Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spain - Food to Try in Madrid

Being a foodie, it's hard to resist not trying a lot of food while in Madrid. I checked this Spanish food guide from TripAdvisor before I came. I didn't try all of them because I have limited stomach and budget, but I think I tried the highlights and additionally, I tried anything I find interesting.

1. Jamon

Pronounced as 'hamon' in Spanish, it means cured meat and it probably reminds you of the word 'ham' in English as well. I visited Museo del Jamon. You can try different types of ham here for around 2.5-3 euros in a plate. Museo del Jamon is a chain store/tapas bar/restaurant, but I would highly recommend going to the one on Calle Mayor. There is one in Gran Via but it's rather empty and I personally enjoyed the happy atmosphere of people eating at the branch on Calle Mayor.

a plate of Jamon Iberico from Museo de Jamon

My favourite is Jamon Iberico.

2. Gazpacho

If you happen to visit Madrid close to or during summer, try the traditional cold soup, gazpacho. It's a very refreshing soup, often served with fresh diced tomatoes, cucumber or onions. And sometimes with bread crouton as well.

gazpacho from San Miguel market

My favourite gazpacho is the one at San Miguel market (see picture above), served with shrimp for 4.5 euros. Very tasty, tangy and refreshing!

3. Huevos Rotos
I didn't find this on TripAdvisor, but from this Madrid Food Tour website. It's literally translated as 'broken eggs', and I would describe it as a pile of fried egg with runny egg yolk.

Casa Lucio's house special huevos rotos

I tried it at Casa Lucio on Cava Baja. I tried the house special, but to be honest, I'd rather try these eggs with some jamon than with fries. It's great, but in the end, it's probably something you can replicate at home. I'm a big fan of trying foods that I cannot reproduce easily.

4. Paella

seafood paella for 1 person at Paellador, close to Teatro Real

I heard that Madrid is not the best place for paella, but rather, Valencia. Nevertheless, I had this impression that all paellas in Madrid should be 'closer to authentic' than the ones found in other countries. I found it very hard to find good paella in Madrid because most places serve paella for minimum 2 persons. At least the ones recommended in TripAdvisor. I was travelling solo for this trip, by the way.

I would not recommend getting paella from San Miguel market. I tried arroz negre (black rice / paella) from the market and I was utterly disappointed with the lack of flavour and the dryness of the rice. And be aware that digested arroz negre is black :P

5. Cerveza 

In Spanish it means beer. Most of the time, if you order a beer from a restaurant or tapas bar, they will serve you with a small dish like olives or herring. 

San Miguel with lemon is my favourite.

6. Sangria

To those who are not familiar with sangria, it is basically wine with some fruits infused. Read Wikipedia for more information (Wikipedia is truly my best friend!).

7. Churros

The easiest (but probably not the most accurate) way to describe a churros if you have not tried them before is a long, crunchy doughnut. Most of the time you eat churros by dipping it in a chocolate sauce.

I tried two places for churros, and they can differ in terms of crunchiness or saltiness. However, you also want a good chocolate dip to accompany your churros. I would not recommend the one from Don Jamon Bar de Tapas on Gran Via because the chocolate dip is very starchy and there are lumps of starch in the dipping sauce. On the other hand, the one from Chocolateria San Gines next to Plaza Mayor serves a very smooth and rich chocolate dip. I didn't try every single churros in Madrid so I can't say it's the best, but they really do serve very good churros at Chocolateria San Gines.

8. Cochinillo asado
Cochinillo asado is a typical roasted suckling pig that you definitely must try when you are in Madrid.

I had a chance to try this suckling pig from Sobrino de Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world according to Guinness Record. The skin is very crispy yet the meat is juicy and flavourful. I would say that the roasted suckling pig is a bit too salty for me, but it's a definite must-try.

9. Tapas
Tapas is not a dish name, but rather, small appetizers. In Madrid, it can range from 1-3 Euros, depending on where you go. I bought one with bacalao (salted cod) and pulpo a la Gallega (Galician octopus) for 1 Euro each at San Miguel market.

bacalao (left) and pulpo a la Gallega (right) on mini toasts

 Not to forget, gulas al ajillo (baby eels), which is also very typical in Madrid.

gulas al ajillo served with garlic on a piece of brown bread

The eels don't really taste like eels, and they are not slimy. They're quite tasty, actually! It's like eating flavoured short noodles.

10. Mus de queso

Basically, it's cheese mousse. Not quite like cheesecake, though. The texture is not as smooth as cheesecake and the cheese flavour is actually rather strong. I had mine from Taberna Los Lucio on Cava Baja (not Casa Lucio!), served with raspberry sauce. I'm not a big fan of desserts but I kind of like it :)

11. Canape de anchoa
I tried finding a translation for canape, but on Google Translate it says "couch" or "love-seat". If you know what it means, please give me a clue!

But it's definitely anchovy on bread. The anchovy is not as fishy as I expected. It's not a must-try food for me, but it's not too bad.

12. Berenjena crujiente con salmorejo

I kind of like eggplants, but this is, by far, the best eggplants I have ever tasted in my life and I am not exaggerating it. The eggplant (or I think aubergine is the right one to say) is sliced very thinly and deep fried in a batter. It's so crispy and yet so tender and juicy on the inside. In addition, the somewhat cold salmorejo dip makes the whole eating experience more pleasurable.

Salmorejo is made of mainly a puree of tomato and bread, but sometimes different ingredients like garlic, oil and vinegar can be included.

Try it at Taberna Los Lucio on Cava Baja.

13. Chipirones a la plancha

A la plancha means grilled on a metal plate. Seafood in Madrid is generally pretty fresh. It's quite a simplistic way to grill the squids, but they're pretty awesome. I tried this one at Taberna Los Lucio as well.

14. Stuffed (relleno) seafood

The first relleno I tried was erizo relleno (stuffed sea urchin). I didn't know what relleno meant, so I felt cheated when I savoured this sea urchin dish. I love raw sea urchin in sushi, so I was expecting similar texture, consistency and flavour. But since the sea urchin is stuffed with a sauce similar to ragout and then deep fried after coating it in bread crumbs.

To be honest, I don't quite like relleno. I also tried tigre or mejillon relleno, which is stuffed mussels. I think I prefer my seafood without any thick, solidified starchy sauce surrounding it. But you should try it to see if you like it or not: personal preference is what matters.

15. Cod liver

I got it from San Miguel market. I remembered that my mom used to force my brother and I to drink this cod liver emulsion that tasted utterly horrible but is full of Vitamin D. Well, I think the real cod liver tastes better than the emulsion. Maybe it's because I like chicken liver and liver pate. It has a strong taste, so if you don't even like chicken liver, don't bother trying this.

The best way to know the local habits, I believe, is to explore the place where most locals would shop: the supermarket. I visited the local supermarket called Dia% to take a look at what the locals eat. This is actually part of my hobby when I travel. 

The price of vegetables seems to be lower than in the Netherlands (I bought 2 zucchini for 99 cents in a supermarket in the Netherlands). I also saw quite a large dairy section (they call it "lacteos" - must have been easy to remember which sugar comes from milk if you study food science in Spanish, huh?)

I was surprised to see a fridge dedicated for surimi (extruded fish paste with crab flavour - a technology originated in Japan). But when I took a look inside, I only see ice creams. Maybe surimi was popular at on point of time.

They also have interesting spreads. I wasn't sure if I could take these jars with me on the plane because I don't have a check-in luggage, so I couldn't try them.

And another interesting item I saw was this Sabor Jamon Pringles.

It has a great flavour but it's definitely comparable to the real Spanish jamon.


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