If 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:
Having 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
The 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
One 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.
Salty, 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.
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.