It’s a few weeks since I returned from my holiday. And am back to the aromas I’ve grown up with. It feels nice. Of course it does. Except, there is something I’ve started doing which is unusual for me. Because I don’t obsess over food. Travel has always been tons more. But just drop by and scroll through the albums on my phone and aaha! The most number of pictures that I’ve saved from the trip, are of the mouth-watering bites that left me super happy. And well, am vegetarian! (staunch at that)
Jamón! Chorizo! These were the words I thought would fill up my lunch & dinner moments during my first jaunt in Spain. Fell in love instead with tons of other words. Sharing them so that even if you really like your ham & chicken, these nibbles & large portions could totally whet your appetite.
VEGETARIAN & SALIVATING IN SPAIN
I discovered one pleasant warm day, that Spanish cuisine is inspired by something I was very familiar with in my country. In India regions create flavors. And in my short stay in Barcelona & longer more exploratory immersion in Andalucía, I relished some unforgettable feasts unique to the land. But I am not going to lay this out basis meal times or intensity of hunger. Or for that matter meal portions. I would urge you to try them all. I loved having Tapas (small meals), a full course and on one lucky night the maddeningly delightful creations of molecular gastronomy at Dos Palillos, Barcelona. (it totally deserves a separate post & is bulk of the saved pictures on my phone).
Yes truth be told, my high point of all things vegetarian was Dos Palillos. But every other yum veggie find on any menu gave me a feel of how Spain was amazingly adapting. And cooking up surprising blends which left photo prints in my memory. XL size, tasty ones. So from the simplest to the finger licking with lavish tosses in Spanish olive oil, here is the spread. I’ve also shared in a few cases the place I had it in, just so that you can drop by if you are in Barcelona or Granada.
Some of these dishes are of course universal and can be found anywhere
EAT-OUT: VEGETALIA, BARCELONA (100% VEGETARIAN)
Address: Pl/ Emili Vendrell 1, Barcelona
I was surprised when I first realized that there are completely authentic vegetarian and vegan restaurants in many parts of Spain. But I am not picky that the kitchens serve only veggie. As long as I get my fill, I always walk into any eat-out to taste the local cuisine.
Vegetalia though was a 10-minute walk from where I stayed so I dropped by on my second day in Barcelona. It was bright with utterly colorful aesthetics and a dominant green of course. A trend I noticed with many earth friendly spots that offered a lavish mix of veg/vegan along with the traditional non-veg too.
The chef in the kitchen told me she was a fan of yoga. Ok, that was an elevating start. The staff was very hospitable too. But their menu actually overwhelmed me & I just mentally ticked the recipes I wanted to carry back. I totally wish they had a recipe book for sale. So I settled to wolf down the Set Menu which meant lots of dishes to try. I just wanted to get the feel because in India we have the thaali (plate with a spread of sweet, salty, tangy, crunchy…it’s really a 3-course set meal). Wish I didn’t have to stop.
Here’s more of the place, menu & delicious hunger blasters (that I & other munchers gorged on)
Crema de alcachofa y hierbas limón
(Primeros/Starters: Artichoke with herbs & lemon in creamy soup. I loved the after taste of this. A must try if it’s on the a la carte menu too)
(Segundos/Main Course: Simple enough I guess. I experienced nuances of this with different combinations of veggies in Seville. I read somewhere that it’s best if the rice is the bomba or calasaparra varieties, that are grown in the East Coast of Spain)
Along with the final act namely the Postres or Desserts, which in my case was Yogurt & Honey, the Set Menu was 10.90 Euros without taxes.
Nuggets de tofu y setas shiitake
(Nuggets of tofu and shiitake mushrooms)
Pasta fresca del dia
(Fresh pasta of the day. Don’t we all like pleasant surprises)
EAT-OUT: HICURI ART VEGAN, GRANADA (100% VEGAN)
Address: Plaza de los Girones, 4, 18009 Granada
I have a couple of friends who’ve turned vegan, so I took the bait to sample some food they love in a much talked about restaurant. The décor here too was very alive. And perhaps it’s just my imagination but I felt like I was part of a clique. Veganism as a philosophy is out there in the world narrative, with placards and the rest. So felt that energy in my head here too.
Pisto con Salchichas con Patatas
(Ratatouille with Tofu Sausage & Potatoes. Honestly it was about getting used to a different taste. The base is a mix of eggplant, zucchini, potatoes & a few other veggies. Yes it does look very sausage but is 100% tofu. I was even shown a pack to calm ruffled feathers if any.)
Arroz con Leche de Coco
(Rice Pudding with Coconut Milk)
AND HERE ARE SOME MORE EVERY DAY BITES
(Gratin of grilled aubergine and courgette with confit tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and parmesan cheese. If you find this on any menu grab it. Absolutely yum & filling)
Pimientos de padrón
(Green Peppers fried in olive oil and then dusted with sea salt, served with champiñones (mushrooms) & potatoes cooked in olive oil. If you can follow this after a Gazpacho serving, it makes for a complete & tasty meal)
This is the most refreshing & totally Andalucían dish made of ripe red tomatoes. Gazpacho is a native of the region but consumed all through Spain. It’s a cold soup & is often a bit more watery than its creamier cousin Salmorejo (sal-mo-re-ho) and served in a glass vs. a bowl. But it simply varies basis the one who cooks it. Being a home recipe each chef has his own style of adding or removing an ingredient. And I have actually experienced mildly different tastes every time I had it.
Its simply a puree of ripe tomatoes, red pepper, green pepper, garlic, onion, cucumber, sherry vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper served with croutons or chopped peppers
I though am a big fan of the thicker version called Salmorejo, which comes from Cordoba (also in Andalucía). I believe what changes its taste and adds consistency is the addition of lots more bread into the blend. It could be topped with pieces of Ibérico ham so remember to clearly say you’d like it without any ham (salmorejo sin jamón)
Pa amb tomàquet (Catalan)/ Pan con tomate
(This is a great way to start a meal for the day. It’s zing comes from the sprinkled sea salt but I found the way its made to be a fab take home idea. Fresh bread is toasted and rubbed with garlic. A flavorful and juicy summer tomato is then squeezed and rubbed well on the inside till it turns pinkish-red. Then it’s drizzled with olive oil and a dash of the flor de sal (sea salt) to create a hunger filling tapa)
Start your breakfast with simply a Spanish omelet. Potatoes & onions are cooked in vegetable oil till they are soft. Olive oil is added to a non-stick and this mixture combined with beaten eggs and salt is cooked like a regular omelet & served.
Now for many of us veggies there is a challenge with getting decent breakfast without any of the meats. We have to often just rely on croissants & yogurt or juices. But this morning filler is freshly served up at any restaurant even if you decide to step out of your hotel in the early hours.
Potatoes can be the base for many dishes when you are completely bereft of any thing else vegetarian. This one like Gazpacho is there in every menu. If not, you can always ask for it without any meat toppings
It’s made with fried potato pieces cut in cubes & smothered with mayonnaise & a red sauce. This sauce is made with paprika, olive oil, onion, salt, garlic, a pinch of sugar & chilli powder and in some cases tomatoes too depending on the region. In Barcelona tomatoes & vinegar is used. Whichever way, you’ll find this tapa even if you have traveled into some of the villages of Spain.
Verdures del Temps a la Brasa & Croquetes
I had these dishes just once in the 1-year old Òsties Pedrin. It was the 1st day at Barcelona and I wanted to experience a place that was known for Catalan cuisine. Of course most of the menu here is non-vegetarian but as I noticed in many of the eat-outs I visited in Spain, the chef is very open to create something for a pure veggie guest. I thought that was beautifully sensitive.
This place is situated in the heart of the Boqueria market. And obviously gets its freshest produce for the kitchen from there. Located in the former inn of a hostel called La Palmera, the interiors have retained some of its look from the late 19th century.
Here is a glimpse of Òsties Pedrin & the Veggie meal
Address: Òsties Pedrin, Carrer de Jerusalem, 30, 08001 Barcelona
(Verdures del Temps a la Brasa: When in doubt have Grilled Seasonal Veggies, mushroom croquettes and Bread with Tomato. Of course you can only see the Grilled Veggies in this picture. But the combo makes it a meal that you will enjoy & it’ll fill you up till the end of day)
Now for the sugar rush. After traveling to Spain don’t miss the much loved churros con chocolate. But ask for chocolate syrup if you want to soak your churros. Else the traditional serving is with thick hot chocolate into which you dip your churros. Which incidentally is quite amazing.
I am sure there are many more yummy veg bites that I haven’t even discovered. But this is a start.
If you want to try street food, a vegetarian version of course, follow the link to Devour Barcelona . I read that the Gracia tour offers veggie options. I have it on my wish list for the next time.
OK so before I get wildly hungry once again, I am sharing some more words that could help when ordering food & beverages. I hope you find it useful.