No trip to Spain is complete without tasting its traditional dishes

Although it is famous for its outstanding sandy beaches; food and drinks in Spain are really worth a try. In its history, the cuisine of Spain was highly influenced by endless cultures that settled or passed through the land.

The Greeks introduced Spain to olive oil; Jews integrated their cooking elements into that of the Spaniards, and the Phoenicians introduced sauces to the inhabitants. But; Spanish gastronomy was most impacted by the Moors. The Moors introduced rice, saffron, cinnamon, light seasonings and fruits into the Iberian diet, alongside a combination of meats and fish with nuts. Ideally, the succession of cultures in the Iberian Peninsula left a lasting mark.

Spain is typically a melting point of food! No trip would be complete without you tasting traditional dishes in the Spanish capital. Some of them include cocidomadrileno (winter dish), huevosrotos, bocadillo de calamares (famous sandwich), callos a la madrilena (popular winter dish), churros con chocolate, oreja a la plancha, pincho de tortilla, and, of course, bread.

Immediately you disembark from your plane and leave the airport, a variety of restaurants/bars will greet you from a distance. In fact, in 2010, 'La Caixa' economic study reported that Spain registered a staggering ratio of 129 Spaniards for every one bar and restaurant. From this figure, we can deduce that cuisines are important in Spanish regions.

As an expat, please note that most bars in Spain double up as restaurants and vice versa. These places serve as social establishments, meeting joints, places to watch football games, play games, chat, eat, drink, party, among other things. Typical bars boast an array of tapas or pinchos that are basically small portions of food. The pinchos and tapas vary by region, can be added to your price list, or offered free.

TapasMediterranean cuisine is characterized by its wide assortment of ingredients. Here, meals are based on beans, vegetables, fruits, legumes, rice, among other grain foods, cheese, yogurt, poultry, extra virgin olive oil, various types of meats and wine. In fact, Spaniards brag about how they have the most healthy and sweet food in the world. The Mediterranean cuisine serves traditional rich diet that is considered one of the healthiest in the globe. One major thing almost every expat will quickly discover is the dining timeline used in Spain. Understanding the timeline is necessary so that you do not miss out on any local cuisine.

Spanish Dishes and Traditions
Spanish Breakfast: Also known as Desayuno in their culture, breakfast is not an important meal of the day here. It is the first meal that ends around 10:00 am. Most locals skip this meal, and if taken, a light meal is considered that may consist of hot chocolate, freshly squeezed orange juice with a croissant, coffee, pastry or toast with jam. The other very common breakfast pastry in many bars is churros, fried fritters with sugar. With this light meal, after around 10:30 am, you will likely notice people in bars enjoying beverages with snacks.

Spanish Lunch: In Spain, lunch is the most important meal. It consists of a first course that begins with soup or salad, a second course that is heavier with fish or meat, pastry or dessert, fruit, then coffee or shots of traditional liquor. After this meal, bread follows along with water and wine. Lunch and siesta take place from 2:00 to 4:00 Pm. As a first time visitor, you are encouraged to do your shopping before this time because most establishments and shops are closed around this time.

Spanish Dinner: Since the lunch meals are heavy, most workers stay on until around 8:00 pm. Ideally, between 4:00 pm towards dinnertime, most of them will have a snack before dinner. Although dinner is similar to the meal taken during lunch, it is slightly lighter and served from 9:00 to 10:30 pm. During the summer, do not be surprised to see most Spaniards taking their dinner as late as 12:00 am.

Just like its rich history, food and drinks in Spain are integral in the Spanish culture. Its culinary traditions depend on a variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as poultry and meats. Chorizo, a seasoned sausage and Jamon Serrano, a cured ham are popular foods here. Fish and seafood are only popular in the coastal regions.

One of the highest rated dishes in Spain is paella that originated in Valencia along the Mediterranean Sea. Paella is made from a range of shellfish (such as clams, shrimp, lobster and crab), vegetables (like peas, asparagus and tomatoes), chorizo, long grain rice, and chicken/rabbit. Onion, wine, garlic, broth, sweet red pepper (pimiento) and saffron are used to add flavour to the stew.

What Wines should you expect in Spain?
With more bars per capita than there are in any other EU country, Spanish culture is a treasure trove of major possibilities when we focus on wines and food. The number of options for the local wines can be a tad overwhelming. The climate varies from one region to the other since Spain is a peninsula, meaning that each wine is shaped by the weather.

Some of the wines you can readily taste in Spain include Cava, Spanish white wines (including rich and textured, fresh and salty), Spanish red wines (Tempranillo that appears under Tinto de Toro, cencibel, Tinto Fino, Tinto del Pais and Ull de Llebre) from Ribera del Duero and Rioja regions. That said; you now understand why food and drinks in Spain are popular.

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Let us know what is your favorite dish from Spain.