How to Eat Like a Local in Andalusia, Spain

Indulge in Southern Spain's best food and drink.
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With a terrain that includes mountains, sandy coastlines and verdant valleys, Andalusia's diverse topography influences the region's foods and flavors. From traditional tapas to buttery serrano ham and seafood plucked from the waters off Andalusia's Costa del Sol, we've selected a handful of regional favorites and let you know where to indulge with the locals while in southern Spain.

Tapas in Andalusia, Spain.

Tapas in Andalusia, Spain.

One of Spain's favorite culinary pastimes, eating tapas -- or small, saucer-sized portions of food, usually accompanied by sherry, aperitifs or cocktails -- has slowly made its way into mainstream American culinary circles.

To experience tapas at its best, tour the streets of Seville, which boast more than 4,000 tapas bars -- roughly 1 for every 200 locals.

Photo by: Valerie Conners

Valerie Conners

Order Traditional Tapas in Seville

Books have been written about how to enjoy traditional tapas in Spain. Often the small plates are served as little bites when you order drinks at a tapas bar, or tapateria. Andalusia is known for its traditional tapas plates, which include regional favorites, like meatballs in an almond cream sauce and pickled anchovies. Seville is often considered the tapas capital of Spain; make your way to El Rinconcillo. Established in 1670, it's Seville's oldest tapas restaurant.

Taste Miel de Cana in Frigiliana

One of the sweeter treats to try in Andalusia is miel de cana, honey made from sugarcane -- essentially molasses. The only factory in Europe to make this type of honey is in the tiny white village of Frigiliana. Head to this pueblo blanco and order the most traditional dish: Berenjenas con miel de cana, slivers of fried eggplant drizzled with the molasses. You'll find one of the best plates at Restaurante Al Fuente, tucked into the heart of Frigiliana's historic center.

"Pig" Out on Serrano Ham

Serrano Ham in Andalusia, Spain

Serrano Ham in Andalusia, Spain

Sure, you can get serrano ham anywhere in Spain, but the mountains of Andalusia have low humidity and cool winters, which are perfect conditions for air-curing this specialty ham. Whether you're peeking into butcher shops, or restaurants, you'll likely see enormous shanks of ham hanging from ceiling hooks, or set out on a bar, waiting to be carved. Once cured, it's sliced as thin as possible, and served on its own, or alongside cheese or fruit.

For some of the best serrano ham, head to the tiny village of Jabugo in the Sierra de Arecena mountains. It's said that the acorns from the region's oak trees -- on which the local pigs feed -- produce the most buttery, melt-in-your--mouth ham. Order a mouthwatering plate at Bodega Cinco Jotas in the village, which has been beloved for its cured ham since 1879.

Photo by: Valerie Conners

Valerie Conners

Sure, you can get serrano ham anywhere in Spain, but the mountains of Andalusia have low humidity and cool winters, which are perfect conditions for air-curing this specialty ham. Whether you're peeking into butcher shops, or restaurants, you'll likely see enormous shanks of ham hanging from ceiling hooks, or set out on a bar, waiting to be carved. Once cured, it's sliced as thin as possible, and served on its own, or alongside cheese or fruit.

For some of the best serrano ham, head to the tiny village of Jabugo in the Sierra de Arecena mountains. It's said that the acorns from the region's oak trees -- on which the local pigs feed -- produce the most buttery, melt-in-your--mouth ham. Order a mouthwatering plate at Bodega Cinco Jotas in the village, which has been beloved for its cured ham since 1879.

Celebrate With Salmorejo

Move over, gazpacho; Andalusia's spooning out a better alternative to the chilled tomato-based soup. Salmorejo is thicker than gazpacho, but made with similar base ingredients: tomatoes, olive oil and bread. While gazpacho is traditionally sipped out of a cup, salmorejo is eaten from a bowl. The cold soup is typically garnished with jamon and hardboiled egg. Head to Cordoba, where salmorejo originated, and order a bowl at Taberna La Montillano, known for serving up one of the best versions in the city.

Slurp Coquinas From Their Shells

Coquinos in Spain

Coquinos in Spain

Tiny, delicate clams known as coquinas are harvested from the waters off Andalusia's coastline. However, these little treasures aren't always available; they're so treasured that only certain numbers of them can be brought to shore. Typically, they're cooked with butter, garlic, parsley and white wine. Order a heaping racion in Marbella, at Nuevo Reino, a seafood restaurant on the spectacular San Pedro waterfront that has been serving seafood to locals since 1957 -- well before Marbella became the capital of Costa del Sol cool.

Photo by: Valerie Conners

Valerie Conners

Tiny, delicate clams known as coquinas are harvested from the waters off Andalusia's coastline. However, these little treasures aren't always available; they're so treasured that only certain numbers of them can be brought to shore. Typically, they're cooked with butter, garlic, parsley and white wine. Order a heaping racion in Marbella, at Nuevo Reino, a seafood restaurant on the spectacular San Pedro waterfront that has been serving seafood to locals since 1957 -- well before Marbella became the capital of Costa del Sol cool.

Dig Into a Plate of Pescaito Frito

Seafood is king along Andalusia's Costa del Sol, and you can't leave the region without ordering a heaping platter of pescaito frito. Essentially fried fish, it's believed that pescaito frito inspired the United Kingdom's fish and chips, when the meal was brought over by Spanish Jews in the 16th century. You can often find the fried fish served as street food in paper cones, or on restaurant menus, where it's accompanied by a wedge of lemon. Typically made with cod, sole or squid, the fish is chopped up, dipped in batter and fried in Andalusian olive oil before being sprinkled with salt. Head to the chiringuitos, beachfront seafood restaurants, in Malaga's Pedregalejo neighborhood. While they all offer similar menus -- and it's hard to go wrong with fried fish -- we're partial to El Caleno.

Make Huevos a la Flamenca for Breakfast

And you thought American breakfasts can do a number on your cholesterol? Behold, huevos a la flamenca. While in Andalusia, order a monstrous plate of this local's favorite -- though it's typically served at lunch. The meal involves eggs over spicy chorizo and tomato sauce, which is then baked in a clay bowl and topped with additional slices of chorizo and some asparagus spears for good measure. Loosen your belt buckle and dig into your huevos while rubbing elbows with locals at Seville's popular Bodega Santa Cruz.

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