Spanish Hump Day Round-Up

 I'm rather tardy to my own series of 'Hump Day.' But it's not entirely my fault, you see I was living out a necessary life changing decision and now I'm back "home" in Malaga, Spain after about three months abroad in Southeast Asia. Everyday was magical, and I wouldn't change it for the world. However, as much as I adored sipping tea, cracking open coconuts, and hunting down street food vendors - I did think about Spanish food every now and again.

So without further ado, I bring to you a hyperbole Hump Day.

What was it exactly that I missed? What typical Spanish dishes sent me to dreamland at night?

1. Jamón 

Traveling to Buddhist, Confucian and/or Christian-influenced countries signified that there would likely be a lot of pork in our adapted travel diet. Perhaps not to the extreme of Spain's reverence to jamón ibérico, but none the less, present in many dishes; and that was certainly true. We were often served rice with peppered pork cubes, pork pad thai, noodle soup with pork meatballs, or pork spring rolls. Some was satisfying, but none of it was jamón - jamón de verdad.

Simply landing in Spanish soil confirmed that Spain is the land of jamón. Immediately bocadillos (sandwiches), vacuumed sealed lonchas (thin slices) and jamoneros (ham-leg cutting stands) came into view.  Qué alegria, we can finally partake of this amazing velvety salt-cured delicacy.

Joselito, one of Spain's premiere brands on the market. 

If you've got the dough, splurge on the good stuff. A plate, ración de jamón, will cost between 18-24€. But I highly recommend going to a charcutería (meat shop) and hand selecting your jamón, then bringing back to share with family and friends at home. In store prices range between 80-140€ a kilo depending on quality, availability and current promotional offers.
Arturo Sanchez jamones. Madrid Fusion. The hind or front legs as they are typically seen hanging from butcher shops or tapas restaurants and bars. 

2. Tortilla

I recently had a friendly conversation with another American about tortillas and omelettes. I told her never to tell a Spaniard that a tortilla is an omelette, and never to let a Frenchman think that an omelette is a tortilla. This may sound like a crazy bunch of bologna, since both are made from eggs...but trust me, they are different.

Most commonly la tortilla de patatas (sometimes with onion), will be the Spanish tapa, racion, dish on display in glass cases found in local bars, on the menu del día, or cooked up in households around the country. To my knowledge - and I would love for someone to butt in - there doesn't seem to be a specific region of origin, so the tortilla has become renowned as purely Spanish. 

Tortilla de patatas, also popularly known in Spain and abroad as tortilla española

Get a nice one at Bar Docamar, Madrid, Spain.

Or another fine specimen of a pincho de tortilla de patatas at Juana La Loca, Madrid, Spain.

3. Spanish Olive Oil

Your supermarket shelves might be stocked with Italian branded olive oil, but ask any Spaniard and they'll sharply reply that likely Italy purchased that oil from Spain. Spain is in fact the #1 producer of olive oil in the world, and aside from production stats, it could be argued that some of the most delicious olive oil on the market comes from the olive groves of Spain's vast countryside.

One of my personal favorites is Au (liquid gold), from the Spanish region of Jaén

Merula (Marqués de Valdueza) of Mérida, Extremadura and Dauro of Girona, Catalonia (which is commonly exported, i.e. Murray's Cheese) also stand quite high on my list of best Spanish olive oil. 

Spain has also been able to show off its creative and modern side with newly designed and eye-catching packaging; bottles leaving the ports of Spain daily and headed for the US, UK, China, Argentina and Japan. 

4. Sardines

Fishy, umami, low in mercury, rich in omega-3, sustainable, economical, comestible spines (if you'd like), and a silvery skin that melts - all characteristics of the sardine. While us Americans are somewhat accustomed to canned sardines - a more sustainable option to canned tuna - I had no idea how popular these little fishies were, until seeing firsthand consumption in Portugal and Spain. Canned food was the invention of the early 19th century French revolutionist Napoleon, as he called upon his public to devise a way to maintain food safely for his soldiers during battles.

But the sardine's attractiveness doesn't stop at the can. Spaniards buy them fresh by the kilo (many originating from the Mediterranean), fry them up, grill them on the barbecue or open fire, as is customary in Malaga.    

Espetos. Sardines typical of the coast of Malaga, protruded with a stick and grilled over on open flame. 

5. Churros

Flour, water, yeast and a pinch of salt, the typical four agreements of a great bread product. Well no different is the churro, Spain's breakfast, merienda, feria (fair) snack and beloved carbohydrate. Dipped in your café con leche, chocolate caliente (hot chocolate) or a child's after school Cola-Cao.

What foods do you miss most when you're traveling or away from your home-base? 


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