When we think about Spain, we think about warm and sunny beaches, or the Seville oranges or even the world-famous chef Ferran Adria’s El Bulli restaurant located in Barcelona, famous for its avant-garde or modernist cooking. What we don’t usually think of is Asturias. Located in the northern region of Spain, Asturias is a state which looks and feels like nowhere else in the country. The locals call Asturias “The Natural Paradise” because everything is green, everything is rainy, but everything is beautiful. It has different weather, different landscape, different culture and lifestyle.
Asturias is best known for its footballing history and the rivalries of the clubs Real Oviedo of the capital city Oviedo, and Sporting Gijon of the neighboring city Gijon. Woody Allen, the world-famous director once remarked “Oviedo is a fairytale. Its like this city doesn’t belong to the world”. Asturians have a very intense cultural life. Asturias, as the locals say, shows the true spirit of Spain. With gorgeous cathedrals, symbolic of Spanish glory, beaches, theatres, operas and a vibrant culture, Asturias stands out among the rest.
The Asturian Cuisine, as the region itself, is quite unique. This northern region of Spain is best known for its seafood, cheese, pork, and ciders. Yes, you heard that right: Ciders. Cities like Munich or Brussels specialize in Beers, while the French are all about wine, but here in Asturias, it about Ciders. The act of pouring the cider from the bottle to the glass is somewhat of an artform here. The locally made Asturian cheese is also very famous. It’s a land of cheese, boasting over 2 dozen different varieties of cows, sheep and goat’s cheeses. Even the pork is of so many different varieties here: Chorizo, Morcilla, and “officially stated as the World’s Best Ham by IFFA Delicat” the Jamon Iberico.
SIGNATURE DISH: Fabada Asturiana
It’s usually very tough to choose one signature dish from a region so well diverse in its cuisine, but here in Asturias, its not tough at all. Fabada Asturiana is THE dish of Asturias. Probably one of the most famous Spanish dishes is Fabada Asturiana, or Asturian sausage and bean casserole. It is so popular that Spaniards have canned it and exported fabada all over the world.
Spanish women brought their recipes with them to Latin America for centuries, and so it is very popular there, as well. At present, you can find the sausage, ham and other ingredients for fabada shrink-wrapped in little packages in the meat department of Spanish supermarkets. Although Fabada Asturiana is the most famous dish using fabas or beans that are grown locally, there are many other dishes that combine the beans with rabbit, mushrooms and even salmon.
Other Famous Asturian dishes:
· Caldereta: Fish Stew
This fish stew contains not just fish, but lobster and crab as well. Add onion, parsley, fresh tomato and a bit of white wine and cognac and you have the most delicious fish stew you’ve ever tasted.
· Merluza a la Sidra: Hake in Cider
This main course appears on menus in most restaurants in the region. Hake or Merluza of very good quality is available in Asturias and Cantabria, the neighboring region. Merluza a la Sidra is a delicious blend of hake fish, clams, onion, garlic, tomato, potatoes, apples and a bit of cider, cooked in a ceramic dish, then baked.
· Salmón a la Ribereña: Salmon with Cider Asturian Style
Asturias is known for Salmon Rivers named Nalon and Della, and it is Spain’s leading salmon producing region. This dish is made with salmon, bacon, ham and cider or white wine.
· Carne Gobernada: Asturian-Style Beef in White Wine
Carne Gobernada is a typical dish from Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. It is a traditional main course, prepared by very slowly cooking the chunks of beef in onions and white wine until they are tender.
Cider and Wine
Sidra or cider, made from locally-grown apples in Asturias, has been produced here since ancient times and has long been considered the regional “wine.” It is a low-alcohol drink, which is slightly effervescent, and very refreshing. It is popular all over Spain and enjoyed during hot summer weather. In addition to sidra, Asturias has a new D.O. or Denominacion de Origen, "Cangas," where both red and white wines are produced.
Popular Asturian Desserts
Arroz con Leche: Rice Pudding
The Asturian version is made with rice, butter, sugar, lemon and a cinnamon stick, but has a special addition -- a layer of caramelized sugar on top.
Casadielles or Bollinas de Nuez Recipe: Spanish Walnut-Filled Bollinas
These sweet little empanadillas or turnovers are filled with chopped walnuts that have been soaked overnight in anise liqueur and sugar. They are fried and coated in sugar.
Tarta de Manzana: Apple Tart
Freshly sliced apples are baked in a pastry shell and topped with apricot preserves. Some versions include a cup of local cider, as well.
Quesada Asturiana: Asturian Cheesecake Recipe
This traditional cheesecake is made with fresh goat cheese and decorated with fruit or powdered sugar. Other sweets to try from Asturias are tocinillos de cielo, fayules and carajitos(fritters filled with a hazelnut paste).