Thursday, September 29, 2016

Foods and Drinks of Spain and Portugal (September 2016) ...

Kristin and I made a trip to Spain and Portugal in September 2016. I have posted separate blogs each for Spain and Portugal. Please click here to go to the Spain blog and click here to go to the Portugal blog. 

I am sure there are a lot of foods in Spain and Portugal. There is no way we could try all of them.

Nonetheless, we made conscious efforts to trying their foods as much as possible. Here are some we ate and drank in both countries.


Churros con Chocolate Caliente - A churro is a type of snack that is fried dough pastry. It may be taken as breakfast. It is very popular in Spain, Portugal, France, the Philippines, Ibero-America and the Southwestern U.S. Its shape could be long or short and thin or thick. Generally, Spanish churros tend to be thin and form a circle with two ends attached, whereas others are not attached. In Madrid, the similar stuff which is thick and short is called porras.

Typically, churros and porras are served with a cup of thick hot chocolate. You dip the churros or porras in the hot chocolate and eat them.

Churros with Hot Chocolate (Granada)
In other countries, churros or porras can take variations. In the U.S. you can buy churros that are thick and long with sugar power and cinnamon power sprinkled on the churros, usually at amusement parks. In other countries, the churros may be filled with other stuff, such as fruit jam.

I ate the typical Spanish churros at Danny Kim's house along with orange juice as breakfast.

In Granada, we ate churros with thick hot chocolate. Apparently these churros may be called porras in Madrid, but in Granada there was no difference. Both were delicious, particularly to me who has sweet tooth.

Tapas - Tapas are not a type of dish but a variety of appetizers or snacks included in Spanish dishes. It may also represent a way of eating snacks and small dishes .

Grilled Duck Tapas
The word tapa originated from tapar, meaning to cover. Many bars in Spain have evolved tapas into a formal cuisine, but they still remain snacks or finger foods in American standards. In other countries, they are called differently. Like in Mexico, similar dishes are called botanas.

Tapas can be cold or hot. In certain places, people do not sit down at the table. Rather, they walk around with tapas on their dishes.

It is common to order several dishes and share among people who are at the same table. We ate potato tapas, octopus tapas, calamari tapas, grilled duck tapas, fried onion tapas etc. Generally they were pretty good. We particularly enjoyed grilled duck tapas along with calamari tapas. Every time we ate tapas, we ordered calamari. It had a standing invitation to my dining table. Welcome!

Paellas - Paellas, a rice dish, are considered by non-Spaniards as Spain's national food. But in reality Spaniards consider it a Valencian regional food. Valencians take it as its own food.

The types of paellas include Valencian paella, vegetarian paella, meat paella, seafood paella and mixed paella. The Valencian paella should be the original and the rest its variations. The Valencian paella is made of white rice, green beans, meat (checken and rabbit), white beans, snails, and seasoning such as saffron and rosemary. Another very common but seasonal ingredient is artichokes. The seafood paella replaces meat with seafood and omits beans and green vegetables.

We ate a seafood paella once, but it was not quite what we expected. The seafood was chopped and very little. The photo above. We will continue our pursuit of a delicious seafood paella, like one below. Do you see the difference? I am sure we will be able to find the right one someday... somewhere. Perhaps in Valencia?

Gazpacho:   Gazpacho is not a drink but a cold soup made of raw vegetables. The ingredients can vary, but generally include tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olive oil, peppers and sometimes garlic. It was originated in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. It is widely eaten, particularly in the summer.

The one we tried was purchased from a supermarket. So I am not sure if we tried the right kind, but the taste was not very enticing. It left a little discomfort in my stomach. Nobody else wanted to take it, except a dear friend of mine. But even he did not want it for the second time. I ended up taking all that was left. I pretended that it was fine, but it was pretending indeed. I just swallowed it.

Stewed Beef: - I ate stewed beef in Salamanca and it was delicious! It tasted like Korean Galbijjim. The sauce was juicy and very tasty. With fried potatoes in thick cuts, the food was excellent. I enjoyed it very much.

Smoked Salmon Salad: - Another dish that was really good was chopped salad covered with smoked salmon. The portion was quite big, yet the taste was not compromised. I tend to like smoked salmon too much anyway.

Pasta: - Pasta is an excellent choice almost anywhere we go. At least for me. Among all kinds of pasta, I like linguini most, particularly cooked with clams. If it can be served with red sauce, it is even better. It is Linguini Vongole. Everywhere I go, if a restaurant serves this dish, I go for it. It just makes your mouth water. I had a few different types of pasta, but I liked the linguini.

Salmon Dish: - At Algarve, Portugal, we were supposed to have a B.B.Q. at the beach. That was what was told and what we expected. But it ended up as a dining at a restaurant at the beach. Kristin and I ordered a salmon dish and a chicken dish to be shared. Both of them were tasty so the ultimate purpose of feeding ourselves with good food was accomplished. Well, we could not complain too much about dining by the beach with a beautiful scenery at Algarve.

Chicken with Fries: - This was not as good as the salmon. But it was still decent.

Fruits: - Obviously there are no borders for fruits. They travel pretty much everywhere. People like fruits, a variety of them. Most of the countries have their own favorite fruits and rightfully so.

But, I have not found any place so far, which has so colorfully decorated a variety of fruits like the Spaniards. The color coordination of the fruits displayed on the shelves was impressive. The Spaniards must be quite artistic and talented in color coordination.

We bought and ate a variety of fruits during our trip. Whenever possible and whichever fruit possible.

I posted these photos in the Madrid section in the Trip to Spain blog, but I think they are just beautiful and deserve to be posted again. These photos were taken at La Bouqueria Market in Madrid.
Aren't they colorful and pretty?

Dragon Fruit at the center

Ice Cream: - Who would not like ice cream? Particularly when it is hot? It is smooth and refreshing as well as sweet and delicious. But, due to the medical report that I received in Korea I refrained somewhat from eating ice cream in this trip. (The medical report said that I was overweight! No!) Ice cream was as good as in any other country I have visited. But I was not as eager to eat it as before.

Pastries: - Generally, European countries make very good bread and tasty pastries. Probably, France is the best. But Spain also produced very good breads, baguettes and pastries.

We stopped by a small bakery and cafe after we visited the Picasso Museum. Its pastries were delicious. Even table breads were pretty good everywhere we went.

Cervezas: - Beer. Beer is best appreciated after you sweat a lot in a hot and scrorching day.

Germany claims to be the best beer producing country. They call the beer "liquid bread." Obviously they drink beer like others drink water else where. Perhaps so. But Spain also claim that they have pretty good beer.

Particularly, the Catalans in Barcelona are so proud of their beer: Estrella Damm. I do not know the difference among beers. So I could not tell, but if they claim, I will take it at least in their own backyard.


Francesinha: - It means "Little Frenchie" or simply "Frenchie" in Portugese. It is a Portugese hot sandwich originally from Porto. It is made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguica, fresh sausage like chipotata, steak or roast meat and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries. Since we did not eat pork, we asked them to replace the pork with beef steak.

It tasted pretty good, but did not taste as good as it looks on the picture. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. It was a worthwhile experience.

Postre de Belem: - Portugal seems to be very proud of and sensitive to the sweets. It appears that each region and each city has its own version of sweets.

We tasted two types from two different cities. One was from Belem District in Lisbon and the other from Sintra in the vicinity of Lisbon. Both of them tasted really good. They were melting down in the mouth. Obviously a lot of sugar in any food may just do the trick. You may not want to eat them everyday, but they both tasted really good!

Postre de Sintra: - This one was even sweeter than Postre de Belem. What the heck! I was fatppy or "fat and happy."

Dried Cod Fish: -  Cod dried and salted is called Bacalhau in Portugese. Unsalted (fresh) cod is referred to as bacalhau fresco. Salt cod has been produced for at least 500 years since the time of European discoveries of the New World. Before refrigeration was invented, there was a need to preserve the cod. Drying and salting are ancient techniques to preserve nutrients and the process makes the cod tastier.

In Porto, we saw one store that was displaying bacalhaus in front of the store as shown in a photo below. They looked like fake, but we were told that they were real. Wow... We also saw pieces of bacalhaus cut differently. If the bacalaus are soaked in the water for three days, they swell like you cannot imagine and the meat turns very tender, I was told. It also tastes delicious. We did not get to taste it though.

Ginjinha or Ginja: - It is a liqeur that is made of Portugese brandy injected with ginja berries or sour cherry. Ginja is a typical drink in Lisbon and Obidos. Ginja is served in a small chocolate cup like the photo below and you eat the chocolate after drinking it. 

We had a comfort stop in Obidos and I had a chance to taste it. One Euro for a little chocolate cup full of Ginja. It was a good deal and the taste was also good!

Port Wine: - Port wine or Vinho do Porto in Portugese is a Portugese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. The name came from the City of Porto where all such wineries used to be located. But due to tax imposed on the wineries, they relocated across the River Douro to a different city, called Villa Nova de Gaia or simply Gaia to avoid the taxes. The wine is still called port wine.

It is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, although it also comes in dry, seme-dry and white varieties.

We did a port wine tasting at Sandeman that had a sign of operating for 225 years. Reportedly, it is one of the largest producers of port wine in the world.

What has been left out: - I was not able to take photos of all the meals we ate. So they are not included. I also realize that I forgot to take photos of some of the food we particularly enjoyed, such as home-made seafood pasta we ate at the apartment. It is purely my fault. 

I do not know how to cook, other than cooking a very good ramyun. But I am extremely good at eating, particularly delicious food and drinks. I can eat almost anything, other than exotic meat and pork. Nonetheless, it is not easy to describe how food is cooked. Perhaps I should try to learn about cooking. It is always good to try out different food in different culture. Overall, we enjoyed the foods and drinks of Spain and Portfugal very much. - Jeffrey

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