May 22, 2013 by ebostick1212
Gastronomically speaking, Spain has always been home to the Big
Three: Ham, Paella, and Tapas. People trek from all over the world to try these three things, and sometimes only these three things. While these things are undeniably delicious (except maybe if you order ‘authentic’ paella in Andalucía), there are so many amazing foods here that are overlooked.
Spain is a patchwork of culture; from the laid back gypsy culture in Andalucía, to the hard-working farming culture, in Extremadura, to the fiercely independent culture in Catalonia and the Basque Country. These differences are clear, and often reflected in the gastronomy of a region. So, in my opinion, ham, tapas, and paella can’t sum up or represent the entirety of this diverse country.
In order to get a well-rounded taste of Spain, I think it is important to try some of the lesser known, but equally tasty dishes. Here is a list of suggestions, in case you have tried the Big Three and you are eager to try my preferred Smaller Three.
1. Migas– This is a household staple all around Spain. It is particularly popular, because it can be made easily and cheaply. What does ‘Migas’ translate to? Breadcrumbs. And that is exactly what this dish is. It is a peasant meal, consisting of fried breadcrumbs, and whatever else you have laying around the house. It is a food that varies a bit from region to region. In Castilla La Mancha, it is cooked with oil and chorizo, but down in Extremadura, it is a breakfast food, and is served with melon. (Or so my Extremeña friend tells me.). It is total Spanish comfort food.
2. Pringá– Pringá is a mysterious Andalucían dish, that I have seen come in several different forms. It can be a stew, with chickpeas, meat or chicken, and famous Spanish embutidos, but it can also be the meat, chicken, and sausages mashed up together and put into a small sandwich called a montadito. Pringar is a very Andalucían verb that means ‘to dip’, and the thought behind this dish is that everyone gathers around a big bowl of it, and you dunk into it with morsels of bread. I think it represents Andalucían culture at its finest.
3. Arroz Caldoso– Already tried paella? Next time go for arroz caldoso. It is the same kind of dish, saffron-y rice, often with seafood. However, this rice is texturally different. While paella is cooked down in a big flat pan until dry and crispy on the bottom, arroz caldoso is made with more caldo, or broth, so the result is soupy. Throw in some lobster, or bogavante, and you are good to go! This should be eaten in a seaside town, where they do it best.
Of course ham, paella, and most tapas are amazing, but there is so much more to Spanish cuisine. People miss out when they just go on a quest to find a pan of paella, it’s like they have blinders on. They need to venture off the main drag, find that little place filled with only Spanish speakers and Spanish menus…or no menus at all. Chances are there is a reason the locals are there, and it probably isn’t the paella. (Unless you happen to be in Valencia.)
Any other suggestions to add to my list?