I'm back! I write this now in a sleep-deprived, over-stuffed state, so I'll let the photos do more of the speaking. I went to Barcelona and Seville for a little 4-day escape from the cold and grey skies of London. As with most of my travels, the experience is largely gastronomic. Spain was always one of those countries on my to-go list after the Brindisa chorizo sandwich I had at Borough market.
And chorizo I did have, along with some of their other less-famous cured sausages and hams.
Little 1 euro sampler sticks for the indecisive like me
Jamon is Spanish for ham, and the slicing of the ham is a fine art in itself. The whole cured leg is usually hung up proudly for display, not just in the markets, but also in the restaurants and tapas bars.
You would think I stuffed myself silly with pork there, but actually, I had a lot more seafood. Barcelona and Seville are both coastal, and you can tell from the amount of seafood on their menus. I had the best seafood I ever had (and that's saying a lot because I grew up in Singapore!) at the Mercat (market) de La Boqueria. I was shocked, because, really, it was just plain-grilled, and then finished off with a drizzle of Spanish olive oil and sea salt, but it was amazing and just bursting with the fresh flavours of the sea.
Mind-blowing seafood platter done to perfection, not overcooked or overladen with excessive seasoning or flavourings
Oh and speaking of the market. I love to visit markets, and even in London, I still get excited every Saturday when I work at the farmers' market. I must say it's been one of the most impressive markets I've seen so far. Rows and rows of fresh vegetables and meat (including offal) and of course, the aforementioned seafood-- probably why the grill was so good.
The mushroom stall!
Just one of the maybe 20 seafood stalls there
It's not just your usual cod or salmon they sell though, often times, it's really the cheap fishes, things like sardines and the tiny oily fishes we often turn our noses up at, just simply fried up as little snacks, or tapas.
Pescadito fritos (fried little fishes)
Which brings me to the tapas. I think what was most immediately obvious about the Spanish were that they were really friendly people; everyone was like family, whether or not they've grown up together or only just spent the last five minutes together. That whole concept of tapas is based on the idea of sharing- just little plates of snacks and appetisers that everyone can all munch on over a beer and a conversation. It's not at all like a formal, stuffy dinner where no one really dares to speak much because you're busy making sure you don't accidentally open your mouth while you're chewing.
Haha. The very friendly owner at a busy tapas bar overflowing with locals all through the day and night.
Our never-ending appetite. The series of tapas we had, starting from the top left:
Croquetas, chorizo on bread, tortilla de patatas (Spanish thick potato omelette), fried sardines, and something he put a plate down of with a "Bueno!"
Oh and of course, what would Spain be without some paella! Our hostel was supposed to have a paella night on the rooftop where everyone will learn and have a hand in making paella, but disappointingly, it got cancelled ):
I got so excited when I saw that huge pan hanging in the kitchen, but, oh well.
We didn't have the chance to make it to Valencia, the birthplace of paella, but this dish is all over Spain. The most interesting one we had was the paella negra, kind of like seafood paella, but in a wicked black colour because of the squid ink.
(Black) Lip-smackingly good, but we came to the conclusion that this was not food you should order on a date, unless I find a foodie boyfriend just as greedy.
And now I need to get back to the realities of briefs and projects (yes, over the Christmas break; oh the cruel uni life!) I will still find time to do a thing or two inspired by my Spanish adventures; it should be great because the upcoming festivities are all about sharing and food and family and friends-- and that's Spain in a nutshell for me (: