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MANILA, Philippines - That Filipino culture and cuisine were largely influenced by Spain is no secret.
What is Noche Buena without queso de bola? What is a feast without paella, arroz a la cubana or arroz valenciana? 400 years of colonization definitely left a mark in our culture; and as gracious Filipinos, we accepted, embraced and celebrated the Spanish influence — be it in words, in tradition or in food.
Last July, Marco Polo Plaza Hotel Cebu treated its guests to a culinary expedition of Spain with the Sabores de España food festival.
Sabores de España (Flavors of Spain) is part of the hotel’s ongoing “Culinary Journeys” series. The Spanish dishes featured were prepared with Ms. Gema Luisa Pido, Cebu’s foremost authority on Spanish gastronomy, at the helm. Ms. Pido has been serving Spanish fare in Marco Polo for 5 years running.
The food festival featured a medley of traditional Spanish dishes from the country’s various regions. From appetizers to desserts, the dishes revealed the diverse tapestry of Spain’s culture and heritage.
One might be familiar with, for example, lengua estofada (braised beef tongue) and callos (ox tripe stew), prepared a la Madrileña. These were typical peasant dishes in Spain that made use of the unwanted parts of the animal. Today, the dishes are easily the stars of any show, and the easy favorites of guests.
One of Spain’s culinary symbols, the jamon serrano, is a sharp, salty contrast to melon or asparagus. The ham is cured with sea salt and left to dry in mountain air for 5 months (serrano translates to “mountain”).
Manchego cheese is served with Spanish olives. It attests to shepherding as an important source of livelihood in Spain. The cheese is made from the whole milk of sheep found in La Mancha. Today, it is one of Spain’s most popular cheeses.
If Spain’s charcuterie teaches us about the country’s past, other dishes tell us more about geography. Fabada, a rich bean stew, originates from the autonomous community of Asturias in the north.
Gazpacho, or a tomato-based vegetable soup traditionally served cold, comes from Andalusia in the south.
The flavor of Spanish food shows Spain to be a country of contrasts, like in the way citrus punctuates and brightens sopa cachorrena (fish and orange soup from Seville).
Escalivada, or roasted vegetables, is a simple but deeply nourishing dish, especially for shepherds who cook the vegetables over hardwood fire near their sheep’s pasture at night.
Spain’s flavors are unabashed in their intensity. The saltiness of their ham and cheese is only tempered by their famous confections.
Yemas de Santa Teresa and churros finish the meal with a sweet, sugar-dusted flourish.
What is your favorite Spanish dish? Tell us by posting your comment below. - Rappler.com
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