So you’re doing your Erasmus in Spain? You lucky tío(a). You’re only in one of the best regions in the world when it comes to food. Believe us; it’s so much more than tapas and a stop at 100 Montaditos. You need to taste as much as possible.
However, this Southern European country isn’t only about Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia; there are so many regional dishes to try. Click on our food map and check out the best dishes of each Spanish region:
1. Pulpo a la gallega (Galicia)
The most well-known Galician dish (excuse us, empanada) has spread all over the country, but as is often the case, to try the authentic recipe you have to go its place of origin. If you happen to be in Galicia on the second Sunday of August, head to O Carballiño during the Festa do Pulpo to try it.
2. Fabada (Asturias)
Nothing like a good Asturian fabada on a winter’s day. This calorie-filled stew of beans, pork, sausage and black pudding is undoubtedly heavy, but you’ll have time to digest it all with a fresh cider and a nice walk.
3. Cocido montañés (Cantabria)
Another essential bean stew for the cold northern winter is the well-known cocido montañés, or mountain stew, typical of Cantabria. In addition to white beans, it also has bacon, sausage, pork rib, various sausages, cabbage, potatoes and sweet paprika. Those on a diet better refrain from this dish.
4. Bacalao al pil-pil (Basque Country)
Only four ingredients are needed to make this tasty Basque dish: codfish, garlic, chilli and olive oil. It’s usually prepared in a clay pot and, according to experts, should be served while it’s still boiling.
5. Ajoarriero (Navarra)
Another codfish dish, although this recipe is a bit more elaborate. The ajoarriero cod carries different types of peppers (green, piquillo and choriceros), chilli, garlic, tomato sauce and parsley. A must if you visit Navarra.
6. Asado de ternasco (Aragon)
Ternasco is lamb which hasn’t yet grazed and, following this typical Aragonese recipe, is roasted with onions, garlic, white wine and potatoes. Although you can try it in any corner of this region, here are some suggestions of asadores (steakhouses) in Zaragoza: Asador del Toro, Asador del Pilar and Asador La Forja.
7. Calçots (Catalonia)
Calçots are sweet chives that are prepared and eaten in a particular way. They’re grilled, wrapped in newspaper, and served on a roof tile. You have to peel the chives by pulling on one end, dip it in a tasty sauce of tomatoes, peppers, almonds and garlic, and bottoms up! It even has its own party, called calçotada, in the Valls municipality at the end of January, so take note.
8. Cochinillo asado (Castile and León)
Castile y León’s staple dish is most certainly the cochinillo asado, or roasted suckling pig, a must-eat if you visit Segovia or another city in the area. It’s cooked in a wood-fired oven in a clay pot with bay leaves, served crunchy and with the roast’s own juiciness. Wash it down with a glass of earthy red wine from the region.
9. Patatas a la riojana (La Rioja)
You only need three ingredients for this typical Riojan recipe — potatoes, chorizo and paprika — and it’s an ideal dish for winter. We don’t know whether a glass of Riojan wine is a good companion, but if you’re ever in town, ask for one. No harm in trying, right?
10. Bocadillo de calamares (Madrid)
You’ve surely heard, on more than one occasion, someone saying, “he’s more Madrilenian than a calamares sandwich”. With the cocido‘s permission, few dishes are more typical of the Spanish capital than this unique squid sandwich that surprises foreigners. You don’t have to look far to find it, because it’s served in every bar, such as the Plaza Mayor pub or the Bar Postas.
11. Paella Valenciana (Valencian Community)
The paella is probably the most well-known Spanish dish in the world, and also the most controversial. When the paella comes out in any conversation, the debate is served and every taste has its own opinion: that it shouldn’t have peas, that you shouldn’t mix meat and seafood like the paella mixta does, that it shouldn’t have snails… This will surprise more than one person, but according to the Regulatory Council of the Denomination of Origin of Valencian Rice (yes, it’s a thing), the Valencian paella should only be named as such if it has these 10 key ingredients: rice, chicken, rabbit, lima beans, tomato, green beans, saffron, olive oil and salt.
12. Jamón ibérico de bellota (Extremadura)
In the land of oak trees, the jamón is amazing, and Extremadura is a synonym for the Iberian jamón. A good portion of jamón ibérico de bellota — dry-cured ham from pigs that are pastured and fed a combination of acorns — (and don’t discard the jamón de cebo either) can’t be missed in any trip to Extremadura. Well, that and pig loin, chorizo, salchichón, morcón, sirloin, secreto, pluma… The key is to always look for the word “Iberian” on the menu.
13. Queso manchego (Castilla-La Mancha)
Manchego cheese is another worldwide symbol of Spanish gastronomy, and it’s even mentioned in the Spanish classic Don Quixote. It’s made with manchega sheep milk and it’s a perfect entrée that can be served on a plank or in tapas. Castilla-La Mancha isn’t short of good wines — always the best companions.
14. Zarangollo murciano (Murcia)
If you visit the region of Murcia, don’t forget to ask for the its famous zarangollo. It’s a scrambled eggplant made with zucchini, onion, eggs, oil and salt. A simple but very rich dish that you can eat as a main course or as a tapa, according to the bar or restaurant you’re at. Some recipes also include potatoes.
15. Sobrasada (Balearic Islands)
This sausage is, along with ensaimada, the most well-known gastronomic ingredient of Mallorca. It’s made with pork, bacon, paprika, salt and pepper, and it’s usually eaten with bread (although it can also be served with honey), or it can also be used as ingredients in many recipes such as croquettes.
16. Gazpacho (Andalusia)
Like the Valencian paella, this cold summer soup par excellence has infinite variations according to the area you’re in, although the so-called Andalusian gazpacho usually includes tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, garlic, onion, olive oil, salt, vinegar and water (it can also have bread). From the classic gazpacho many other Andalusian recipes arise, such as the salmorejo from Cordoba.
17. Papas arrugadas (Canary Islands)
The secret of this Canarian recipe is the use of a specific type of potato, the so-called “pretty potato”, which is cooked without peeling and with a lot of salt. Although usually served as a garnish on fish or meat dishes, you can also try them as a tapa and garnished with mojo, a typical spicy red sauce.
Now check out 11 dishes you should try during your Erasmus in Portugal!
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What other Spanish dishes would you add to our list? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you’re looking for student accommodation in Europe, you’ll find the perfect student home on Uniplaces. We have rooms in Madrid, rooms in Barcelona, and rooms in Valencia!