This Kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula is not only an attractive and interesting country to visit but is also a foodie’s paradise! In fact, talking to Spaniards who are familiar with the evolution of their country’s popular dishes makes for a very engaging and enlightening conversation. Take a look at these trivia.
Tapas, the Spanish word to refer to the various appetizers that start any Spanish meal, is “cover” in English, literally.
In the early days of Spain, cocktail drinks were served in glasses covered on top with a small plate containing small slices of cheese, ham, olives, etc. The plate actually had a dual purpose, to serve the snack and to cover the glass from flies or dust. Until now, appetizers served as part of a Spanish meal are called tapas, even if they’re no longer used to cover the mouths of cocktail glasses.
The very popular Paella Valenciana originated, as the name says, in Valencia, the third largest city in Spain, found on the eastern coast. This colorful city is now known for its City of Arts and Sciences, a huge park with futuristic structures including a planetarium, an interactive museum and a very large oceanarium.
The dish itself is a showcase of Spanish culinary wizardry. The original and authentic Paella Valenciana calls for chicken and rabbit meat mixed with white rice, seasoned with garlic, olive oil, salt and just enough saffron to give it a nice yellow color.
A popular variation of this dish is the Arroz Negre, which is cooked the same way as the traditional Paella but, as the name says, is colored black by the squid ink, which also enhances the seafood flavor of the dish. Adding to the rich shellfish flavor of this culinary specialty, which is sometimes referred to as Paella Negra, are crabmeat, shrimp, garlic, green pepper, sweet paprika and olive oil.
Arroz Negre is very popular in the Catalan region, the northern part of Spain, where Barcelona, the second biggest city, is located. Aside from the dialect, which differs from Spanish because of its French and Portuguese influence, Barcelona is also known as the City of Gaudi. Antonio Gaudi is best known for his Modernism, a highly individualized and distinctive style. Of course, his magnum opus is the Catedral de la Sagrada Familia, the tourist attraction that is synonymous with Barcelona.
And did you know that everybody’s favorite, the Cochinillo Asado, or Roasted Suckling Pig, originated as early as the 9th Century in the Kingdom of Castile, which is now North-Central Spain? This region produced the Spanish nobleman, military leader and diplomat known as El Cid Campeador. I remember the movie about him with Charlton Heston portraying the role. The city of Burgos, in Castile, is now known for the historical and beautiful Burgos Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are many other culinary specialties with interesting historical significance. These make Spain fascinating for tourists who want to dig deeper into a country’s evolution. The country has also become a typical foodie’s delight, not only because these popular dishes are usually synonymous with celebrations, festivities, and weekend family gatherings, but also because they really create a most colorful, festive, rich and vibrant gastronomic experience.
Thanks to New World Manila Bay’s amiable general manager, Mark Heywood, who is always initiating interesting events for the hotel, ongoing until Aug. 31 at the Market Café is Flavors of Spain. This culinary festival will make those with good appetites rediscover treasured heirloom dishes from the Iberian Peninsula. It would be interesting to check out how much history and culture is attached to every dish that is offered on the buffet and, mind you, there are a lot of delicious choices to keep you busy and satisfied with.
Aside from Tapas, with Jamon Serrano as its signature offering, the Market Café buffet also features delectable Spanish specialties such as Porchetta, Paella Valenciana, Arroz Negre, Cordero Asado, Caldereta de Cornero, Cochinillo, and many more. All these point out why Spain has, through the years, been looked up as the destination for travelers who want only the best and the most exquisite taste on their dinner table.
The past few years have seen Spain rise to the top of the list of the world’s favorite foodie destinations. It could be the diversity in the culture from the country’s different regions that has made Spain’s culinary output very interesting. Those from the Basque region have their own specialties, different from those of the Catalans, and certainly distinct from those of the Galicians, which are different from those of the Valencians.
Yet, this varied set of cuisines also influence each other, piecing together a bigger picture that is a strong magnet for foodies of all ages and persuasions. But, of course, the real delight of Spain is that, wherever you go, there is a big chance that you will discover a new culinary masterpiece that is guaranteed to tickle your palate. And, with a glass of sangria on the other hand, that gastronomic discovery will surely merit space in your personal journal.
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