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Top 10 Spanish foods and where to try them

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Is there even any point pretending food isn't one of the main reasons we all go on holiday? 

Trying a country's traditional cuisine can be interesting at times, but follow this culinary guide to Spain and you're bound to come away with a few new foodie faves.

1. Hornazo (Salamanca)

Hornazo is a densely packed meat pastry filled with chorizo, pork loin and hard-boiled eggs. In other words, Spain’s response to a pasty. It is certainly not for vegetarians or the faint-hearted but does satisfy cravings you didn’t even know you had. This meat-lovers’ paradise is traditionally eaten on Lunes de Aguas, a festival celebrated in April in Salamanca, during which the city’s population take over the riverside to drink, be merry and eat hornazo.

2. Paella (Valencia)

Paella: the dish everyone associates with Spain. Dating back to the 19th Century, this dish has certainly been around for a long time, yet is widely recognised within Spain as a specifically Valencian delicacy.

With regards to paella’s ingredients, the Jamie Oliver paella palaver a couple of years ago proved that chorizo certainly is not traditionally included. A Valencian paella consists of rice, meat, green beans, snails and saffron. On a trip to Spain, you will undoubtedly find paella on the menu across the country offering many variations on the classic Valencian paella. While generally still tasty, these dishes are nothing in comparison to eating paella from where it originated therefore if in Valencia, be sure to try it.

3. Salmorejo (Andalucia)

We all know gazpacho, the cold tomato soup served in Spain. But how about salmorejo? Salmorejo is gazpacho’s cousin, which still has a tomato base but is topped with additional ingredients such as bread, serrano ham and boiled eggs. Salmorejo originates in Cordoba, in the southern region of Andalucía, where soaring summer temperatures make salmorejo the perfect refreshing starter or meal.

4. Pisto (La Mancha, south of Madrid)

This Spanish version of ratatouille consists of Mediterranean vegetables including tomatoes, onions, aubergine and peppers. Often served with fried or scrambled eggs, pisto is a delightful dish to try, and can be a refreshing break from the meat and carb-heavy Spanish diet. While pisto originally comes from the region of Castilla de la Mancha, south of Madrid, it can often be found in tapas bars served as a starter or accompaniment to another dish.

5. Pulpo a la gallega (Galicia)

Seafood is a prominent part of Galician cuisine due to Galicia’s location along the north-west Spanish coastline. The dish most associated with Galician cuisine is pulpo a la gallega, which somehow manages to use only four ingredients yet which is guaranteed to leave your taste buds tingling. Octopus is cooked with olive oil, paprika and salt to create this seafood sensation which must feature on any visitor’s to-do list when in Galicia.

6. Cochinillo (Segovia)

Segovia is well-known for its ancient Roman aqueduct and castle. However, the real deal-clincher to any trip to this historic city is its cochinillo, a suckling pig that is slow-roasted and served whole. Don’t be put off by the fact it’s served whole, seeing the pig head and feet is definitely worth it once you try the tender, succulent meat. Cochinillo aficionados recommend accompanying the dish with wine to wash down the pork.  

7. Pan con tomate (Catalonia)

This humble dish combines grilled bread with a fresh garlicky tomato spread to provide the perfect breakfast or afternoon snack. Originally from Catalonia, pan con tomate can be found across Spain in many a café and tapas bar. Many eateries offer breakfast deals which include pan con tomate and a café con leche for a few euros, which can be an enjoyable savoury breakfast that changes from churros or pastries.

8. Fabada asturiana (Asturias)

Fabada asturiana is a bean stew that, unsurprisingly, originates from Asturias, but is now available throughout Spain. Canned fabada can be bought in most supermarkets but it is definitely worth trying the real thing if in Asturias. Made with white beans, pork shoulder or bacon, black pudding and chorizo, this dish is a heavy meal that is usually served in winter and eaten as the largest meal of the day.

9. Bacalao (Basque country)

There are many ways in which bacalao, cod, is served in Spain - but a particular Basque speciality is bacalao a la Vizcaina, salted cod in Biscay sauce. This old time classic involves a red sauce made from red onions and peppers, which is poured over cod in a simple yet delicious dish.

10. Pimientos de Padrón (A Coruña, Galicia)

Pimientos de Padrón are Spain’s take on cooking vegetables: deep fry them in olive oil. These small green peppers were originally served in the province of A Coruña in Galicia, but now can be ordered in many restaurants as either a tapas dish or a larger portion, known as a ración. The fun with these peppers lies in the fact that while most are mild, the occasional pepper is particularly hot - but there is no way to tell which one before eating them. It is said that the amount of water and sunlight the peppers receive when growing dictates how mild or hot the peppers will end up being. Whether true or not, these tasty little peppers represent an essential item on the Spanish food tasting list.

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