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Dining Guide / Spanish Cuisine

Spanish cuisine uses the most oil among all Western and Central European cuisines. In Spain it's of course olive oil - one of the best oils of all; ordinary Thai cooking, on the other hand, is based primarily on coconut oil. Coconut oil is considered of lower quality than olive oil as it tastes more lardy.

All the better Spanish restaurants overseas do prepare food in olive oil. Customarily the Spanish export quality is chosen which is more refined than the kind of olive oil common in Spain. However, as the more original and less refined Spanish olive oil lies rather heavy on the stomach, the more refined qualities are anyway preferred by non-Spaniards. A further concession to the non-Spaniards are the reduced quantities of oil in many dishes as they are served in the Spanish restaurants abroad.

Another general feature of Spanish cuisine is the wide use of innards or uncommon cuts of meat like tongue or feet. In Spanish cuisine a number of innards and uncommon cuts are prepared in an elaborate manner, and they then are not considered a poor man's dish of minor quality but a delicacy. Particularly high-ranking among Spanish specialities is ox tongue (lengua). Other uncommon specialities are pig knuckles and tripe (callos). Tripe may be served with ham and sausage as Callos a la Madrilena.

Similarly, squid is served in its own ink (Calamares en su tinta), as a separate dish or on paella the rice of which then turns black - a dish called arroz negro, or "black rice".

The Spanish consume more rice than any other European people, and that does make Spanish cuisine more easily adopted by Asians. A very well known Spanish rice dish is paella. Basically it consists of spiced saffron colored rice, garnished with shrimp, crab, Spanish sausage, and pieces of fried pork, beef, chicken, and lamb.

Very much in contrast to her neighbor in the Mediterranean Sea, Italy, culinary Spain doesn't know noodles. If it's not rice accompanying a meat or fish dish, then it's most probably potatoes, and if it's not potatoes, then it's bread.

Among meats, lamb is of much more importance than in any other continental European cuisine. The manner of preparation of lamb is decisively different from the only other European cuisine consuming much lamb, the British. There is no such thing as mint sauce in Spanish cooking. Lamb (cordero) is prepared in Spanish cuisine certainly with garlic, and lamb chops (chuletas de cordero) often with tomato sauce, a la Navarra (as the region of Navarra grows the most tomatoes in Spain).

Garlic is one of the most important condiments in Spanish cooking. A very delicious garlic dish is gambas al ajillo, shrimp with garlic fried in oil or butter. Some other garlic dishes are: champignon al ajillo (mushrooms sauteed in garlic), sopa Juliana (vegetable soup, prepared the Spanish way with garlic).

Spanish cuisine has a few standard procedures to prepare meats. Meats may be marinated for a short time before being fried in a sauce of vinegar, oil, garlic, and onions (adobado). Pureed liver may be added to the marinate (estofado).

An emphasis in Spanish cooking has always been on seafood considering the location of the country but today with the Mediterranean becoming fished out and more and more polluted Thailand is perhaps a better place to sample Spanish seafood than Spain herself. Thai waters are still exceptionally rich in fish as well as in shrimp, shell fish and other seafood. One of the most famous Spanish seafood dishes is zarzuela de mariscos, a seafood stew.

To Spanish sauces, for meats as well as for fish, a dash of wine is generally added. Most commonly it is Sherry, a very typical Spanish white wine that is aged 5 to 25 years before consumed. The Spanish also drink sherry with the meal.

The most common Spanish red wine is Madeira, a rather sweet heavy wine. It is found in many Spanish meat sauces. Another Spanish red wine added to sauces is Marsala. The name should not be confused with masala, an Indian spice mixture based on cardamom.



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