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What to order at a restaurant in each region in Spain

What to order at a restaurant in each region in Spain
Discover the best food Spain has to offer. Photo: Lisa Redfern/Pixaby
Regional cuisine differs greatly between different areas of Spain, so if you're travelling this summer and not sure of the best thing to order, here's what's best in each region.

In Valencia, order paella

Paella is of course one of Spain's most famous dishes, but not everywhere in Spain does good paellas. The very best place where you should eat paella is of course Valencia, the birthplace of paella and the region's speciality. The most typical paella in Valencia however is not the seafood paella, but a paella made with chicken, rabbit, snails, butter beans and green beans.

In Asturias, order fabada Asturiana

Central and northern Spain love their hearty stews, particularly in the region of Asturias. Fabada Asturiana is the dish to order here, made with white fava beans, blood sausage and pork. Wash it all down with the glass of Asturian cider or sidra (apple cider) from one of the traditional sidrerías.

fabada Asturiana
Fabada Asturiana. Photo: WordRidden/Flickr

In Galicia, order pulpo Gallego

Galicia is all about seafood, from steamed mussels, scallops, oysters and Galician lobsters (bogavante), but the king of seafood here is the octopus. Pulpo Gallego or pulpo a la Feira is the most typical way of cooking it, boiled and sprinkled with paprika on top of thin slices of potato. Other must-try foods in Galicia include pimientos de Padrón (small fried green peppers), tarta de Santiago (an almond tart from Santiago de Compostela) and empanadas (pastry covered pies filled with different ingredients, typically tuna).

In the Basque Country, order bacalao pil pil

The Basque Country is known throughout Spain, and even the world, for its excellent haute cuisine as evident from its many Michelin-Starred restaurants. It has many regional specialities including pintxos, baked spider crab (txangurro) and goose barnacles (percebes). Seafood is particularly popular here, but none so much as cod. There are many cod dishes in the Basque Country but the most classic is cod pil pil, which is fried with garlic, chilli and olive oil and makes a popping sound when it's skin goes crispy.

bacalao pil pil
Bacalao pil pil. Photo: Joselu Blanco/Flickr

In the Canary Islands, order papas arrugadas mojo picón

These delicious wrinkly baked potatoes with spicy sauce are one of the Canary Islanders' best loved snacks or tapas dishes. They are typically boiled in salty water or even seawater so that they form a slightly salty crust. The addictive sauce is made from dried red pepper, cayenne peppers, chilli, cumin, garlic and bread.

In Andalusia, order tapas

Andalusia is the queen of the tapas scene in Spain with each province specialising in a different dish. In Cordoba it's salmorejo, a thick type of gazpacho or cold tomato soup. In Cadiz it's tortillitas de camarones (baby shrimp fritters) and in Malaga its sardines cooked on skewers at the beach or ajoblanco (a cold garlic soup).

In Granada you can't miss pescadito frito (small battered fish) and berenjenas con miel (battered deep fried aubergine smothered in honey or a sweet treacle-like sauce). Wash it all down with a glass of Spanish sherry from the town of Jerez, where it's made.

In Navarra, order estofado de torro

In Navarra, cuisine is all about hearty chunks of meat and fresh garden vegetables, particularly asparagus, artichokes and piquillo red peppers. This thick Navarran stew known as estofado de torro is full of both and is sure to keep you full. Literally translated as bull's stew, it's made from bull's tails, carrots, potatoes, bell peppers, onion and garlic, cooked in a tomato and red wine sauce and flavoured with saffron.

In Castilla La-Mancha, order pisto

Pisto is Castilla La-Mancha's answer to France's ratatouille and is one of the country's few purely vegetarian dishes, besides some of the tapas. It's made from aubergines, courgettes and onions, all fried together in a tomato sauce. It's often served with a fried egg on top. Don't forget to also eat some of the local Manchego cheese. 

pisto
Pisto. Photo: Abhay Kumar/Flickr

In Extremadura, order chanfaina

One of Extremadura's most typical dishes is chanfaina, a thick stew made from lamb and offal mixed with breadcrumbs, blood sausage, almonds, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. They also love their soups in this region, from chickpea and bean soup, and chestnut soup to garlic soup, and a special local version of gazpacho.

In Catalonia, order suquet de peix 

This Catalan fish stew is popular in places such as the Costa Brava and features potatoes, chunks of white fish, langostines, mussels and fat red prawns. Saffron, garlic and parsley are added for flavour. It's served with picada, made from white bread, chilli and blanched almonds and hazelnuts. Other dishes from Catalonia include crema Catalana (a creamy custard-like dessert with a caramelised sugar topping) and escalivada (roasted red peppers, aubergines and onions). 

In Aragon, order migas

Migas is a popular dish all over Spain, but it's perhaps the Aragonese who love it the most. Migas are fried bread crumbs or fried flour with chorizo or longaniza sausage, onion and garlic. The Aragonese version also has grapes and a fried egg. 

Migas
Migas. Photo: Jonathan Pincas/Flickr

In La Rioja, order a glass of wine

Wine is of course what La Rioja is all about, and luckily the wine here goes with all the local dishes. Riojan wine is typically red and full bodied and goes well with the region's thick bean stews, lamb dishes and beef or pork cheeks cooked in wine. Patatas a la Riojana is a traditional dish made with potatoes, chorizo, garlic and paprika.

In Castilla y León order cordero asado  

In Castilla y Leon, most dishes contain some form of roasted meat, so it's a must visit for carnivores. Roasted pork and roast suckling pig are popular, as well as cordero asado (roasted lamb). Other dishes from the region include lots of cod, fried trout and lots of thick stews, from meat ones and vegetable ones with lentils and beans to seafood ones with crab.

In Madrid, order Cocido Madrileño

Madrid's most traditional dish is a stew named after the region – the Cocido Madrileño. It comes in two parts, the first with the meat and vegetables and the second with the chickpeas. Huevos rotos (scrambled eggs), oreja a la plancha (grilled pig's ear) and bocadillo de calamares (a battered squid ring filled baguette).  

Cocido from Madrid
Cocido Madrileño. Photo: SalvatoreG2/Flickr

In the Balearics, order caldereta de langosta

Typical to the island of Menorca  is caldereta de langosta or lobster stew. If you're in Mallorca, you'll want to try ensaimadas, sweet bread-like pastry swirls topped with powdered sugar and sobrasada, a cured soft pork sausage often used as a sandwich topping, flavoured with paprika and other spices. 

In Murcia, order ensalada Murciana

Much of Spain's fruit and vegetables grow around the Murcian region, so it's a great places for lots of fresh dishes. The ensalada Murciana is perhaps one of the most typical. It's made from cod or tuna fish mixed with tomatoes, onion, hard-boiled egg and black olives. 

In Canatabria, order sorropotún

Located right on the north coast, Cantabria is full of lots of excellent seafood options. One of the most typical seafood dishes is sorropotún or marmita, a local fish stew that was once eaten on tuna fishing boats. It's made from tuna, potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes. Other Cantabrian dishes include plump anchovies, hake in green sauce and quesada pasiega, a type of cheesecake made with local Cantabrian soft cheese.


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