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Ten delicious Spanish dishes you must try before you die

If you thought Spanish food was all paella and pinchos then think again. Get ready as The Local Spain takes you on a mouth-watering tour of some of the country's lesser known but equally fabulous culinary highlights.

Ten delicious Spanish dishes you must try before you die
Photo: Edu1971/Depositphotos
 
Percebes 
 

Photo: Fotero/Flickr 
 
Barnacle collectors in Galicia brave the crashing waves of the Atlantic in winter months and risk their lives to pick these alien-looking crustaceans from the rocks. They’re hard to harvest, outrageously expensive (sometimes almost €300 ($374) per kilo), incredibly ugly… and unbelievably delicious.
 
Calçots
 

Photo: Joan Grifols/Flickr
 
Eating onions may not sound exotic but the Catalan calçotada feast is a unique food experience. The sweet onions are first grilled over flames, stripped of their charred outer layers and dipped into salbitxada, a rich variety of romesco sauce with nuts, peppers, garlic and tomatoes. You’ll need a plastic bib and a big appetite to get through this messy, unmissable meal.
 
 
 
Coques de llardons (Pork and sugar flatbreads) 
 

Photo: Slastic/Wikimedia  
Meat and sugar? This unlikely combination is a traditional favourite in Catalonia and once you try it you’ll be a believer too. Crispy flatbreads are topped with pine nuts and fried cubes of pork fat or crackling then sprinkled with sugar to make a high-calorie but mouth-watering combination.
 
Cochinillo
 

Photo: LWYang/Flickr   
The sight of dead baby pigs (from two – to six -weeks old) in market stalls or rotating on spits in Castille-Leon has turned more than one person to vegetarianism but the taste of the finished dish is a meaty treat of tender flesh and perfect, crispy skin flavoured with smoke from traditional wood-fired ovens.
 
Bacalao (Salt cod) 
 

Photo: Mover el Bigote/Flickr   
Salt cod is not, despite its name, salty. Preserving the fish in salt gives it a meat-like texture but the taste is (or should be) washed out in the preparation process. Basques are masters of salt-cod cooking: try the classic bacalao al pil pil, served with a garlic and olive oil emulsion.
 
 
Cocido (Stewed meat and vegetables) 
 

Photo: Salvatore G2/Flickr   
Different regions of Spain put their own stamp on this staple by varying the included meats. The Catalan escudella y carn d’olla adds chicken and a type of meatball to the standard pigs’ trotters, ears, belly pork, blood sausages and beef, often served over two courses. It sounds unappealing but there are few better belly-busting dishes to get you through a cold winter’s day.
 
Pimientos de Piquillo 
 

Photo: Juan Mejuto/Wikimedia   
The farmers of Navarre are perhaps the most green-fingered in Spain and the region is well-known for its excellent vegetable dishes. Sweet red piquillo peppers from Lodosa even have D.O (Denominación de Origen) status and are commonly served stuffed with a creamy salt-cod brandade.
 
Polbo á Feira 
 

Photo: Olonnais/Wikimedia  
Sometimes seen on menus in Spanish as polbo a feira, this Galician dish of sliced tentacles does not always appeal to the unwary. You’d be a sucker not to try it though: despite its rubbery reputation, well-cooked Galician octopus sprinkled with paprika and sea salt is tender and delicious.
 
Callos a la Madrileña (Madrid-style tripe) 

Photo: Javier Lastras/Flickr   
Many tourists retch at the thought of eating tripe but in-the-know locals happily tuck into this spicy delicacy, which combines the unctuous softness of the offal with paprika, tender beef cheek and chorizo.
 
Mojama
 

Photo: Santa Pola/Flickr   
Andalusians have continued the Arab tradition of curing fresh tuna in the hot, dry air of Spain’s southwest coast for generations. The result, mojama, may look like a dog chew from a pet shop but is actually wonderful when sliced very thinly and marinated in olive oil. Try some with almonds and a glass of manzanilla sherry.
 
By Steve Tallantyre 

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LIFE IN SPAIN

Does Spain have a dog poo problem?

Many foreigners in Spain complain that the streets are full of dog faeces, but is that actually true and what, if anything, is being done to address it?

Does Spain have a dog poo problem?

Spain is a nation of dog lovers.

According to the country’s National Institute of Statistics (INE), 40 percent of Spanish households have a dog.

In fact, believe it or not, the Spanish have more dogs than they do children.

While there are a little over 6 million children under the age of 14 in Spain, there are over 7 million registered dogs in the country. 

But one bugbear of many foreigners in Spain is that there’s often a lot of dog mess in the streets, squares and parks.

The latest estimates suggest it’s as much as 675,000 tonnes of doodoo that has to be cleaned up every year in Spain.

Many dog owners in Spain carry around a bottle of water mixed with detergent or vinegar to clean up their dog’s urine and small plastic bags to pick up number twos.

And yet, many owners seem to either turn a blind eye to their pooches’ poo or somehow miss that their pets have just pooed, judging by the frequency with which dog sh*t smears Spanish pavements. 

So how true is it that Spain has a dog poo problem? Is there actually more dog mess in Spain than in other countries, and if not, why does it seem that way?

One contextual factor worth considering when understanding the quantity of caca in Spain’s calles is how Spaniards themselves actually live.

When one remembers that Spaniards mostly live in apartments without their own gardens, it becomes less surprising that it feels as though there’s a lot of dog mess in the streets. Whereas around 87 percent of households in Britain have a garden, the number in Spain is below 30 percent.

Simply put, a nation of dog lovers without gardens could mean more mess in the streets. 

Whereas Britons often just let their dogs out into their garden to do their business, or when they can’t be bothered to take them for a walk even, Spaniards have to take them out into the street, unless they’re okay with their pooches soiling their homes. 

There aren’t many dog-friendly beaches in Spain, and the fact that on those that do exist, some owners don’t clean up their dogs’ mess, doesn’t strengthen the case for more ‘playas para perros‘ to be added. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP)

Doggy dirt left in the streets is most certainly not a Spain-specific problem either, but rather an urban one found around the world.

In recent years, there have been complaints about the sheer abundance of canine faecal matter left in public spaces in Paris, Naples, Rome, Jerusalem, Glasgow, Toronto, London, San Francisco and so on.

READ ALSO: Why do some Spanish homes have bottles of water outside their door?

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a worldwide study to shed light on which cities and countries have the biggest ‘poo-blem’, with the available investigations mainly centred on individual nations, such as this one by Protect my Paws in the US and UK

And while it may be more noticeable in Spain than in some countries, it doesn’t mean the Spanish are doing nothing about it.

In fact, Barcelona has been named the third best city in Europe for dealing with the problem, according to a study by pet brand Tails.com.

Although Barcelona’s score of 53/80 was significantly lower than many British cities (Newcastle scored 68/80 and Manchester 66/80, for example) its hefty fines of 1,500 for dog owners caught not cleaning up after their canine friends might be a reason. 

And some parts of Spain take it even more seriously than that.

In many Spanish regions doggy databases have been created to catch the culprits. Over 35 Spanish municipalities require dog owners to register their pets’ saliva or blood sample on a genetic database so they can be traced and fined, if necessary. 

In Madrid, you are twice as likely to come across someone walking a dog than with a baby’s stroller. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)

This DNA trick started earlier in Spain than in many other countries; the town of Brunete outside of Madrid kicked off the trend in 2013 by mailing the ‘forgotten’ poo to neglectful owners’ addresses. Some municipalities have also hired detectives to catch wrongdoers.

So it’s not as if dog poo doesn’t bother Spaniards, with a 2021 survey by consumer watchdog OCU finding that it’s the type of dirt or litter found in the streets than bothers most people.

READ ALSO: Clean or dirty? How does your city rank on Spain’s cleanliness scale? 

It’s therefore not a part of Spanish culture not to clean up after dogs, but rather a combination of Spain’s propensity for outdoor and urban living, the sheer number of dogs, and of course the lack of civic duty on the part of a select few. Every country has them. 

On a final note, not all dog owners in Spain who don’t clean up after their pooches can be blamed for doing it deliberately, but it’s certainly true that looking at one’s phone rather than interacting with your dog, or walking with your dog off the leash (also illegal except for in designated areas) isn’t going to help you spot when your pooch has done its business.

Article by Conor Faulkner and Alex Dunham

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