Tag Archives: Cochinillo

Take a Break from Jamón: My 5 Spanish Pork-based Dishes Worth Indulging In

2018_072723_2137_542If you think Spain is all about jamón, think again. The Spanish pork-based cuisine is rich and diverse, certainly a lot more other than the well-loved cured pork. Countless delectable cerdo dishes, served as tapas and raciones, are waiting for you to relish.

Forget jamon for awhile. Here are five typical mouth-watering pork dishes that you must try:

1. Cochinillo

image19Having a cochinillo means ordering a whole pig, a piglet to be exact, one that’s roasted in a special oven for several hours. Perhaps all parts of Spain offer this dish, albeit the town of Segovia is said to serve the perfect Cochinillo asado.

What’s cooked are piglets a few weeks old, and normally, the dish is enough to feed six to eight people. You get to savor slices upon slices of tender, succulent meat, but only after first indulging in the dish’s crunchy, caramel-brown, fat-layered skin.  I purposely went to Segovia to experience their much-touted cochinillo. Simply delicious. However, I had to settle for a portion since I was in my lonesome.

2. Callos a la Madrileña

2018_072508_0013_621The sticky bit-salty sauce is what made me fall in love with this dish, apart from the tenderness of the callos meat itself. One of the more popular, traditional Spanish comidas, callos is served in numerous bars and restaurants, big and small, in Madrid and all around Spain. I brought some at home once, but instead of eating it with bread, I had it top a plate of hot, steaming rice.

If you’re in the vicinity of Calle de Alcala, try dropping by at Bar Manduka, a highly patronized restaurant bar, where a warm welcome greets clients and waiters are quick to serve. Their callos might be a bit spicy, and excessive in flavors even, but that is exactly why I love it.

3. Orejas a la Plancha

image5One typical Spanish dish that you must try is the orejas a la plancha. It’s pig’s ear, cartilage and all, grilled in olive oil, salt and spices. While looking forward to having a taste of this unusual pork fare, I was constantly reminded to eat at specialty restaurants lest I end up chewing forever on tough cartilage and cringe on the sight of hairs still present in the skin.

Finally, I opted for Cafe Aurelio, the first restaurant I checked around Calle Bravo Murillo that serves orejas.  Salted and grilled in oil, what made it especially flavorful was the orange-reddish sauce on top. Suffice it to say that their version was a delight, and made me a huge fan of the dish, and the cafe as well. I must say Orejas is one tapa worth choosing over all others, and you’d gladly share with friends over ice-cold refresco or chilled cerveza.

4. Chistorra

image7Salty, spicy and with a hint of sour is how I describe another favorite cerdo dish, a Spanish sausage from Aragon, never mind if it is on the greasy side. If you’re limiting your fat consumption, however, go for the type with a mix of beef.

I like that the chistorra at Museo del Jamon, our designated restaurant for friends visiting Madrid, comes with a reddish sauce that I love dipping my bread in. It is another dish that I’d rather eat with rice, along with a vinegar-garlic-pepper concoction to dip it in. Sounds weird,  but hey, it works for me.

5. Torrezno

2018_072723_2111_682 I had my first Torrezno on our way to Barcelona, when we made a quick stop in a food cafeteria in Zaragoza. I heard about so much about the dish, and had been wanting to try it, when lo and behold, there they were, a heaping plate of half-inch thick strips of fried pork displayed in the bar counter. We bought three, one for each of us, together with a small basket of pan slices. Cold but still crunchy, the taste almost blew us away.

Torrezno is served as a tapa and common in the Spanish city of Soria. A crunchy dish of marinated pork belly, it is fried in olive oil and chopped bite-size when served. Like chistorra, torrezno has a high fat content, but many in Spain consider it as a snack, and the perfect tapa to complement some rounds of drink. The one in the photo above is from Bar Los Torreznos near Goya Metro Station, quite different from the typical chopped strips I was expecting. But still, it was a great treat, especially when I ordered some pimientos del Padron to go with it.

Go on a Day Trip Adventure to Segovia Spain [And Explore Its Alcazar and Roman Aqueduct]

Do you feel you’ve seen enough of Madrid, Spain and wish you could visit places outside the city? Raring to go to other beautiful Spanish regions but wary about the long hours of travel that your chosen destination demands? Fret not as there are many towns near the capital that you can go to, such as Toledo, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, and Alcala de Henares. In other words, there are tons of amazing day trip options from Madrid.

Day trip means you travel to your destination, explore it to the fullest, and return to Madrid — all within a day.

Still another destination, and a highly recommended one at that, is Segovia, Spain.

imageThe spot I climbed at the aqueduct wasn”t even the highest point one can possibly reach, yet I was already afforded spectacular views of the town

Found south of the capital, lying atop an elevated land a mere 30 minutes away by train from Madrid is Segovia, small compared to other towns, but unique nonetheless.

Its tiny size is compensated by the many fascinating attractions. A quaint town overflowing in valuable history and enthralling beauty, it isn’t surprising that Segovia is a World Heritage site (as declared by the UNESCO).

What makes Segovia an ideal tour destination?

imageFor one thing, the Roman Aqueduct alone is enough to make your journey worthwhile. There’s also the Alcazar, that Castilian edifice with a fairy tale-book like facade. Enthralling is how one would describe the sprawling Cathedral of Segovia. You’d be in awe gazing upon the church from the town’s Plaza Mayor. And before going back to Madrid, remember to dine at a Segovia restaurant that offers conchinillo (which wouldn’t be a problem since most establishments include this dish in their menu).

I love traveling alone. But I need to go to exceptional destinations to keep me, as a traveler by his lonesome, excited and filled with energy all throughout. I assure you Segovia is one of them.

What to see in Segovia Spain

1. The Roman Aqueduct

The aqueduct is one of the most important structures in this town and perhaps the whole of Spain. Composed of perhaps thousands upon thousands of granite blocks, it is the most important symbol of the town. The today, the Romano Acueducto is determined to be well-preserved and still capable of transporting water from the Rio Frio river to the city.

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2. The Aqueduct, from Fernandez Ladreda Avenue

From the bus stop, I walked thru the Avenida Ladreda, a main Segovian street filled with touristy restaurants and cafes. Iglesia de San Millan is right along  the avenue. Ultimately it brought me to the magnificent site of the Roman Aqueduct.

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3. Catedral de Santa Maria

The Santa Madrid Cathedral is the last Gothic-inspired church to be built in Spain. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is such a magnificent site from afar.
Catedral de Santa Maria, Segovia, Spain

4. Plaza Mayor

The square may be small in size but is the town’s designated area for important local activities and events. One of the most frequented spots by tourists, the square boasts of old-town, rustic restaurants and souvenir shops.

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5. Teatro Juan Bravo

One of the attractions at the Plaza Mayor of Segovia, the town’s principal theater was built in honor of Juan Bravo, a  beloved local hero.
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6. Puerta de San Andres

On my way to the Alcazar Castle, I passed through this gate that dates back to the early 12th century — Puerta de San Andres. Its vicinity offers great views of Las Murallas (City Walls) surrounding the important sites of the town. The ancient gate itself leads to the Jewish Quarters.

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7. Centro Didactico de la Juderia

The Didactic Center of the Jewish Quarter located at Calle de la Juderia Nueva, is a reminder of the once active Jewish community in the city. Once thriving area for the Jews was at Plaza de la Merced. Another popular Jewish street is the Juderia Viejo.
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8. La Casa de los Picos

La Casa de los Picos is a 15th century mansion by Pedro Lopez de Ayala, and considered by many  as unique because of its granite-built facade that features more than 600 pointy peaks. It boasts of a classic Renaissance courtyard within its interior. Once, an opulent residence, it now houses an art school and acts as a venue for regular exhibits.
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9. Puerta de la Claustra

Puerta de la Claustra is a 2-arch entrance, the only existing one leading to quarter of the cloister. Note the depiction of the Pieta on top of  the arch. The other similar entrances were taken down to give way to wedding of Philip II at the Alcazar de Segovia.

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10. Iglesia de San Andres

Iglesia de San Andres, a charming Roman Catholic Church, is located at the Plaza de la Merced, which you will pass by on your way to the more popular Santa Maria Cathedral.

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11. La Iglesia de San Martin

A Roman-styled early 12th-century church, La Iglesia de San Martin continues to attract tourists everyday mainly because of its strategic location, between the Segovian Aqueduct and the Sta Maria Cathedral. Standing near this small church of Moor origin is a local hero, Juan Bravo.

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12. Monumento a Juan Bravo

The striking monument at the Plaza de San Martin, beside the Iglesia de San Martin, is dedicated toJuan Bravo. Bravo is a Castilian nobleman who played an important role in the war within the autonomous Castille region.
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13. Las Murallas

The town’s Murallas is the thick wall that surrounds the perimeter of the elevated land that cradles the town. The tallest structure in the photo is the Catedral de Nuestra Senora de Asuncion y de San Frutos. Facing the Murallas and the town itself (not shown in photo) is an low-lying expanse of land where the Jewish cemetery is situated.image

14. Alcazar

The flag of Spain flies high atop the 12th century-built Alcazar or fortress. A former official residence of the Castilian kings of earlier times, the Alcazar is said to be the inspiration for the design and creation of Disney’s own castle. It has Romanesque and Gothic styles in its facade while the interior evokes a strong Moorish design.
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Time for Some Segovian Food

Going to Segovia give you the chance to taste its famous cochinillo. While Madrid has its share of asador restaurantes, nothing beats Segovia as far as the roasted suckling pig is concerned. It is a gastronomic haven where most restaurants are known to serve only the tastiest cochinillos asados.

Restaurante Meson Don Jimeno

I chanced upon this tiny yet quite cozy meson restaurant on my way to the Alcazar. I must have found the perfect spot to have lunch (and to taste suckling pig), since they boast of heavenly succulent cochinillo. But, what’s more important, they serve portions.

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Judiones de la Granja

Judiones is a bean-based dish with added chorizo slices. What I love about it is its thick consistency and rich flavor. De la Granja means from the Granja, which is a town near Segovia. I’m not sure if the beans ingredient is from the Granja, or if the dish itself originated from the place. What I’m sure is that judiones is delicious!

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Cochinillo Asado!

The sight of that golden-brown color of the roasted piglet’s skin makes one’s mouth water. You know that the dish was roasted just right by its perfectly crisp skin and tender yet moist meat underneath
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Natillas

I was stuffed yet I couldn’t allow a morsel of this homemade Natillas (custard) to be left uneaten. A Spanish dessert of milk and egg, the popular Segovian postre is perfect to cap off a deliciously filling lunch.
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How to go to Segovia Spain

imageThis is the Guiomar Train station, where your Renfe train from Madrid stops and your tour of Segovia begins. From here, auto bus no. 11 will take you to the city proper (and near the aqueduct). Fare is 2 euros.

By Train

You can buy Renfe train tickets online at their website. Or you can buy them at Chamartin station, which you can reach via auto bus no 5, among others.  While train rides are expensive, they’re the fastest and most efficient way of traveling around. I left Chamartin at 12PM and arrived at Segovia Guiomar station at 12.25PM.

By bus

Perhaps, you’re not pressed for time, and more importantly, wanted to save a few bucks in travel fare, I suggest that you take the bus instead. You will be able to enjoy nice scenery and views during your travel to your destination. Tickets can be had at La Sepulvedana office at Moncloa Station. Price for  ida y vuelta is around 17 euros.

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