Ok, you must be wondering what Spanish food has to do with a travel bucket list. Spain does have many places worthy of being added to your bucket list, such as the Alhambra, but over and above, I love Spanish food.
A satisfying breakfast with Churros, toast with cheese and ham and scrambled eggs (don’t the eggs look lovely?)
Spanish food appeals to me much for a few reasons: it is tasty, varied, and it can be so darn cheap. I’ll explain the cheap part in a moment. Spain is one of the countries with the most Michelin starred restaurants, so, without a doubt, you know Spaniards have good taste. The variety of Spanish food is best exemplified by their Tapas. The number of different Tapas I have seen in a typical restaurant menu, or ready-made and put on display, are no less than 20. Tapas are like the Spanish equivalent of dim sum: small portioned, creative and refined.
Tapas are relatively cheap – it allows you to sample many different dishes without breaking the bank. I was quite surprised, while in a Tapas bar – El Majuelo in Salamanca, to see locals having just one Tapas dish and a drink for a meal. The Tapas were generally 3 to 5 Euros. That was perhaps the cheapest meal I have seen happening in Western Europe, and one of the best meals i’ve had.
Cheese with mushroom. It tasted like foie gras
Rice with black pudding. I’m no fan of pig’s blood but this tasted so good, a bit like sweet glutinous rice dessert
While in Spain, i took the opportunity to try a 3 Michelin star restaurant as well – Arzak. The amuse bouche were very interesting indeed. The mains, other than being a little too small in terms of portion, can’t be faulted. The service was perfect. The price? well, naturally there’s no small price to pay to get 3 star treatment. Ultimately, I think I probably won’t go to another 3 star restaurant. I like my meals to be a repeatable experience – things you can eat everyday, like fried bee hoon or curry chicken.
Amuse bouche served on a soda can
I don’t know what was in this small bottle but it was GOOD
Beef served on top of an iPad (really)
Paella is the dish that is most identified as being Spanish. The eye-opener Paella I had was at A Curtidoria, Santiago de Compostela. It took a while to prepare, which was a good sign. The taste and texture floored us. To Asians, the price will undoubtedly feel steep (over 30 Euros) for what is essentially cooked rice sprinkled with seafood, but it was so good it was every bit worth it (sorry, no photo to show on this one). Forget about those paella prepared in a huge pan (which, by the way, i don’t recall seeing in Spain), those are mostly a gimmick (how can rice that is left cooking on the stove for so long taste good). Forget also about Paella sold at restaurants targeted at tourists near tourist attractions, these are likely to be factory-produced frozen meals. Go for the real thing.
While we’re on the topic of Paella, which is mostly based on seafood, Spaniards know more than a thing or two about seafood. Botafumeiro in Barcelona is a seafood restaurant patronized by such luminaries as former US president Bill Clinton. Be prepared to shell out quite a bit for the meal, but it doesn’t disappoint.
Seafood platter at Botafumeiro
Anyway, remember i said Spanish food can be very cheap? Here are some examples:
A four course meal including a drink (beer) was 11 euros (about S$17.50), at Cal Tronc, Besalu. I kid you not – their website still advertises this price.
Snacks – 2 pastry items, a coffee and a beer (with free potato chips) came up to 6.8 Euros (about S$11).