Spanish Culinary Delights: A Guide to Southern Spain & Its Delectable Traditional Dishes
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Famous for its sun-kissed beaches, great hospitality, and vibrant cities, Spain is also well-known for its mouthwatering cuisine.
Influences from Africa, Asia, and Europe made traditional Spanish recipes particularly exciting and unique.
Although you can find similar culinary traditions across the country, each region has its local flavors. And while the ingredients and cooking methods may vary throughout, most people will agree that Spain is one of the top destinations for a true foodie.
That said, in this article, we are sharing some of the most popular foods from the southern part of Spain and the interesting stories behind them. Buen Provecho!
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Photo credit: Tamorlan
Tapas bars are one of the trademarks of Spain. Legend has it that Andalusian bar owners started to serve plates of hot and cold food to attract customers. Very soon, a group of housewives in Spain created an unofficial competition for the best tapas. This is the reason why tapas have so many variations. However, they are always traditionally served with alcoholic drinks.
One of the most popular is Tortilla Espanola (Spanish tortilla). Made of eggs, onions, and potatoes, it is the national dish of Spain.
Patatas Bravas are made for the ones who like a bit of a ‘kick’ in their food. Fried potatoes are covered with tomato sauce and a little bit of Tabasco. While another great tapas dish (Ham croquettes) are made of béchamel and ham, coated with eggs and breadcrumbs, and then fried in olive oil.
Photo credit: Mover el Bigote via Flickr
Andalusia is famous for its olive oil production, especially the area around Seville. Hence, frying fish and meat in olive oil is very common in this region.
Pescaito Frito is a dish fried in high-quality olive oil and uses a batter made only from a special flour mixture. Sometimes, corn or potato starch can be added, but the trick lies in the perfect combination of flour and the no use of eggs.
You can find this special flour combination sold in the supermarkets, but it surely can’t be compared to Pescaito Frito found in traditional Spanish markets or at the street stalls.
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Gazpacho is probably the most well-known Spanish dish. Known and served as a cold soup, it was originally invented in Andalusia under Greek and Arab influences. Olive oil, garlic, stale bread, vinegar, and water are standard or ‘'real'' gazpacho ingredients.
But, over time, it evolved in various mixtures. Still, tomato-based gazpacho is probably the most famous one.
Habas con Jamon
Photo credit: Jennifer Woodard Maderazo via Flickr
Spain, in general, has a very strong influence of Arabic cuisine. Granada, however, was ruled by the Muslim regime the longest, which also influenced the local culinary traditions.
During the Spanish Inquisition, eating pork was crucial to highlight their Christian beliefs and differentiate the culture from the Muslim one. As a result, ham and pork were used in most of the traditional dishes that were created during that time.
One of the most famous dishes that originates from Granada is Habas con Jamon. It represents the true nature of the region's vivid history. Prepared in a pan with onions, garlic, and olive oil, the beans (brought and introduced by Muslims) and the ham (“representing” Christianity) make this dish a symbol of Spain.
Olla de San Anton
Photo credit: Inmsol.com
Created during the Civil war in Spain, this delicious dish is served mostly in February. A lack of enough food in wintertime meant the Spanish butchers didn’t want to waste any meat and made a stew with beans, rice, and leftover parts from pigs (tails, ears, etc).
Although it is not ‘suitable’ for all tastes (and stomachs), this stew is one of Spain’s most authentic traditional dishes. You can find it on the menu of most of the restaurants in Spain. So, if you find yourself traveling to Spain, feel free to give it a try!
By far, Churros is Spain’s most famous dessert. They are usually served for breakfast or an afternoon snack. It is a fried dough pastry with sprinkled sugar and usually served with hot chocolate. In Spain, they are rarely served with a sprinkle of cinnamon (this is more common in Mexican cuisine).
Photo credit: Ismael Olea
This is a typical treat eaten during Christmas and Holy Week (Easter). The dough is deep-fried in olive oil then sprinkled with a heavy dose of either sugar or honey.
Related to the Moroccan Shebbakiyya, they date back to at least the 16th century, although the deep-frying technique has been known since Medieval times.
Want to whip up authentic Spanish dishes in your kitchen? Learn how to make some of the most delicious recipes on a culinary vacation in Spain!