Spain is a vibrant country with rich customs and fun-loving people. It's easy to have a good time in the Iberian country. To really get to know Spain, though, you must explore it through your senses, and what better way than through its food? The 'Land of Rivers', as Spain is known, is divided into smaller autonomous regions, which has led to the development of unique, regional cuisines. Every town has its specialties, making the country a real treat to explore. Here's a list of popular foods in Spain you have to try.
Paella must be the most sophisticated rice dish on the planet. The rice, cooked in a special flat dish over an open flame, gets its color from the exotic saffron spice and is livened by a wide variety of veggies and meat. Pork, prawns, mussels, and chicken play a role here, representing the air, land, and sea. The Valencian specialty is a Sunday treat; you can enjoy paella cooked in the streets, and although paella is a hearty and very satisfying dish, you just can't have enough of it. The good news is that most paellas are oversized and ideal for feeding a crowd!
If you think you know eggs, think again. The Spanish tortilla is not only a remarkable egg-based omelet cousin to enjoy as a late breakfast; you can also have a slice for lunch and dinner! Onions, eggs, and most importantly, potatoes come together in a skillet for a thick and hearty quiche look-alike. The country's superb extra virgin olive oil makes all the difference, making the Spanish tortilla a delightful treat to enjoy warm or cold. Easier said than done; a Spanish tortilla should comprise tender, moist eggs, and it's pretty easy to over-cook, so leave it to the experts.
Up in Spain's many rolling hills, ham producers make this extraordinary, cured meat that's dried under the country's blistering sun by the warm Mediterranean winds. Serrano ham is one of the most exclusive cold meats on the planet, and there are several quality levels. Iberico ham comes from native Iberian pigs, and when they're fed out in the open exclusively with acorns, then the ham is called 'bellota' and can fetch high prices. Serrano ham is beautifully salty and fatty, it melts in your mouth, and it's the perfect partner for a slice of artisan bread.
Tapas are small plates and one-bite savory treats often enjoyed while having a cold pint of beer or wine glass. It comes without saying there are at least two dozen popular tapas: cured olives, spicy sautéed potatoes, Spanish tortilla, serrano ham, cheese, sardines, and sausages — everything goes! Going out for tapas is what you do with friends in Spain. The time spent around the table is sacred, and tapas always guarantee a deep conversation, a few laughs, and a great time. Obviously, with the country's fine wine readily available, how could you not have a fun night out?
The southern Andalucía region is the land of flamenco dancers, rattling guitars, bullfighting, and Sherry. Here the weather is warm, and you can see it in the food. The cold, tomato-based gazpacho soup has no comparison. Lots of garlic, paprika, cucumber, bell peppers, and spices liven this soup that's as nourishing as it is refreshing. Cold soups are massively under-represented worldwide, and they deserve more recognition, especially when they're as vibrant and thoughtful as a proper bowl of gazpacho. Perfect for hot summer days. Learning to make gazpacho at home is a nice ace to have up your sleeve.
The green Northwestern corner of Spain is called Galicia. Here, the cold Atlantic breeze gives life to refreshing Albariño white wine, and seafood is always the star of the show. Amongst a wide variety of fish and seafood dishes, there's the famous Galician-style octopus, a tender grilled octopus livened by sweet paprika, premium olive oil, and potatoes. All kissed by the grill's smoke and fire. Originally served on special occasions and holidays, today you'll find octopus everywhere in Spain, but this is no ordinary dish — it's octopus cooked right, and you won't find any like it elsewhere.
Spain's bustling capital city is home to many specialty dishes, but everyone knows the main attraction is Madrid's stew or cocido madrileño. Chickpeas are essential in this dish, and a wide variety of veggies play supporting roles. Sausages and slow-cooked meat make this dish an entire meal that can feed a crowd. This stew goes back to the middle ages and has changed little despite being centuries old. For those in the know, this is how Madrid taste like, as simple as that. Cocido Madrileño is the city's signature dish.
The cold, northern Asturias region is well known for its cider, but they have an exciting cuisine too. The fabada is a hearty and heart-warming white bean stew that gets its flavor from fatty pork sausages, blood sausages, and bacon. It's easy to see this calorie bomb is a winter specialty that will keep you warm even on the chilliest nights. If you happen to travel to Asturias in the summer, enjoy a bowl of fabada as well, just for the experience. The dish is a low-and-slow cooked stew with centuries of tradition. White beans perfected.
There are too many fantastic dishes to try in Spain; we just can't mention them all. Then, there're the country's cheese repertoire and sausages, cider, beer, and wine. Spain has it all, and it's all out there for everyone to experience. There's no doubt people know how to eat in Spain, from seductive breakfasts to tapas and a beer. Here, eating is more than nourishment; it's tradition, community, and good-old fun around the table. Food matters, of course, but the best part is always the people you share your meals with.