With a culture that revolves around meal times and socializing, it’s easy to spend your entire trip to Madrid eating and drinking your way through the city. That’s what we recommend, anyway. The Arab and Mediterranean influences make for traditional dishes that will wow your senses, and the melting pot of cultures in Madrid offer anything a foodie could ever want.
A culinary experience in Madrid is truly unforgettable, leaving you salivating for sweetbreads and salmorejo even before your plane has landed back home. If you’re hoping to bring Spain into your own kitchen, be sure to pick up our favorite foodie things to buy before you leave Madrid.
1. Paella Fixin’s
Paella is arguably Spain’s most famous, and misunderstood dish. Originally from Valencia, the sizzling dish was traditionally composed of rice, rabbit, chicken, beans and artichokes and cooked by the man of the house. Nowadays, almost every family has their own recipe based on their tastes and regional ingredients, but every Spaniard you speak to will agree on one thing: a good pan and the right rice are non-negotiable. Unfortunately for those of us who were not blessed with Spanish nationality, the two key paella ingredients can be tough to find outside of the peninsula. We recommend grabbing a paella pan for a quarter of the price of what you would pay for it back home, and stocking up on bomba rice, a short grain rice ideal for the perfect pan of the paella of your choice. If you can find a local to share their secret recipe with you before you head off, even better!
In a country known for very simple dishes, Spain sure has learned to use herbs and spices brilliantly. The full-bodied parsley in the steamed clams, dash of pimentón on Galician-style octopus and subtle saffron in paella take seemingly plates to new levels of succulence. As you explore the markets of Madrid, check out the selection of spices and buy whatever unique flavors that spark your interest. To make sure the food comes out of your kitchen just as it would in Spain, don’t forget the smoked paprika (pimentón) and saffron, both of which are cheaper here.
3. Everything Olive
When most people think of olive oil, Italy immediately comes to mind. While that other Mediterranean nation sure has done a lot of delicious things with the liquid gold, we must argue that the purest, most delicious olive oil comes from Spain. We produce 43.8% of the world’s olive oil, meaning that there is an abundance of inexpensive and incredible olives and olive oil to be consumed here in Madrid. A Spaniard will eat olive oil on toast for breakfast, cook with a heavy hand of the stuff for every meal, and can be found snacking on aceitunas with their caña at every bar you walk in to.
Head to a specialty shop, market or even a Corte Inglés to find an array of options of both cooking and finishing oil, and don’t leave without a jar of Madrid’s own campo real olives. Serve them in a dish with and aperetif before a dinner party and you’re well on your way to opening a Spanish bar in your own home.
4. D.O. Wine
If Spanish olive oil production flies under the radar for most, our output of wine is close behind. Spanish wine is much lesser known than that of our French neighbors, and infinitely more difficult to find. If you can find a nice bottle in your local store, you better believe it will be ridiculously overpriced. Spain is home to 66 wine regions, Rioja being the most famous and home to 2013’s best bottle. If you buy in country you can find a genuinely good bottle for 4 euros and up, pocketing the 10 extra euros you would spend on the same bottle at home to save for your next trip to Madrid.