Eating Spanish Food for the First Time? Here are a Few Dishes You May Encounter

Traditional chilean recipes

When it comes to international cuisine, the foods of Spain and Latin America are especially popular in all corners of the world. Hispanic foods can be healthy, hearty meals or sweet and savory dishes and desserts. While many people worry about Spanish food being too spicy, the truth is that many dishes are seasoned but will not burn unless they are ordered with more spice or hot peppers.

If you are visiting a Spanish-speaking country or just trying out a new local restaurant, here are some of the Spanish foods you may encounter during your meal:

Arroz con pollo
Literally “rice with chicken,” arroz con pollo is a staple dish in many Spanish-speaking countries. While the exact ingredients and spice vary for arroz con pollo, the constants are chicken, which can be baked or prepared in other ways, and yellow rice, usually with chopped vegetables mixed in. The dish can also be made in just one pot, which makes it easy to prepare.

Tamales are a dish created with masa, which is a corn-based dough. Similar to a burrito or enchilada, which uses a tortilla as a wrap instead, the masa of the tamale wraps around other ingredients, usually meats, cheeses, vegetables, and/or fruits. A tamale may be eaten for breakfast, if it has fruit, or for dinner with other ingredients, and it is generally considered a comfort food.

An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry, and it may be filled with meats, vegetables and cheeses or with fruit if used as a dessert. Empanadas are typically baked or fried. Depending on where they are found, they can either be a snack bought from a food truck or a gourmet dish in a sit-down restaurant.

Ceviche is a cold dish made with seafood. It is generally made with fresh raw fish cured in lemon or lime juice. It often accompanies sweet potatoes, corn, avocados, plantains, or other sweet foods. It is best to prepare this dish fresh in order to avoid food poisoning from the raw fish. Some prefer to substitute the fish for shrimp instead.

Flan is a dessert made from a pastry or sponge cake. It is a small, round dish served cold and generally filled with custard or some other sweet/savory filling. It is especially popular in Spanish-speaking countries.

Have more questions about Spanish food? Be sure to do your research before heading out to eat. This can help you avoid embarrassing situations in restaurants, so you don’t order the wrong thing.

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