There are certain things that undeniably define a country but what I consider the most representative for a culture is definitely the gastronomy. Whenever I travel to a new part of the world I show interest for the local dishes, being my own way of knowing people…because let’s face it…food can say a lot about us.
Being in Spain I am decided to discover what gives flavor to this country, so vibrant and so colorful and there is no better place to find out other than a local market known as “mercato”.
Located alongside one of the most famous street of Barcelona “La rambla” right in the heart of the city, mercato La boqueria it’s a place that you don’t want to miss if you are locking for an unforgetable culinary experience.
Once stepping inside of the market I am surronded by a frenezy of colors and mixed smells, where fresh fruits and eye catchy chocolate bars are displayed in harmony with the traditional jamon hanging above the passers’s head while the fish streched out on a bed of ice is waiting to be served.
But what makes Spain so attractive when it come to food are the famous Tapas, the country’s most icnonic contribution to the world cuisine. Described as “small appetizers” by foreigners, contradicted by locals for whom Tapas represent not only a way of eating but a way of life.
There are many types of Tapas that can substantialy differ from a region of Spain to another but if you find yourself in front of a spanish menu with no idea what to order here are few of my suggestions.
You will be surprised to find out that the national dish of Spain it’s not a Tapas but a main course. Paella, a mix of fried rice and sea food (can be vegetarian or with meat) it’a a “must try” during your holiday in Spain. I am not a big fan of rice, but as I mentioned before I like to push my limits and try notorious dishes even though some of them are not on my “favorite” list. I was delighted to discover that a “good Paella” it’s actually delicious especialy when seasoned with a glass of Rioja or Sangria (we are going to talk about it later).
Price: 13 euro
The most popular tapas that you can have while seated in a restaurant, walking on the street or simply from the supermarket it’s the Spanish ham. What makes this meat so special it’s the limited production across Spain and Portugal from the black iberian pigs which are hangged to dry for 12-48 months after are being slaughtered.
Spanish are very proud of their ham and they have dedicated entire museums for the delicious Jamon. You can find out more about its history and way of preparation and then delight yourself with a variety of fresh cuts after paying the entrance free (aprox 20 euro).
Price: 22 euro for a big portion
16 euro for a half portion like in the picture
6 euro for take away from any shop in mercato
Fried Padron peppers and ham rolls
Another dish that I found appeling and I would strongly recommand are the salted green peppers fried in oil and the ham rolls. If you are vegetarian or you just dont fancy pork you can choose from a variety of fried rolls such as chesse, octupus, squid. Bon provecho.
Price: 3-4 euro
Olives and fresh garlic prawns
Spain produce more than 250 different types of olives and you will come across them in every restaurant, being an important source of food for any local. The truth is that olives are very bitter fruits and they pass through a long process before they can be served so never underestimate the tiny balls offered complimentary or not.
Fresh prawns doused in olive oil, chilli and galic are also common tapas and you will find them in almost every menu under the name of Gambas al ajillo.
Price: olives 2,50 euro
Prawns: 6,50 euro
The history of potatos go as far as 1536 when the spanish conquistadors discovered the flavors of potatos in an expedition to Peru and brought them to Europe, developing over time many ways of cooking it.
Fried potatos are one of those dishes tha transcend cultural boundaries and national borders and are never missing from the menu of any tapas bar.
Price: 8 euro
Egg plant stuffed with bacon
One of the dish that catch the eyes of the passer by who can’t hold themselves asking “what is this that you are having” it’s actually an orignal recipe named by the restaurant “Roasted eggplant, cane honey Molassess and salted beef dry cured ox meat or iberian ham”.
I would say it doesn’t need any other description.
Price: 11,50 euro
It may sound disgusting but in the end it proved to be a delicious dish. If you like to experience less common dishes around the world than you should not miss this one. Not very easy to find but some of the restaurants across the city have it in the menu and it has a decent price.
Price: 11 euro
I have traveled to Barcelona serveral times and I have not miss any ocassion to dine at Boqueria bar which obvously became my favorite spot in the city. If you have the chance to visit the restaurant please do yourself a favor and try the marinated octupus and I guarantee you it’s going to be one of the best dishes you have ever tried.
Price: 21 euro
This place is nothing less than a hidden gem, a 5 star restaurant located at the end of a crowded market, with a kitchen not bigger than an aircraf galley but where every dish is cooked and platted with passion.
As you are in Spain it’s a must to try the red spanish Sangria, the perfect fruity summer beverage or a glass or pair your dish with a glass of my favorite wine Rioja.
Mercato “La boqueria” it’s a very touristic place located on the heart of the city, reason why prices might be a little bit higher but if you love the buzzing of different languages, diversity of cultures and the explosion of flavors, that’s the place where you want to be.