My cooking skills are limited to toast and maybe cereal. However, I love to eat! Whenever I find myself in a new country, eating is the first thing I want to do. So here are some of my favorites in Spain, bearing in mind that I haven’t traveled to Galicia yet, which is in the north and is famous for its fantastic seafood. Here are my winners so far:
1. Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (Acorn-Fed Iberian Ham)
This is the highest quality of cured ham that you can order. It’s usually served with small breadsticks on a platter with different cheeses or some bread. A tapa (appetizer-sized portion) will cost an average of 5-10 euro. If you wanted to buy a larger portion you would pay around 20-30 euro. The entire pork leg would be a pricy souvenir ranging from 150-300 euro depending on quality. You can find it in restaurants around the country, and it’s not specific to a certain region. The pigs are raised eating only fine grains and acorns, which is how the dish gets its name.
2. Patatas Alioli (Potatoes with Garlic, Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, and Egg Yolks)
These may look like regular fried potatoes with some dressing on them, but alioliis the Holy Grail. It is used on seafood, like calamari and sepia (see below) or with potatoes. When you try alioli for the first time, it will change your life. If it were socially acceptable, I would eat alioli on top of more alioli. So what is this fantastic gift to humanity? It’s a sauce made of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and egg yolks. It has many variations with other ingredients. They sell a version of it in supermarkets, but if you can get it freshly made at a restaurant you will definitely enjoy it. Oh, and you will have nasty garlic breath afterward that goes away only after you brush your teeth six times in a row, but it’s totally worth it.
3. Carrillada (Pig’s Cheeks)
This is usually served with potatoes in its own tender juicy sauce. The meat is very soft, as it is slow-cooked on very low heat for several hours. It is a traditional dish from Sevilla, and the best usually comes from acorn-fed pigs. Try it at Bodeguita Romero, a restaurant found in the heart of Sevilla in the south of Spain.
4. Sepia (Cuttlefish)
It’s usually fried and served in small, marinated pieces with alioli on the side (yay!). In the south of Spain, it can also be served breaded before it’s fried. My favorite restaurant was Las Tres Bellotas in Valladolid, Spain. I’m not a huge fan of seafood, but I thought this was great.
5. Lechazo (Unweaned Lamb)
This is a famous dish from the region of Castilla y León. Unlike the other tapas above, which are served in smaller portions, this is a full-course meal served with potatoes, salads, and wine. The price range is about 30-50 euro, but once again, it’s definitely worth it. It’s roasted in a wooden stove, and the meat is soft and juicy. This is a dish served on special occasions, especially Christmas. (I know the baby lamb thing is sad; just don’t think about it.)