There are a lot of little secrets of Spanish food and cooking. It’s all about building flavors from simple ingredients. Spain was once a country of nothing – a country with nothing. And with nothing, they produced some of the most flavorful dishes that are still made and served on Spanish tables today. Spain’s culinary magic begins by letting beans or rice or onions steep in fruity olive oil, extracting as much flavor as possible. It’s about using every part of the pig. It’s about using local spices and preserving recipes that have been passed down from great grandmothers. It’s about weekend lunches that stretch into all-day affairs. Eating and cooking Spanish food is as much of the culture here as is bullfighting and flamenco, if not more. And although the North of Spain steals much of that spotlight from the rest of the country, there’s a lot to be said for the South of Spain, as well.
There are two wonderful ways to experience the gastronomical side of Andalucía. You could head out for a night on the town and pop into a tapas bar to get a feel for the local food and the local people. You’ll find all kinds of things on the menu, ranging from grilled vegetables drizzled with olive oil to beautiful cuts of meat prepared with a variety of sauces such as mojo picón, salsa al whisky or even a la marinera. Here you can find a list of the top ten must-try tapas in Southern Spain.
Or the other most exquisite way to really get a taste of Andalucía is to take a cooking course while you’re there. Learn from a professional local chef just how to make those distinct Spanish flavors pop, how to let the flavors meld and how to make one of the most memorable and delicious meals of your life. There’s nothing more gratifying than learning to cook something delicious for yourself in another country and being able to take that memory home with you to have and share with others. You’ll be amazed to see how simple ingredients like tomatoes, bread, olive oil and garlic come together to form one of the most delicious Andalucían dishes out there – salmorejo, which is a thick tomato soup similar to gazpacho. And that’s only the beginning – there are countless other timeless, flavor-packed Spanish dishes to learn how to create for yourself.
Here are our suggestions for the Top Ten Tapas Dishes To Eat In Andalucía
1. Caracoles – This is Spanish for snails, and they’re best at the very beginning of spring, after a rainy, wet winter. You’ll find them in a warm, cumin-spiced broth, and once you’ve finished slurping out the snails from their shells, don’t be shy about drinking up the leftover liquid. It’s what the locals do, and it’s simply delicious.
2. Salmorejo – By simply combining fresh tomatoes, bread, garlic and olive oil, salmorejo is created, and it is a true Andalucían treat. Of course this is best when the tomatoes are best (in the height of the summer months) but to be honest, it’s never a bad choice. Eat it with a spoon, or do as the locals do, and scoop up the think tomato soup with chunks of bread.
3. Pescaíto frito – Andalucía takes up the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, and it’s where the land meets the sea that true magic happens – the fresh fish and shellfish that is caught there is simply divine. A favorite way to prepare this fish is to lightly fry it in olive oil. Right before you eat it, squeeze some fresh lemon juice atop the pile of fried fish, and you won’t be disappointed.
4. Garbanzos con espinacas – This dish is more typically eaten for lunch rather than for dinner, and it’s a true testament Spain’s master ability to take simple ingredients and create something deep in flavor and richness. This is a simple stew of chickpeas and spinach that has been cooked down with bits of fried bread and garlic. It is a filling, flavorful dish and perfect on a cloudy day.
5. Montaditos – “Little sandwiches” is the translation of this word, and you’ll see them all over the place in Southern Spain – on menus and written on signs hanging within bars. These little sandwiches are packed with all sorts of flavor and a great way to taste Andalcuía. You will be able to choose anchovies, any type of cured meat, or Sevilla’s most popular one, a serranito, which comes with serrano ham, a thin slice of pork loin and beautifully fried green pepper.
6. Papas bravas – After potatoes are cut into perfect squares and fried to perfection, they’re served with a spice sauce called salsa brava. They are insanely addictive and the perfect side to any montadito. If the sauce is too spicy for you, it’s usually served with a side of mayonnaise to cut the heat a bit.
7. Solomillo al whisky – Sirloin steak is grilled to perfection and then topped with a thick, savory sauce made from crushed cloves of garlic and whisky. This is good served with a side of fries or even in between the buns of a little sandwich.
8. Tortilla de patatas – This might be the simplest, most traditional, most delicious tapa in all of Spain. It couldn’t be more simple – potatoes, eggs and salt (and onions if you’re fancy) – nor more delicious. After the potatoes are perfectly fried in olive oil, they’re mixed with beaten eggs and salt, and poured back into the skillet to slowly cook both sides of this massive omelet. The end result is the perfect savory mixture of eggs and potatoes, and the perfect tapa to experience the true flavors of Spain.
9. Jamón iberico – Perhaps this goes without saying, but the salty cured ham that comes from Southern Iberian pigs is a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s rich and flavorful, and it’s the perfect way to start a night of tapas. Slip a bite of this good stuff into your mouth, and you’ll feel it melt on your tongue.
10. Berenjenas con miel – Eggplant is thinly sliced, lightly fried and served with thick molasses. It’s the perfect mix of salty and sweet and another delicious tapa to try. If you’re not a fan of mixing sweet or salty, ask for the berenjenas to be served with salmorejo instead – it’s just as delicious!
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons