between the 11th and 17th centuries, according to Britannica). Because of all of these lovely visits, Spanish food truly became a fusion of influences. The Spruce Eats explains that olive oil and garlic are the two ingredients that are as necessary as the air we breathe. Other very common ingredients are jam (jamón), seafood (mariscos), sausages, lamb (cordero), pork (cerdo), and legumes — to name a few. Below I’ve listed a few dishes/foods you need to try.
1 – Jamón ibérico
In Spain, jamón ibérico (aka Spanish ham) is a form of religion (pardon the blasphemy). According to Jamon, the practice of raising ibérico pigs goes back millennia (because, wow), and like wagyu, it has been cultivated and honed to perfection. In the world of jamón ibérico, the philosophy “ham is ham is ham” does not work. As wagyu beef comes for for breeds of cattle, jamón ibérico is sourced from four different hogs (via Food & Wine).
- Jamón Serrano: Made from white hogs and carries less fat than ibérico. This hog is typically raised indoors.
- Jamón Ibérico: Farm-raised hogs that crossbred. The most well-known of the four.
- Jamón Ibérico Cebo de Campo: Free-range hogs that are fed acorns and hay. A level above ibérico.
- Jamón Ibérico de Bellota: A free-range black hog that is only fed acorns. The most expensive of the four.
2 – Patatas bravas
Patatas bravas is the perfect dish for the carb lover in all of us. You can find this dish on the tapas menu at any bar in Spain as it is a delicious stable. Spanish Food explains how the exact timeline for the creation of the dish is somewhat hazy, but it asserts that it had to be sometime after 1542 as there was apparently no knowledge about the potato yet in Europe. So, what does the dish consist of? This Madrid-born dish carries potatoes, that are cut into mismatched shapes, topped with a spicy and/or creamy sauce drizzled over it.
3 – Pulpo a la gallega (or Polbo á feira)
Pulpo a la gallega originates from the region of Galicia in Spain and is considered their signature dish, according to KFN Travel Guide. Polbo á feira, which translates to fair-style octopus, can be traced back over century to the cattle fairs of old. Spanish Food details that muleteers (aka mule herders) would bring in octopus which they’d prepare with olive oil and paprika. Voila!
4 – Fabada asturiana
Now this is a hearty dish and a personal favorite of mine. Fabada asturiana is a stew that is typically served in the afternoon and is made with white beans, pork (and/or bacon), morcila (aka black sausage), and chorizo (via The Christian Science Monitor). As the name would suggest, the dish is from the region of Asturias, and is a local delicacy (according to Turismo Asturias).
5 – Paella
What would a food list about Spain be without a paella on it? Paella calls the region of Valencia home, according to The Spruce Eats. There are several versions of this internationally recognized dish — it can carry anything from chicken, pork, or seafood. This crunchy dish also incorporates saffron (#talkaboutfancy), which is the ingredient that gives it the yellow color.
- Paella valenciana: Think of this as the “meats” paella. This version is comprised of rice, green vegetables, beans, seasoning, snails, and dealers choice of chicken, duck, or rabbit. (via Lingua Schools)
- Paella de marisco: This is the “seafood” paella, and has all the usual suspects in terms ingredients, but is topped with seafood exclusively.
- Paella mixta: The “combined” paella and it has everything on it (seafood and meat).
6 – Tortilla Española (or Spanish omelette)
Tortilla española, or tortilla de patatas, is Spain’s take on the omelet from France and the frittata from Italy (via andaspain). It is a fairly simple dish to create and requires few ingredients — all you need is eggs, potatoes, onions and olive oil (via The Spruce Eats). There are also different varieties of it: bacalao (cod), tuna, gambas (shrimp), chorizo, jamón (ham), gambas and setas (shrimp and mushrooms), or angulas (baby eels).
Honorable mention – Gazpacho
This dish is my honorable mention because of how divisive it was for my family. Three of us really hated it, but one of us was wild about it. I’ve heard of others that love, and others that don’t, so the jury is out and not coming back anytime soon. Gazpacho is a cold soup, but if you ask Britannica… it’s a salad? This dish features the tomato in the limelight and is supported by ingredients like garlic, olive oil, water, vinegar, onions, cucumbers, and green peppers, and bread (used to thicken it). When I say it’s a cold soup, I don’t mean that it is cooked and then refrigerated — gazpacho is uncooked and cold. Mhm, I know.