Love Spanish food? Well you’re in luck, as this month the first Spanish Food Festival will be taking over Hong Kong from 19-29 October. Six of Hong Kong’s best Spanish restaurants will be serving up specially curated menus for great value during this limited time only, so if you want to indulge in delicious, authentic Spanish fare, then now’s the time (make sure you book here – you could even end up winning a trip to Spain…). If you’re not that familiar with Spanish cuisine, then check out this list of ‘must-try’ dishes our resident Spanish Sassy Señorita, Begoña. She’s grown up on these delish plates of perfection, so you can guarantee they’re the real deal!
Tortilla – Spanish potato omelette
This is the staple of Spanish cuisine. There are as many ways of cooking a tortilla as there are people. While everybody uses the same ingredients, each person gives their tortilla a different touch. The original recipe uses only potatoes, onion, eggs and olive oil, and the final result will depend on how you cut your potatoes, how long you fry them for and how the final shape sets. A strictly traditional tortilla omits any extra ingredients, but some people get creative and add chorizo or green peppers. Or your could do it Basque-style, and fill it with ham and cheese. Have a go… but in Spain, everyone will say that no one makes tortilla their mum!
Jamón – Spanish Ham
Jamón is the king of cured meat in Spain, and whether eaten on its own or as part of another dish, it’s a definite must-try. No other cold cut can beat a good plate of Jamón Ibérico (acorn-fed cured ham), but it should always be very thin – so thin in fact that you should almost be able to see-through the slice. The beauty of this ham is that you just need a simple piece of bread to eat with it… oh, and of course a glass of vino! Talking of our favourite tipple, keep in mind that the variety of jamón available includes many different quality levels, much like the varying quality of wine.
The real Paella!
Paella comes from the bay of Albufera in Valencia, where the special rice for this well-know Spanish dish is grown. As a general rule – paella is at its best when kept simple. The key to an authentic paella is to not mix meat with fish… and definitely don’t add chorizo (sorry chorizo lovers)! The two main types are seafood with vegetables, or chicken with rabbit. I would definitely recommending trying other varieties of paella-rice dishes too, such as: arroz negro (black rice) cooked with squid ink, and arroz a banda (seafood rice). Any of these topped with ali-oli, a special garlic mayonnaise, will make your mouth water.
If you want to try a real paella here in Hong Kong, I would recommend La Paloma in Sai Ying Pun. I used to work in a genuine paella restaurant back in Valencia, and I can certify that what they serve at La Paloma is the real deal! No chorizo, peas or chili, just authentic.
Gazpacho – Cold tomato soup
One of the healthiest Spanish dishes is Gazpacho, which also happens to be one of the tastiest soups. It originally comes from Andalucia in the south of Spain and some people have branded it ‘a liquid salad’. It’s made with raw blended cucumber, tomato, onion, pepper, garlic and bread, resulting in a cold, refreshing starter, perfect for our long summers in Hong Kong. I like to serve mine with little pieces of toasted bread too.
Cochinillo – Suckling pig
There’s no easy way to say this, but Cochinillo is a whole piglet that’s slow roasted until it’s golden and crispy on the outside. Not the best thought, but the good news is it’s delicious! The meat is so tender that once cooked, the chef can usually cut it with just the edge of a plate. This dish is typical in central Spain, and gives you all the calories you need to fight the cold winters in that region. Super tasty and very filling, this is definitely a meal on its own.
Chorizo a la sidra – Chorizo cooked in cider
Everybody loves chorizo. And if it’s slow cooked in a mud pot with cider, then trust me, you’ll love it even more! The cider and the chorizo blend amazingly well, and as with almost every dish in Spanish cuisine, it goes best with bread. You can dip your bread in the mouthwatering gooey sauce and not miss a drop of goodness!
This fried dough is not only rolled in sugar, but also dipped in thick melted chocolate. All the good stuff! You can find churros in Hong Kong as a dessert, but in Spain we eat them as an early evening snack called ‘merienda’ and also as a typical hearty breakfast, especially on winter weekends. I still remember my grandmother pulling out the churro machine on bitterly cold mornings and waking us up with the smell of handmade churros with chocolate. A childhood favourite!