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Spain’s Must-Eat Guide for Foodies

©flickr/Kevin Phua

©flickr/Kevin Phua

Most historians know Spain’s traditional nickname, “Land of the setting sun.” However, foodies know Spain as the “Land of Tapas and Sangria.” Sun, food and street side cafes go hand-in-mouth when exploring cities and beach towns. Foodies experience an array of native food and beverages, which stimulates taste buds to “tapas heaven.” When in Spain, treat your tongue to a palate-popping experience with one, or all, these must-eat foods listed below.

Paella
Paella is a saffron-flavored rice dish that combines meat, seafood, beans and/or vegetables. Paella’s roots originate from Valencia symbolizing its Roman heritage. Common forms of paella include seafood paella (paella de marisco), mixed land meat or seafood paella (paella mixta) and vegetable paella (paella de verduras).  Cities along the coast such as Barcelona and Valencia are well known for seafood paella. Most cafes serve paella for two people, which also means double the menu’s price. Most menus show the Euro “per persona” price, but require a minimum of two people to eat the paella.

Sangria
What happens when you fuse wine, fruit, juice, sugar and club soda? The results are one magnificent alcoholic concoction. Sangria’s sweet flavor washes thirsty palates that are overheated from the summer’s sun.  Many cafes and restaurants serve sangria by the liter or pitcher, which is cheaper than the price per glass.

Patatas Bravas
Also known as “spicy potatoes,” patatas bravas are commonly found on the tapas menu. Every café serves this Spanish staple with a personalized twist and flair. The traditional option is fried white potatoes served with mayonnaise, spicy sauce or aioli sauce. Some restaurants mix the flavors or offer two dressings on one plate. Sauces and flavors vary at each café and region of Spain.

Spanish Tortilla
This is not your common burrito-looking food. Spanish tortilla is also known as the “Spanish omelet.” This omelet combines simple ingredients of egg, oil and potatoes to concoct a melt-in-your-mouth, au gratin-like experience. Most omelets are served layered with potatoes, similar to a lasagna or eggplant Parmesan look.

Jamon Iberico
Travelers who visit Spain will notice Jamon shops on every street block. Most shops hang the preserved ham hock in the window. Ham is one of the most precious Spanish delicatessens. The black Iberian pig lives in the southern regions of Spain and only feasts on olives and acorns. Locals eat the thin slices of cured ham alone or with other meats and cheeses. Jamon Iberico is a rarity and not found much outside of Spain. Due to its lack of availability, the ham is expensive.

Mojitos
After a long day in the sun, locals and travelers alike sip on mojitos for its cooling and strong alcoholic effect. Spanish mojitos blend rum, mint, sugar and soda. Mojitos vary upon region and bartender. Commonly found mojitos include the classic mint, strawberry, passion fruit, pineapple or kiwi.

Churros Caliente
Also known as “Churros con chocolate,” this dessert is a fried pastry dough served with the thickest hot chocolate ever known to man. Churros caliente is either the start or end to someone’s day. Whether it’s breakfast or dessert taste buds bathe in a sweet delight.  The churro is dipped into the hot chocolate, which is the ultimate Spanish “fondue” experience. Most churros come in sticks to make the dunking more enjoyable.

Seafood Specials
Spain is notable for spectacular seafood. Travelers find octopus, fish, squid, anchovies, clams and a plethora of other sea creatures on menus. Seafood is served solo or with grains such as pasta or paella. A Madrid favorite is Anguilla, or baby eels.

Croquetas
Known as croquettes in English, these oval-shaped grain balls are found on the tapas menu. Croquettes are either vegetarian or meat-filled combined with other ingredients.  The balls are either cooked or fried. Popular Spanish croquettes include cod (bacalao), ham (jamon), spinach (espinaca) or chicken (pollo).

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