The Weird and the Wonderful: 6 Unusual Dishes to Try in Spain
Every culture has its culinary delights, as well as its culinary oddities. In the UK we are famed for Sunday roasts and fish ‘n’ chips. Haggis, jellied eels and deep-fried Mars bars, on the other hand, don’t quite have the same British pride behind them. They, along with marmite (another British institution), have engendered a love-or-hate following, and sit firmly in the ‘unsual’ list of British dishes.
Different regions have their specialties too. Going to Cornwall without eating a Cornish pasty or to Melton Mowbray without indulging in a pork pie is quite frankly sacrilege. There’s the same unwritten foodie code the world over. A visit to Spain wouldn’t be complete without trying tortilla, paella, cured meats, croquettes and gazpacho. There are more, but you get the gist.
We’ve put together a list of the weird and more unusual foods you may like to try on your next visit to Spain. Be brave, be bold and be curious. These weirdly wonderful dishes and delicacies may give you a taste sensation you’ll learn to love.
Percebes – Goose barnacles (they’re not from a goose)
The secret gem of Spanish seafood, percebes – Spanish for goose barnacles – are a sea creature found attached to rocks on the Galician coastline. They’re found in hard-to-reach places, which explains their price tag. Percebes are an expensive, luxury delicacy. They favour places where the sea bashes the rocks, hence the difficulty in collecting them.
Described as an explosion of the ocean inside your mouth when you are eating them, any seafood connoisseur will tell you percebes are the tastiest seafood of all. Don’t be put off by their prehistoric appearance. They are the tastiest morsels the Spanish coastline has to offer. There’s an art to eating them.
photo credit: asnailsodyssey.com
Angulas – Baby Eels
Once a common fisherman’s dish eaten in Basque Country, baby eels are now an expensive delicacy. While they are known as baby eels, the ‘elver’ eels are actually 2-3 years old, but they are only about 8 cm long and about the same thickness as a strand of spaghetti. In fact, you could easily mistake a plate of these tiny eels as a dish of Italian fare.
They are perhaps the most controversial of dishes, with eel stocks dwindling. Nevertheless, they are the caviar of Northern Spain. A Pincho (or pintxo) is a small snack served on bread typically in Spanish bars. Spiked with a skewer or toothpick these snacks often include the angulas’ imitation. Made from pressed fish, they look the part, but they aren’t the real thing. If you’re keen to preserve the beloved eel, then the imitation version will have to do.
photo credit: bascofinefoods.com
Callos – animal tripe stew
A delicious and warming stew on a winter’s day, this dish takes guts to eat. Yes you’ve guessed it, callos contains animal guts (usually veal). This stew is common across the whole of Spain, but is a very traditional offering in Madrid. As with many other Spanish recipes, it’s a dish with humble origins. Served in taverns and at family dining tables for centuries, it’s a hearty dish you should at least try. It’s usually cooked with chickpeas, paprika, tomatoes and bell peppers, and accompanied by chorizo and blood sausage. It’s a simple dish cooked for a long time. Don’t think about what’s in it, just enjoy.
photo credit: weareneverfull.com
Oreja de cerdo – pig’s ear
Now if you love pork scratchings, you have to try oreja de cerdo. It is in fact pig’s ear. Little pieces of ear (skin, fat and cartilage) are fried on a hot skillet. It’s not easy to cook this to perfection, and there’s an element of danger. It needs a high heat and dropping the pig’s ear onto the pan will send them flying into the air at speed. Use a wire mesh lid on your pan if you are trying this at home!
photo credit: hungryhoss.com
Criadilles – eat first, ask later
If you’re even a tad squeamish about what you eat, you may want to look away, eat first and ask later. The Spanish have been eating this dish since the 16th century. It was a by-product of bull-fighting. Yes you’ve guessed it, a part of the killed bull. Let’s put you out of your misery. It’s made from bull’s testicles. Served in a spicy wine sauce, if you don’t know what you are eating, you are sure to find this a tasty dish. A little out of the ordinary, but if you can get past the idea you are eating bull’s balls, they are a tasty treat indeed.
photo credit: thelocal.es
Migas – breadcrumbs (yes really)
Breadcrumbs are not uncommon in many dishes all over the world. Breadcrumbs make delicious crispy toppings and coatings, as well as great fillers and binders. But seriously, as a dish on their own? The Spanish have done it again – they’ve turned a humble ingredient into a tasty treat. Developed by shepherds out of necessity, the basis for this dish is stale bread. Cooked in a pan with olive oil and garlic, diced stale bread moistened with water is transformed into crispy crumbs. A humble, but tasty dish you really must try.
photo credit: matadornetwork.com
This article was brought to you by Dakota Murphey, working alongside Marbella’s longest real estate agency, Panorama. Dakota lives, breathes…and very much enjoys eating food from all different cultures around the world.