Saturday, September 1, 2018

#618 : Paella - Spain Diaries - The Spanish Food

It's been a while since I got back from Spain and I now intend to finish off the Spanish series which I started back when I was in Spain. I stayed in Madrid for about 120 days before heading back home. One question that I got asked was, as to how I managed food. Every other person pitied me. However,  I never really  felt bad or difficult or worse, starved. It's just that one has to adapt and I realised that I was rather good at adapting.

Food is always a problem for  a Vegetarian. Though the world is becoming more accommodating and inclusive to different food habits, there is still a long road ahead. Being an Indian, it's virtually impossible to handle eating bland food. I realised, the spices we used were literally our lifeline. Imagine eating rice with tomato puree sans pepper or coriander seeds or turmeric. However, that was my lunch for a while. Vegetable Salad, Spinach in Bechamel sauce, Pasta with Tomato Sauce, Veg Hamburgers - that's all I had for lunch apart from a variety of watery soups served with sourdough bread. All of them were so bland that adding heaps and heaps of pepper to any of them really didn't make a difference. Beggars can't be choosers. In a land of meat lovers, I couldn't possibly pick and choose. 

The Spanish love their meat. Every other major super market has varieties of meat stacked neatly that even the meat eaters who travelled with me from India were a bit perplexed as to what to buy. Jamón ibérico (Cured Ham) or just Jamón (Pork), chorizo and salchichón are a few local favourites. They also do love their sea food. The most loved dish being Paella which is something similar to Sea Food Briyani which is served here in India sans the spices of course. 


In spite of the lack of a variety in vegetarian cuisine, I had a whale of a time trying out different dishes. Special note of thanks to my colleague from Spain who ensured that I knew what to eat when I went exploring. Here is a little guide on surviving Spanish food if you are a vegetarian like me, 


1. Bocadillo/Tortilla Patata - The classic Spanish omelette eaten squeezed between bread. I don't eat eggs as well, but if you do, this might be just perfect as they are known to be quite stomach filling. The speciality being that the eggs are mixed with mashed potatoes. 


2. Gazpacho - I tried this when I went to Cordoba (Andalusia). It's basically cold tomato soup which is typical of Spain. Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Garlic, Green peppers, Onions and Vinegar are mashed and served cold as an appetiser - this ended up being my main course though! This ranked third in my list of most flavorful foods I ate in Spain.  Salmorejo is a similar variation of Gazpacho combining pureed bread, tomatoes, garlic and vinegar – also served cold – with ham or egg slices on top. I took special care to specify not adding Egg or Ham as they always do. 


3. Pisto or Spanish ratatouille - I savoured this dish first on my trip to Aranjuez which is a small town south of Madrid. This dish turned out to be a literal life saver. I'd blindly ask for this every time I ate out as almost all restaurants served Pisto. Pisto is basically a blend of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, garlic, and of course, olive oil. The La Mancha district is known to serve the best Pisto. Just like Gazpacho, this dish is served with a piece of toasted bread and egg on top of it. Yet again, I skipped the egg. This ranked second in my list of most flavourful food I ate in Spain.


4. Patatas Bravas - This was the true savoir. It is a classic potato fry coated in tangy tomato sauce. That sauce was the spiciest dish I ever tasted in Spain. After days of eating bland food, when we chanced upon this, it was like being in food heaven! The number one dish in my list of most flavourful food from Spain.


5. Bean Stews and Salads - Bean stews (or soups) were my staple lunch for a while. The chefs in my work place canteen made such good stews, at times specially for me. It was really heartwarming to see them put in efforts to ensure that the single vegetarian person is fed properly. Some of the best stews I tasted were Fabada Asturiana (White Beans, the pork-less version), Chickpea stew and Red bean stew. 


6. Churros and Porras - One can't possibly not eat Churros when in Spain. Yet again, my Spanish colleague deserves all the credit for showing me the best joints to gorge on yum Churros. Churros is basically an elongated form of donut which is eaten best dunked in hot chocolate. If I could, I'd rather have Churros for breakfast daily. It's just way too sinful to be eaten regularly. A little joint in Madrid serves the best Churros. It's called Chocolatería San Ginés. It's open 24 hours and is crowded to boot all the time. Apparently, you party all the night and eat Churros here in the morning before heading back home to sleep. This is one must visit cafeteria in Madrid. Another place which is a must visit in Madrid for good Tapas (or food) is Mercado San Miguel and the La Latina area. That place is worth a separate post. 



Churros from San Gines

Apart from the above mentioned dishes, I loved drinking Spanish Sangria (the non alcholic version),Mosto (Grape juice sans alcohol) and hot chocolate (Cola Cao). Again, I ought to thank the same Spanish colleague who got me bottles of Mosto and Sangria! Muchas Gracias! 


One point which I almost forgot to mention - the portion sizes vs price. The Spanish sense of portion is confusing. For an Indian who is used to large portion sizes, the Spanish portion size will not be enough and would be over-priced! Think of pay EUR 8 for a small cup of Pisto which would possibly be your lunch. With conversion rates sky rocketing, it's a millimetre short of being a gaping hole on your pocket. 


Above all, to survive being a vegetarian, you just need to learn the Spanish words for meat, fish and 'NO'. 


Sin Carne, Sin Pescado, Sin Pollo, Sin Huevo - will literally help you anywhere in Spain!  


PS. If you are non-vegetarian, you really don't need my help. Unless of course if you don't eat pork and beef. 


PPS. You can read the rest of series here! 


PPPS. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter
This is my #Post1 /#Week1 for the #MyFriendAlexa campaign.

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16 comments:

  1. Yes, vegetarians have it tough. You do realise though, that you've made it easy for them, with this helpful list. I can' wait to sink my teeth into all the food you've mentioned. Yummy!

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    1. Ha ha! I could go on and on as to what to eat! That's a big thanks to my Spanish colleague who helped me out :)

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  2. I can relate to this post so well, my stint in Australia was equally tough when it came to food. Though I am a non-vegetarian but chicken is only protein I intake. It was tough to find a nice dish in chicken or vegetarian savory with spices and matching our taste buds.

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    1. Ha ha! I think even the non-vegetarians who accompanied me found it difficult. Beef and Pork were the main proteins and it was all bland.

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  3. This is a really helpful post for vegetarians. I myself didn't know most of these dishes except for gazpacho and churros

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    1. Thank you :) Churros - If they weren't so sinful I'd have them every day for breakfast!

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  4. We went on vacation to Spain and this post was like a trip down memory lane. Imagine being vegetarian and having a 3 year old tagging along! Thankfully we eat eggs. We even found a completely vegetarian placeinMadrid but obviously not much spice

    Namrathafrom #firstgreenstep #MyFriendAlexa

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  5. Learnt a lot about new Spanish food - even for non-vegetarians if we don't eat beef and pork I used to see 'beef stock' everywhere in the US! :(

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    1. Yes :'( that's the biggest problem! Beef stock, beef fat :'(

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  6. This post is very helpful for a vegetarian like me.

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  7. Heard a lot about churros! I am yet to try it though.
    That said, Indeed food is a major issue for vegetarians. I had to face a lot of problem on my first day in Thailand and it was difficult to find vegetarian food there.

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  8. I am pure vegetarian and must say i can completely relate with this post. #MyFriendAlexa #DelhibloggerReads

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  9. I am a hard core foodie and my dream is to travel the world and eat. I love my non veg although I dont eat some varieties of it.. but the moment i exit Indian shores I drop all such restrictions I love understanding cultures via their food. I have a lot of vegetarian friends who sulk about food in Europe. But i am glad to see how you adapted and made the most of it and still enjoyed it all. Kudos for that.

    https://mommyingbabyt.com/teeth-dental-care-for-kids-pediatric-dentist-interview/

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  10. This was a very good read. I am a non vegetarian person but I loves reading about your journey.

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