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Basque cuisine is becoming increasingly well-known, especially in the world of fine dining – the Basque city of San Sebastián alone has more Michelin-starred restaurants per square kilometre than any other city in the world, besides Kyoto in Japan. Here are 16 delicious dishes you can’t leave the Basque Country without trying.
The Basques love cod fish, and many of their most iconic dishes feature it as the main ingredient. Bacalao pil-pil is cod fried with garlic, olive oil and chilli, until the oils form a creamy sauce-like emulsion. It is called pil-pil because of the noise that the skin makes when it fries in the pan.
Not to be confused with tapas, pintxos are the ultimate Basque snack. Typically small pieces of bread, they’re topped with various ingredients such as anchovies, ham, goat’s cheese, fried peppers or even croquettes, and are speared through the middle with a stick. You’ll find them lined up along the bar, and the idea is to help yourself and count up the sticks and the end to find out how much you owe. Each pintxo usually costs between €1-3.
Marmitako is a type of Basque fish stew and literally means ‘pot’ or ‘casserole’. It’s made with tuna, potatoes, onions, garlic and red peppers.
Alubias de Tolosa is type of stew made from black beans from Tolosa cooked with onions, olive oil and salt. Pork, morcilla (blood sausage), peppers and chilli are usually added to the mix too, making a hearty feast, perfect during cold weather.
Another cod dish, bacalao a la Vizcaína is from the Vizcaya province of the Basque Country, of which Bilbao is the capital. It’s a piece of cod smothered in a tomato sauce, made from onions, garlic and roasted red peppers.
Literally translated as ‘hake fish in green sauce’, this traditional dish is a seafood lover’s dream. The sauce is made from white wine, parsley garlic and olive oil, while clams are also typically added.
This typical Basque meal is a simple dish, which essentially consists of baby eels. Traditionally they are cooked in a clay pot with olive oil, garlic and chilli.
Txipirones are baby squid cooked in their own ink. The ink is often mixed with white wine and garlic to give it more flavour.
This dish is essentially what it sounds like – potatoes with chorizo. It is actually a typical dish from La Rioja, but is often eaten in the Basque Country too. The potatoes and chorizo are made into a type of stew, along with peppers, paprika, garlic and onion.
Baked, stuffed spider crab is a classic dish which hails from San Sebastián. The crab is stuffed with ingredients such as onions, tomatoes, leeks, brandy and parsley, and is topped with bread crumbs before being baked in the oven.
Percebes are a Basque delicacy and in English are known as goose barnacles. These tube-shaped crustaceans may be not very nice to look at, but are delicious when eaten boiled in seawater.
The Basque Country’s most famous dessert is the Pastel Vasco – an almond-like cakey pastry case filled with a vanilla custard-like cream. Sometimes fruit such as cherries are added to the mix.
Originally hailing from the Basque city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, goxua are small sponge cakes topped with custard, whipped cream and caramel sauce – and make for a tasty dessert.
This version of French toast is one of the most indulgent Basque desserts – and one of the most delicious too. Made from brioche-type bread, they’re soaked in milk and egg, before being fried. To finish, the torrijas are smothered in a sweet, sticky syrup flavoured with cinnamon and orange.
Lamb is very popular in the north of Spain, and in the Basque Country people like to make it into a stew. The lamb is marinated in white wine, cloves, garlic and rosemary, before being cooked and then added to a thick sauce. The main ingredients of the sauce include roasted red peppers, tomatoes, red wine, paprika and parsley.
Mamia is the Basque version of cuajada – a thick type of sheep’s curd, similar to yoghurt. It is most often made in a small ceramic pot and served with honey for dessert.