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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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FOOD & DRINK

These are Spain’s new Michelin-starred restaurants

The new 2023 Michelin Star guide for the best restaurants in Spain and Portugal has awarded new stars to 34 restaurants across Spain. Read on to discover which ones and where they are.

These are Spain's new Michelin-starred restaurants

En España se come bien (People eat well in Spain), you’ll hear many Spaniards proclaim. That’s coming from a country that’s not accustomed to singing its own praises on the global stage. 

Although these higher-than-average gastronomic standards apply to all types of bars and restaurants, when it comes to haute cuisine, Spain continues to be among the top five countries with the most Michelin-starred eateries, together with France, Japan, Italy and Germany.

On Tuesday November 22nd, Michelin revealed its newest restaurant selection of acclaimed Spanish restaurants during an event in the Spanish city of Toledo.

As of November 2022, two restaurants in Spain have been awarded the coveted three Michelin Star distinction.

Three have gone up to the two-star category and 29 restaurants have been given new one-star rankings.

Atrio in Cáceres (Extremadura region in western Spain) and Cocina Hermanos Torres in Barcelona have both earned the top award three-star prize, which is the highest award that can be given, and have joined the 13 other restaurants in Spain at this level.

According to the judges, Atrio won the distinction due to “its elegant and delicate dishes, prepared by chef Toño Pérez, who has shaken up local gastronomic traditions”. His menu focuses on Iberian pork and other products from Extremadura.

While in Barcelona, Cocina Hermanos Torres has been given the top award for “firing the imagination with every bite”. Chefs Sergio and Javier Torres have created “a magical space in which the gastronomic experience consistently seeks out the very best seasonal produce and exceeds foodies’ expectations, turning it into a dining extravaganza,” the judges said.

READ ALSO – REVEALED: Spain’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants

Of the 2023 guide, International Director of Michelin Gwendal Poullennec said: “We were delighted to see how younger chefs are taking the lead and embarking on their own journeys, in many cases flying the flag of reinterpreted regional or fusion cuisines”.

“In turn, vegan options are gradually forging ahead on menus, something which was already occurring in other European countries,” he added. 

Below are the Spanish rankings for the 2023 guide, including the three stars awarded to Atrio and Cocina Hermanos Torres. 

Two stars

  • Deessa, Madrid
  • El Rincón de Juan Carlos, Adeje, Tenerife
  • Pepe Vieira, Serpe, Pontevedra

One star

  • Ababol, Albacete
  • Ajonegro, Logroño
  • Aleia, Barcelona
  • AlmaMater, Murcia
  • Alquimia-Laboratorio, Valladolid
  • Ancestral, Illescas
  • Arrea!, Santa Cruz de Campezo
  • Ceibe, Ourense
  • Cobo Evolución, Burgos
  • Código de Barra, Cádiz
  • Come, Barcelona
  • Enigma, Barcelona
  • Etxeko Ibiza, Es Canar, Ibiza
  • Ferpel, Ortiguera
  • Fusión19, Muro, Mallorca
  • Gente Rara, Zaragoza
  • Kaleja, Málaga
  • La Finca, Loja
  • Mont Bar, Barcelona
  • Monte, San Feliz
  • Montia, San Lorenzo de El Escorial
  • Oba, Casas-Ibáñez
  • O’Pazo, Padrón
  • Ravioxo, Madrid
  • San-Hô, Adeje, Tenerife
  • Slow & Low, Barcelona
  • Tabaiba, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
  • Ugo Chan, Madrid
  • Zuara Sushi, Madrid

The Michelin Guide also handed out special awards to three different chefs.

The Young Chef Award for 2023 went to Almería-born chef Cristóbal Muñoz, who at age 31, heads up the kitchens at Ambivium in Peñafiel, Castilla y León.

The Chef Mentor Award for 2023 was given to a well-known name in the world of Spanish gastronomy – Joan Roca, who together with his brothers turned El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona, Catalonia into one of the best and most famous restaurants in the world.

Finally, the Michelin Service Award for 2023 was presented to Toni Gerez from Castell de Peralada, also in Catalonia. As the restaurant manager and sommelier, he “excels in customer-facing roles, in particular, when presenting his marvellous cheese cart that goes from table to table,” explained the judges.

In total, the 2023 Guide lists 1,401 restaurants throughout Spain, Portugal and Andorra. Out of these, 13 have three Michelin Stars, 41 have two Michelin Stars and 235 were awarded one Michelin Star. 

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