As in any Mediterranean country Spanish national cooking traditions combine features of its neighbors. To be more detailed it has some interconnections with France and Italy, and, therefore, became one of the best in the world for quality and variety of products. One more thing to add is that there is no statement of Spanish cuisine itself, but its regional varieties: climate conditions and lifestyle affect differently in different areas of the country.
However, there are some similar issues. In general, Spanish cuisine is likely to use such techniques as quenching in wine (red in the south and west of the country and white in the east), baking with feta cheese and roasting on a lattice (grill). Additionally, green sage and crushed walnuts are used widely.
Common Spanish Dishes
Paella is a Valencia rice dish, which in its modern form emerged in the mid-19th century. Currently there is no agreement concerning the origin of this dish, as far as natives believe it is strictly Valencia and a majority of non-Spaniards consider paella as Spanish national one.
Jamon (Hamon) appears to be the Spanish name of ham, delicatessen, and jerked pork ham.
Tapas appears to be a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or warm (such as chopitos, which are battered, fried squid).
Various sorts of cheeses are a characteristic feature of national cooking, such as firm cheeses (Idiazabel, Majon, Manchego), fresh cheeses (Afuega'l pitu, Mato), blue cheeses (Cabrales, Picón Bejes-Tresviso) and cream cheeses.
Without any doubt wine is the basic element of all and each of the regional cuisines of Spain. Spain, along with France and Italy, appears to be the third largest wine producer in the world.
The old and new Castile is a home of many traditional Spanish dishes, where chickpeas (nutes), beans, chorizo and pisto (paste of garlic, herbs and olive oil) are of great popularity. Arabic influence might be noticed almost in every dish; particularly, it is related to widespread usage of nutes imported initially by Carthaginians.
Traditional potato tortilla also hails from this area as well as it is worth tasting local roasted suckling pig and lamb steak. The pig must be weighing from three to four pounds, and only 15-20 days old. To cook it an old oven is used, in which meat becomes tenderer.
Dishes Made of Fish
Such dishes are also a crucial part of local cuisine.
The most popular ones are bacalao al ajo arriero (cod with garlic sauce), dos y pingada (ham and eggs), arroz a la zamorana (rice in Samoranian) and sopa de ajo (garlic soup).
Wine lovers can test local winery achievements of different Castile areas: Ribera-del-Duero (sophisticated and expensive red and rose wines), Rueda (light, fresh and fruity white wines) and Toro (highly concentrated sorts).
One more area, which suffered from external influence, is Andalusia and its cuisine due to the fact that Moors helped locals to get acquainted with citrus, almond and rice for paella.
Cold soup gaspacho is born in Andalusia. In modern times it is cooked with tomatoes, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and garlic in contrast to those times, when there were no tomatoes in Europe and gaspacho was prepared from white grapes and almonds, frayed along with Moorish mortar and pestle. Andalusia can also boast of classic salad of oranges and remojon (salted cod), escabeche (pickled fish) and a wide choice of tapas snacks.
Catalan cuisine has absorbed lots of peculiarities of Mediterranean cuisine. Practically, it uses seasonal products, and traditional features are in its core. The Catalans are people who think in contrasts. They like to combine the incompatible ingredients and mix a myriad of using all that fresh that appears on the market.
The specific cuisine called "Mar i Muntanya" is predominant in the area, the translation of which is "sea and mountain". This is a delicious and unusual way of mixing seafood with meat products. Such combinations include pork and scallops, tuna soup with snails, rabbit and chicken with crayfish.
Catalan is the place of the famous hot pepper sauce romesco, traditional flavored goulash with saffron, seafood, tomatoes and potatoes, which are often sprinkled on top with alioli ("ali" means "garlic" and "oli" - olive oil).
Galicia is a leading center of fishery industry, which delivers the best seafood, especially scallops, known as "a symbol of Santiago". In the city of Santiago de Compostela there is a tomb of the apostle of Santiago, and a traditional Spanish almond cake originated here, which is always decorated with a sword in the memory of the saint. The lead of all local menus is the octopus in Galician or pulpo a la feria, cooked in traditional copper pot, and served on a wooden stand with potatoes, finely chopped, sprinkled with large sea salt and paprika. Wines can be also defined as exclusive feature of the region, as far as there is a great choice of them: besides simple fishermen wines, Albarino (Albariño) draws a big attention, being the white one with flavors of apricot, peach, almonds, apples and fresh herbs.
One more rich seafood region is the Basque Country, where fresh products and less hot spices are preferred. In almost every bar you will find tapas and every good restaurant participates in a competition for the best tapas of the year.
However, tapas can be replaced by gambas pil pil (prawns fried in olive oil) and champerniogne pil pil (mushrooms, roasted with garlic), which are served in low round ceramic plates. Do not forget to try piperada – soft scrambled eggs with red pepper, tomatoes and garlic.
San Sebastian (in the Bay of Biscay) is a popular fishing port from which the traditional salted cod (balacao) is provided. The last one is usually made in garlic sauce; fins of the sea pike, huge burgers made from beef on the grill and fry of the eel are also very popular. There are many truffles and fresh mushrooms in the cuisine, which are fried, baked in casseroles or put in a pie. A big choice of cheeses might be a considerable challenge for both locals and tourists, because this area is famous for cheese sort Idiazabal made from raw sheep's milk solely and is fermented for at least two months to acquire a delicate creamy taste.
Spanish cuisine is a mix of Arabic, European and national traditions, which formed a large menu of dishes varying around the country. However, there is only one place, where tourists may try the entire range of cooking achievements of Spain - the capital area of Madrid. As in regional districts, Madrid restaurants and cafes are pleased to serve fascinating, racy and intriguing dishes for those ones, who are eager to taste them.