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How should I ask for tapas and where?

Tapas are displayed in glass cases in many bars and restaurants in the historic quarter of most Spanish cities. In the north of Spain, tapas or pinches may be taken directly off the counter by the customer. Once you are done for the evening, you inform the waiter of how many tapas and drinks he needs to charge you for. In some cities like Madrid, you need to tell the waiter that you are going to grab a tapa, and then pay before leaving.

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Which is the best kind of paella?

Paella is an original rice dish from the Spanish region of Levante, which is cooked in a wide but shallow pan known as paella. Many ingredients are added to the rice, including vegetables, fish, seafood and meat, leading to a myriad of different recipes that vary according to the proportions of the ingredients. Originally, paella was a humble dish that used whatever ingredients were available depending on the season (either vegetables, game, snails, hard-to-sell seafood, etc.), and sometimes even chicken.
A good paella should always have fresh vegetables in it (if possible, garrofó beans, artichokes and peppers), plus any of the above-mentioned ingredients. The best paella is not the one that has the most ingredients, but the one that combines them in the most coherent way. The cooking process is also important, as well as the quality of the rice itself, which has to absorb all the flavours of the ingredients in the pan.

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What are the most typical Spanish fruits?

Because of the Mediterranean climate, Spain produces a wide variety of fruits. At any given time in the year we can find fruits at their best, loaded as they are with vitamins.
During springtime, the most abundant are fruits with seeds, like cherry, plum, apricot, peach, etc. We also have early fig, strawberry, watermelon and melon, among others.
In the summer, in addition to peach, watermelon and melon, we have fruits with pips, like apples and pears, of which numerous varieties are available. Also, grapes, raspberries and figs.
During autumn, in addition to pomegranate, quince, grapes and figs, we have citruses, specially oranges and tangerines. Subtropical fruits are also available, like custard apple, mango, papaya and guava.
Wintertime brings a wide variety of citruses (great for fighting colds, because of their high vitamin C content). We also have grapes, melon, late pears and delicious early strawberries.

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How many kinds of ham are there in Spain?

Ham is the pig's hind leg, treated and cured to achieve its characteristic aromas and flavours.
There are many kinds of ham. The best one is the ham that is obtained from acorn-fed Iberian pigs, which is cured for at least eighteen months in very specific temperature and humidity levels.
Ham is also produced from mixed-breed Iberian pigs, early breeds, pigs raised with fodder, etc., and sometimes the legs are cured in a sped-up process; these hams are known as: pata negra, recebo, Ibéricos de pienso, serrano, bodega, etc. These are all of great quality, sometimes even excellent, but will never match the genuine, pure-acorn-fed Iberian ham. This kind of ham is protected by four Designations of Origin – Dehesa de Extremadura, Sierra de Huelva, Guijuelo (Salamanca) and Los Pedroches –, which guarantee its quality.

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What is menú del día, and how much is it?

Menú del día (daily special) consists of a first course (which you choose from a list of several), a second course (which you also choose), plus dessert or coffee. It also includes a drink, usually either house wine, beer, a soft drink or water.
The menu has a fixed price, regardless of which dishes you choose. It may range between €9 and €15.

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What does the Mediterranean diet consist of?

The Spanish diet is synonymous with the Mediterranean diet. They both consist of a combination of nutrition and other factors related to the Mediterranean culture (a more relaxed lifestyle, after-lunch naps, exercise, etc.).
However, the Mediterranean diet is not really a geographical concept. In fact, Portugal and the Canary Islands are not washed by the Mediterranean Sea, yet their diet is considered Mediterranean.
Even though the benefits that can be obtained from following this diet are proven, we should not be lead to believe that the Mediterranean diet is some sort of panacea. What we can conclude is that it presents some very positive elements that aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, as well as other pathologies, including some kinds of neoplasia.
The Mediterranean diet consists of:
MONTHLY: Red meat (4 servings)
WEEKLY: Sweets, eggs, potatoes and chicken/white meats (3 servings), olives, pulses and nuts (3-4 servings), fish (5-6 servings).
DAILY: Milk/dairy products (2 servings), olive oil as the main source of fat, fruits (3 servings), vegetables (6 servings), cereals, pasta and brown rice (8 servings), wine moderately (unless otherwise recommended by your doctor), and regular exercise.
 

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What health benefits does Spanish olive oil provide?

  Consuming olive oil as part of your diet reduces blood cholesterol levels and provides numerous vitamins. Olive oil contains vitamin E and polyphenol, which are antioxidant.
Virgin olive oil is the only oil that can be obtained by mechanical processes, without heating, since it is nothing but the olives' juice. It helps prevent diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc.
It is an important part of the Mediterranean diet (as opposed to Anglo-Saxon and Central-European diets that rely on animal fat). Frying is a Mediterranean culinary technique that, because of its characteristics and benefits, is nowadays widely popular.

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What is sangría? How is it made?

Sangría is a light alcoholic beverage made with red wine, fruit juice, sparkling soft drinks, sugar and fruit chunks. Sometimes liqueurs are added, as well as cinnamon. It is hard to find two sangrías that taste the same, since there is no one-single recipe for it.
For sangría to be good, it is necessary to use good wine (bad wine makes bad sangría), to serve it fresh, and to achieve a fruity flavour that is not overdone (the best fruits for it are citruses and peach). It is important to remember that sangría is an alcoholic beverage, and although is very easy on the palate, it should be drank moderately.

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What are the Designations of Origin, and what foods do they encompass?

The Spanish government created the Designations of Origin years ago to guarantee the quality of certain products, according to their place of origin and their method of production. The aim was to allow the consumer to find a standard of maximum quality for specific food products.
There are numerous products that are protected by such Denominations of Origin, including certain wines, oils, cheeses, fruits, etc.
To look up Spanish Designations of Origin, as well as their corresponding Control Boards, visit the website at:
Ministry of Food, Fishing and Agriculture

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