Spanish cooking is rich and varied, much like the country itself. First-rate ingredients, the excellence of which are renowned, wise old popular traditions and the promotion of fine new culinary professionals have boosted Spain's gastronomic prestige to the top of the list in Europe over the past few years.
In general, there are six major gastronomic zones in mainland Spain.
The North is one of the richest culinary areas. The fish and seafood of Galicia, among the worlds finest, are prepared in ways that are simply insuperable. Basque cooking is world famous, and its codfish recipes, "pil-pil" or Vizcayan style, and its delicious baby eels are some of Spain's finest food attractions. In Asturias, try "fabada", a magnificent bean stew, and the excellent regional cheeses with a good bottle of cider.
The Pyrenees is a zone that specializes in marinade sauces known as "chilindrones". Aragon offers an infinite number of dishes with these tasty sauces as well as the fine ham made in Teruel.
Cataluña is the land of casseroles. Besides these typical dishes are its fine sausages, cheeses and regional sauces, some of them world famous, such as "ali-oli", made with garlic and olive oil.
Valencia and the surrounding region specialise in rice dishes. Besides their famous "paella", the Valencians are able to prepare exquisite rice dishes with any type of ingredients - meat, chicken, seafood, vegetables or fish. Also exquisite is the rice dish from the region of Murcia known as "caldera", or caldron.
Andalucia is the land of fried food. Its fried fish is insuperable. There is also gazpacho, the exquisite cold vegetable soup, and Jabugo ham from the province of Huelva which is a true delicacy.
Central Spain is known for its roasts. Lamb, veal, sucking pig, young goat and other meats are slowly roasted in wood ovens to give them an especially delicious texture and taste. The fine hams and cheeses, and some of the Best sausages in Spain, round out this region's culinary offering. Madrid, so closely linked to Castille, deserves special mention. Despite not having a specific cuisine, per se, its strong identity has made a mark on a large number of typical dishes from the city. Among them are "cocido madrileño", a nourishing meat and vegetable stew, Madrid style triple and exquisite sweets. Another important chapter on Spanish cooking must be dedicated to island cuisine.
The Balearic Isles have created certain celebrated specialties that have been exported around the world. Among them are mayonnaise, originally created in the city of Mahon, in Menorca. In Mallorca, "ensaimadas" are exquisite light pastries, while "sobrasada" is a tasty sausage.
The Canary Islands offer a very imaginative cuisine that has had to overcome the limitations of the islands produce. Many dishes include fish and a famous hot sauce known as "mojo picón". There are also magnificent tropical fruits from the island such as bananas, avocados and papayas.