There’s more to Spanish cuisine than seafood, tomatoes and saffron. There’s so much more, that call it “Spanish food” and you run the risk of incorrectly homogenising a large number of distinct regional influences that are found in the country’s cuisine.
Just like all Indian food does not mean butter chicken and naan, all Spanish food is not paella and tapas.
“Food in Spain is quite specific to what is available in that particular region. Take for example, the ubiquitous paella. It actually comes from Valencia, which is along the east coast,” says Farrokh Khambata, chef and owner of Spanish restaurant, Amadeus, at Nariman Point.
Take a look at the various regions in Spain, and the food that is particular to them.
The ABCs of Spanish cuisine
Food commonly found in the Andalucia region includes fried fish and the well known gazpacho, a cold soup. Also common in this region is olive oil (olives are grown all over this region), Jabugo ham, Spanish tortillas (made of egg and potato) and sherry.
Cod is a popular fish here, and used to make the garlicky cod ‘al pil pil. cider. Sheep’s milk cheese and smoked paprika are also specialities.
This autonomous community, home to Barcelona, offers Mediterranean food at its best. Tomatoes, garlic, different kinds of nuts and many varieties of pork and fish are eaten here, along with seafood casseroles, stews and beans in many forms. Pa amb tomàquet or pa amb oli — bread rubbed with olive oil and tomatoes — is a favourite and is found on many tapas menus. Sweet and savory cocas, a Spanish flatbread, are also common.
This northwest region is both hilly and coastal. With fishing being a major contributor to the economy, seafood is common. Maize and wheat are widely grown here, but potatoes are an undeniable staple. A baked pastry dish, empanada, comes from the Galicia region.
This region produces a large part of the country’s rice. It’s no wonder then that the popular paella comes from here. Originally made with rabbit or game, the fragrant, yellow rice dish can also be made with seafood and is among the most well-known Spanish dishes.
From the reverberating taps of the block heels to the swirling scarlet skirts, a flamenco performance can take your breath away.
The complicated, dramatic dance form is believed to have Indian roots, because the Spanish gypsies who popularised Flamenco were originally from India. No wonder, then, that the fast and definite foot movements are reminiscent of the traditional Kathak dance form. Add fluent hand movements, the strumming of a Spanish guitar and elaborate dress for men and women and you get the fiery cocktail that is the flamenco, a great dance and a great workout.
If you want to seem like a true-blue Spaniard, enroll in a three-day flamenco workshop at Arts in Motion, Sion, from July 23 to July 26. Call 9820183231 or 9820380009 to register.