The Tastes of Andalucia

After starting my eating adventures in Madrid, a center of all the regions, I didn’t know what to expect in Andalucia.  Fresh seafood due to proximity?  Tapas?  Tortillas?  It was a delicious place to learn as I went.

My first stop was Seville where they claim to have invented the tapa.  I went to the oldest taperia in town, El Rinconcillo, where they claim this distinction.  It’s still jam packed and delicious today, centuries later.

Some classics of Seville: spinach with chickpeas, braised pork cheeks, and bacalao (cod) fritter. The first two were amazing and the latter was a meh fish without chips.

In Seville, it’s still common to see them write your tab down on the bar or wall. As you can see, mine is nothing compared to the lingering large groups eating, drinking, and mingling.

While not on the ocean, Seville had the lovely Feria market so I stopped at La Cantina on the side of it. The tiny fried fish and prawns are common tapas all over town but extra fresh here where you point at what you want in the glass case.

Post flamenco show I found myself at Bodeguita Romero for some more Seville treats.

Another common dish is tortilla camarones, a Spanish egg/potato dish with lots of tiny shrimp. Wonderfully crispy but pretty salty.

This place is known for their pringa sandwich. Pringa is popular in the region and consists of pork, sausages, and blood sausage all slow cooked together.

I love albondigas (meatballs) of all forms and these choco (cuttlefish) ones hit the spot. While I usually prefer pork ones, these might’ve been the best meatballs I’ve had in Spain.

After Seville was Ronda which is a bit of a tourist day trip pit stop for most people so the food was aimed towards that.  Mostly sadly mediocre and overpriced, it took me some effort to find some affordable palatable fare.  My first meal was Bar Maestro, a charming local looking tapas bar run by a gruff old couple.

Since I did not have time for Valencia I didn’t really eat much paella on this trip. However I heard it was good at this place and got the world’s smallest paella. It’s pretty cute and delicious.

How does one make kidneys delicious? By sandwiching fat between it and making sure it’s real tender.

My other meal was targeted at trying the specialty of the city, oxtail.  Sadly my visit to another local friendly looking place was fine, but not great.  I probably would give it a pass if I was there again.  Working against the restaurant was the fact that I was so full of meaty products that I was slightly sick of heavy food, which is what traditional food of the region is.

The restaurant’s specialty was the “Pork Special” which was a hedgehog looking meatball with toothpicks all over it.

In a town of bullfights I was sad to find a lackluster oxtail.

I’d been so obsessed with chocolate with churros that I didn’t make much time for anything else.  Breakfast time in Ronda seemed like a perfect time to branch out.

A chocolate napolitina which is quite like a croissant topped by two chocolate shortbread like cookies. Hello diabetes breakfast.

The next stop was Malaga which was actually on the sea.  While the seafood at the market was impeccably fresh and sold by amusing shouting men, the prices were as high as America so I did not stock up.  Instead I partook in the city tradition of eating sardines grilled on a skewer over driftwood on the beach.

At some point while you watch the kids on the tire zipline, the waves crash, and people wander by, you realize this is the perfect place to eat sardines.

Seriously, these chiringuitos grilled ’em up inside of old boats.

Everything else at the shack was awful but the sardines, while not cheap, were tasty. I didn’t even know Spain contained wine this bad.

My first meal was a disappointment as the old town of Malaga is pretty touristy and stopping in a random ceveceria was apparently not a good idea.  Most of these places valued cheesy decor and cleanliness over affordability and taste.

Not actually from Andalucia is fabada asturiana, a rich bean stew with sausage chunks. My continuing aversion to heavy foods will never be fixed here.

My hostel in Malaga was more like a bed and breakfast and served a wonderful spread of homemade desserts every morning.  It also had the benefit of being around the corner of what was supposed to be the best tapas bar in town, El Tapeo de Cervantes, which serves a mix of new fusion and traditional classics.  Everyone in town wanted to do fusion but it looked more like bad 90’s California fusion than anything really interesting.  The restaurant is also known for game meat but I found the boar overly sweet and not something I would get again.

They really love salt cod out here and they stuffed it in some peppers here. Pleasant but not thrilling.

One of the specialties of the bar is sea bream with goat cheese and carrot puree. This was the best thing I had here.

Out on the street you could find guys with tables covered in paper and almonds.  While they have quite the markup, the market does carry delicious Malaga almonds as well.

These are a steal compared to America. I should’ve gotten more tasty fried Malaga almonds.

My next stop was Granada where I Couch Surfed with an Indian man who helped my unmet traveler’s spice cravings.  Amusingly, he made me the same Indian dishes I used to cook at home: chicken tikka masala, tomato cauliflower, and chickpea curry.  Granada has the benefit of tapas bars that give you a free tapa with beer but otherwise are not well known for their food.

This was one lucky cat being served leftover paella outside a church by a nun. Even the cats eat well here.

The jewel of Andalucian cuisine is Cordoba, oft overlooked by travelers who stop only in Seville and Granada.  I still found it slowly being creeped up on by mediocre tourist restaurants trying to charge more but I had better luck finding great food.  My first stop was Taverna Salinas, another ye old place that was flooded with tourists due to recommendation in guidebooks.  Luckily the food was still good.

No, that’s not milk next to my wine.

I caught up on ajo blanco, a specialty I missed in Seville.  I think I prefer salmorejo as I found this to be one noted and grainy.  The raisins hanging out in the bottom of the glass could’ve helped had they not been in a weird glass.  The oxtail was superb! I was worried I just had to give up on it, but no here it was perfect.  Melty and saucy, I inhaled every bit.

Bar Santos right outside the Mezquita is known for their world’s tallest tortilla.  I also took this chance to try morcilla, blood sausage.  Served cold, it had an unpleasant consistency.

Them’s some tall tortillas.

For second lunch I headed over to La Cazuela de La Espateria to find a few more Cordoban classics.

Found everywhere in Spain so I had no idea it was from Cordoba is salmorejo, a cold tomato soup thickened and made creamy by bread. It’s then drizzled with olive oil, jamon, and boiled eggs.

If I wasn’t feeling heavy food, this would be the nail in the coffin. Cordoban specialty flamenquin is pork rolled in jamon and then fried and served with chips and mayo. My this was heavy!

For dinner I headed over to Taverna Gorgona.  I walked by thinking it was closed before I spied an old man eating at the counter.  I’m glad I stopped in and the place quickly filled with locals after I arrived.

After all this time in Spain I finally got around to getting a plate full of Jamon Iberico. I wish I had more but at least I tried it in a region known for great jamon.

Another Cordoban thing is fried eggplant covered in molasses. It was tasty but much too big a portion for one!

While certainly not San Sebastian, Andalucia was tasty on its own.  I don’t know how a vegetarian would survive here but I certainly enjoyed the porky goodness.  I will have to return to Spain again to try all the other densely packed yet vastly different regional cuisines.

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1 comment
  1. jenn said:

    I want diabetes for breakfast. Where are all the churros con concolate??

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