Major treats for any visitor coming to Spain are the tapas—snack-sized, finger food dishes allowing for a wide range of tastes. Tapas also let diners try a few bites in one place before continuing their crawl elsewhere. Just like there are can’t-miss sights for Europe’s top cities, there are can’t-miss flavors that every visitor must try once in Spain! Consider this your delectable hit list:
Freshly cooked spiced octopus, usually presented on a wooden platter. If it’s on the menu, look down the bar and find the heaping plate of tentacles that the chefs are dicing and slicing to order.
Spain’s delicious potato and egg omelet. Additional ingredients are often tossed in, along with salt and pepper, but it’s just as good plain for breakfast, lunch, or a quick bite on the run. Get it bocadilla (Spanish sandwich) style to get easily full on €2.
Hot, freshly fried potato wedges doused in a slightly spicy ketchup mayonnaise sauce. If you’re trying to add some starch to round out the meal, this is a no-brainer.
Piementos de padrón
A plate of steaming, salted peppers that’s made to order. Ordering these is like playing culinary Russian roulette: Most peppers aren’t hot, but there’s one per plate that will knock your socks off.
Pa amb tomàquet
Toasted bread rubbed down with fresh garlic and tomato. This is my personal favorite side order.
Fresh anchovies with nothing but a slice of lemon on the side. Get over your inhibitions and order a plate to share between friends, and pop ’em like popcorn at the movies. Salty, crunchy, and washed down with a glass of tinto (red wine)—what more could you want?
Cured ham. Spain has delicious cured ham, some of the best in the world. You’ve got to try some while you’re here. They come in different grades and prices based on the pigs: their processing, location, and their diet. Go for 100g of this, 100g of queso manchego and a baguette, and you’ve got lunches for days.
Spain’s dry, salty cheese goes along with basically anything. Order 100 grams at the supermarket when you see some you like for a perfect afternoon snack. Don’t be afraid to try (say “probar”) a few samples.
Creamy tomato soup, topped with diced jam.n (delicious) and generally consumed for breakfast. (I’ll take it any time of day, though.)
This and salmorejo are my favorite tomato soups in the world. Gazpacho is a tomato soup, served cold as a savory side dish during hot summer months. Fresh tomatoes are tossed in with garlic, salt, spices, and a little bit of vinegar for the perfect zing. You really can’t go wrong.
- Andy Steves
Excerpt from Andy Steves' Europe: City-Hopping on a Budget, Barcelona Chapter