I love Spanish food with every ounce of my being. So naturally, it breaks my heart when people come here and don’t really understand the food or what to order, and end up not really caring for the cuisine. Because this is so tragic, I’ve put together some tips below to help you get the best out of your Spanish food experience.
Spanish food defined
When visiting this fine country, you will have lots of terms thrown at you when it comes to what you are eating. Here is a list of Spanish vocabulary that will help to orient you a bit.
• Tapas: a small snack, served along with your drink, which is often free. Often, on menus, you will might see a tapas listed as a portion size. This obviously means that it will be small and for one person only.
• Pincho/pinxto: like tapas, pinchos are often small food servings that you eat along with a drink (although usually not free). Pinchos originate from Basque Country and are typically served on or accompanied with a small piece of bread.
• Ración/media ración: A ración represents a portion that is plate-sized (some times you will see a portion size described as plato versus ración). If that’s too big, you can try to ask for a media ración (half ración).
• Caña – a small serving of beer, which is typically served a the bar.
• Menú del día: In Spain it is common for restaurants, normally during lunch time and on weekdays, to serve a menú del día. Don’t get this confused with the actual “menu” which is called la carta. The menú del día is usually a well-priced, preset menu of homemade food that includes a first and second course, dessert and a drink. Typically you will have a few options to select from in each category.
• Para compartir: When in Spain, do like the Spaniards and share your food! When ordering raciones, platos, multiple tapas and so on, if you wish to share a dish, you can just tell the waiter that it is para compartir (to share).
Eating in Spain and what to order
Ok, this is an important one, so listen up! Spanish food can be daunting and often gets an undeserved bad rap. Why? Because people don’t know what to order (whether you can understand the menu or not). So here are some items you must try:
• Tortilla patata/tortilla española – this is NOTHING like a Mexican tortilla, but rather more like an omelet
• Jamon Iberico (Serrano isn’t as good – if you’re willing to spend a couple extra bucks, pardon…euros, go with the Iberico)
• Pulpo a la gallega (octupus) – served sliced with olive oil, paprika, potato and salt
• Pimientos rellenos (that have nothing to do with the Mexican version)
• Pan con tomate (bread with olive oil and fresh ground tomato on top)
• Croquetas – you can often find various versions of these including jamon, mushrooms and cod.
• Arroz con leche for dessert (rice pudding)
• Tinto de verano con casera (beverage – a mix of red wine and a flavored sparkling water)
• For vegetarian dish ideas, click here.
Wherever you visit, I highly recommend that you spend one evening going tapas hopping (as I call it – here they call it ir de tapas). Basically you go to one tapas bar, have yourself a tapa and a drink, and then head to the next. It’s a great way to get to know a city, the food and the culture. To learn more about the best restaurants to visit or foods to try in a specific city, please visit the travel page.
Experiences from my blog
Spain has many different types of foods and traditions around food – read about my experiences here.