The Spanish Food Code

We would never had imagined the varieties of the Spanish cuisine. Of course we heard about tapas, serrano, ibérico… The typical things that everybody knows. But then we actually saw the menu and we were lost! Even the Mexican Spanish couldn’t help on us too much, so we had to look them up in google one by one what is what… To help you to understand the Spanish menu easier – and quicker – we created a little guide.

1. Welcome food:

Anywhere you go in and sit they offer a little tapa while you’re figuring out what to order. Even if you are only having a beer, a little potato chips – usually – are always served on your table.
The Spanish eat everything – almost – with bread, so if you decided to order some dish, they will serve fresh bread slices as well without asking for it. You will be grateful for it when you order some tapas.

2. The Size:

In most of the Spanish restaurants there are two kinds of sizes when talking about food:

Tapa: Tapas are usually smaller portion of food. Ideal if you would like to try out more things from the menu. 2 tapas are usually enough for 1 person, but if not for you, don’t be afraid to order later something else. That is what tapas about, eating a small portion, while the next one is being prepared.

Ración: Raciones are bigger amount of foods than tapas and usually one kind is enough for a person. It can also be perfect for sharing with more people. In some places half or media raciónes are also available.

The waiters are usually friendly in Madrid so you can always ask their opinion if you are not sure the amount is going to be enough for you.

3. The types of typical dishes:

Ensaladas: salads. The main ingredients of the most common Spanish Ensalada Mixta are lettuce, tomato, onion and based on the restaurant they can add some special topping like tuna, asparagus or eggs.

Frituras: fried food. Can be seafood and croquettes.

Tostas: fresh toasted bread slices topped with your chosen ingredients. In some cases they also put some cheese as well.

Mariscos: seafood. The real paella is with seafood, chicken doesn’t count! I was strictly told. The most commonly served fishtypes are tuna (atún) , salmon (salmón), anchovy (anchoa). See some mariscos de España below.

Carne: meat. You shouldn’t miss out trying the Spanish ham! The top one is the Ibérico, but of course there can be a lot of difference within itself as well. Serrano is a good choice as well. Just pop in a Museo del Jamón and taste the various Spanish meat!

Postres: desserts! Yummy 😛 The group’s main representative in Spain is the flan.

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4. Eating Times:

On our first afternoon in Madrid we sat down outside a restaurant, we were so hungry and ready to try some Spanish food. After finally figuring out the menu we asked the waiter to order some tapas, when we were told the kitchen is closed until 8pm! That’s when we found the Mexican restaurant, but that’s another story…

Keep in mind – just for not to be like us – in Spain they usually have a light breakfast in the morning, after a few hours a little pre-lunch or snack, the main lunch is around 2pm. And after that a lot of typical restaurants close their kicthen for the afternoon and open only for tapas time after 8-9pm.

5. Typical Dishes:

Even though we couldn’t try out everything – and some we didn’t want because we were a little choosy – here is our list:

Tortilla: eggs with onion and potato served with bread — of course. The commonly offered Pincho de Tortilla is a triangular portion of it, which can be enough for starting the day. Perfect breakfast! We loved it!

Pincho de Tortilla, Madrid

Callos: a traditional hearty stew from Madrid cooked with beef tripe, snout and Spanish sausages such as chorizo. Personally, the taste was really good, but I can’t eat tripe.

Tortilla con Callos, Madrid (El Brillante)

Patatas Bravas: fried potato wedges with special tomato sauce. Tasty tapas!

Patatas Bravas, Madrid

Torreznos: traditional pork rinds – fried pork belly.

Torreznos, Madrid

Gambas al Ajillo: peeled shrimps in spicy, garlic stuffed olive oil.

Gambas al Ajillo, Mallorca

Calamares a la Romana: fried squid rings.

Calamera a la Romana, Mallorca

Paella: traditional paella with seafood.

Paella, Mallorca

Paella Negra: Paella blackened by the tint of squid, which enhances the flavors.

Paella Negra with artichoke, Mallorca

Plato de Carne: Spanish jam and sausages. Can be offered with some cheese.

Plato de Carne, Mallorca

Croquetes: croquettes, deep fried roll coated with breadcrumbs and usually filled with cheese, ham and smashed potato.

Salmorejo: a creamy cold soup containing tomato and bread. Not as known as the Gazpacho, but sure it is tasty.

Salmorejo, Madrid

Flan: delicious custard dessert topped with caramel sauce.

Flan, Madrid

Churros: sweet fried-dough usually served with hot dense hot chocolate to dip.

Churros con Chocolate, Barcelona

Cafe con Leche: coffe with milk. The most typical way they offer the coffe. Of course you can ask for your type. Solo is the espresso by itself. If it’s too hot outside, ask for a cafe con hielo. 😉

Tinto de Verano: a simplier version of Sangria. The red wine is mixed with a lemon flavoured soda. Of course there are fancier – more expensive – kinds, but I think the Tinto de Verano from La Casera was fine before heading out to the night 😛

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Hope you found this post useful for your trip to Spain! I know these are just partly covering the Spanish menu, but we tried to collect the most basic and important ones!
Please share it in comment if you miss something important from the list! 🙂

Buen Provecho! 🙂

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