Spanish are very passionate about their food and wine and Spanish cuisine is home of the world famous Paella. Spanish food can be described as quiet light with a lot of vegetable and huge variety of meat and fish. The Spanish cuisine does not use many spices relies only on the use of high quality ingredients to give a good taste.
Bars and fast food in Spain
The entry level to Spanish food is found in bars. Often you find a variety of different tapas and bars often specialize on some tapas. A Spanish custom is to have one tapa and one small drink and then go to the next bar and do the same. Tourists are easily spotted when they load their plates full of tapas. Fast food has not yet established a strong grip on the Spaniards and you will find McDonalds and BB only in bigger towns in the usual places. Pizza is increasingly popular and you will find some outlets in bigger towns as well.
Restaurants in Spain
Restaurants deliver a wide range of food and in coastal areas seafood deserves some attention, especially in the north Atlantic coast. Spanish are very concerned about the freshness of seafood and it can happen that you place a order and the waiter tells you that he can not serve this dish, because they did not receive this particular seafood freshly on the day. It is very unlikely to find dishes that had been prepared from frozen fish in real Spanish restaurant. Obviously so much freshness has its toll and seafood is quite pricy. Meat products are usually of very good quality, because Spain had maintained a quiet high percentage of free range animal. A speciality is "jamon iberico" from free range pigs.
Service in Spain
Despite the good food the service in Spain is often lousy and waiters seem to be not very skilled in their profession or least they are not bothered about anything. Double that for touristy place, when you are a foreigner, and / or you are not fluent in Spanish.
Tipping in Spain
A little tip is common and you are free to increase that if you are very pleased, but obviously you don’t have to tip a lousy waiter. Large tips are uncommon and are not expected. You would typically leave the small change after paying with a note.
Many restaurants offer a lunch time menu for a fixed price and this often works out as a bargain. It is quiet common that water and wines are included in the fixed deal.
Lunch and dinner times in Spain
Spaniards have a slightly different timetable than most people are used to: the main lunch time starts at around 2 pm and is then followed by the traditional siesta time. Dinnertime starts at around 10 pm so don’t surprised that a restaurant looks completely deserted at 8 pm.
Touristy places in Spain
Typical Spanish food can be found all over the country, however top tourist destinations such as Costa Brava and Costa del Sol have turned all existing traditions upside down. Meaning that drinks are generally more expensive (about double) and it is difficult to find proper Spanish food in the tourist centres. However you will get Schnitzel, original English breakfast, Pizza, Doner, frozen fish and all the good things that modern society has invented to supersize you.
However, if you are prepared to look a little harder then even in the busiest tourist towns, you can find some exeptional traditional Spanish restaurants. If you are on the coast then think fish and seafood and you wont be dissappointed.
Typical dishes are:
- “Calamares en su tinta”:
- “Chorizo”: Spains most popular sausage is made from pig meat, ham, salt, garlic and pepper and is produced in multitude of varieties, in different sizes, shapes, short and long, spicy, in all different shades of red, soft, air dried and hard or smoked.
- “Fabada asturiana”: bean stew from Asturias
- “Gambas pil pil”: little prawn with garlic and chilli
- “Gazpacho Andaluz”: cold vegetable soup
- “ Merluza a la Vizcaina” : Spanish are not very of sauces, one of the few exception is merluza a la Vasca in this case the fish is prepared with white asparagus and green peas.
- “Morcilla” - sausages made from pig blood flavoured with anise, it comes as a fresh, smoked or air dried variety.
- “Aceitunas, Olivas”: often served for nibbling, is the fruit of olive tree.
- “Paella”: famous rice dish originally from Valencia and now eaten all over Spain.
- “Pimientos rellenos”: filled peppers stuffed with minced meat or seafood, whatever version you on a Menu the peppers in Spain taste different from all other peppers in Europe.
- “Potaje de espinacas y garbanzos”: chick pea stew with spinach
- “Tortilla de patatas”: probably the most popular dish in Spain. You can easily assess how good a restaurant is by having a small peace of “Tortilla de patatas”.
- “Rabo de toro”: Oxtail is very famous dish in Spain, obviously there is loads of them available after a bull fight.
Originally published on wikitravel.org