I love discovering (and tasting) typical local food when I travel. And coming to Spain, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. Recently, I visited the island of Menorca and discovered some pretty amazing restaurants. But I had a whole week here and my visit to the little town of Oviedo in the Asturias region of Spain (in the North) would only be one day.
How on earth was I supposed to get a good sense of the regional specialties they serve here, while still doing all the sightseeing, taking my photos and notes? Well… I just ate more, faster and washed it down with just a little more cider.
Someone had to tell you what to order when in Northern Spain, right? ;)
TYPICAL ASTURIAS FOOD YOU SHOULD TRY
Traditionally, the Asturians are farmers, shepherds and fishermen and this region in the North of Spain is mostly known these days for its seafood, cider and (perhaps my favourite:) cheeses.
Cheeses of Asturias
There are over two dozen varieties of cow, sheep and goat’s milk cheeses (‘queso’) produced in Asturias. Some famous ones are: Cabrales, Afuega’l pitu, Beyos, Casín, Gamonéu and La Peral.
My favourites where the Gamonéu (which I remember describing like eating a ‘wet cave’), the Cabrales (a super strong blue cheese, too strong for Nick’s liking to buy it though) and the Queso Ahumado de Pría, which I brought for home as it’s a great firm cheese with a delicious smoky flavour.
Read more about our glorious cheese dinner at Restaurant Tierra Astur
Meats of Asturias
The Asturians respect their land and have a close relationship with the mountains that nurture some of the best produce in Spain. Rare-breed livestock roams free in the mountains and they produce quality meat and an array of traditional sausages.
At the shop mentioned above, I got to taste some of the ham, which the owner cut in such fine slices, it just melted on the tongue!
I also brought back home some of the chorizo you can see above. You can choose between one you can eat right away, and one you can cook with. I liked the ready-to-eat picante version, which was not too hot, but still has a nice kick to it.
Cider of Asturias
“Sidra” is the natural, dry cider made from acidic apples in the Asturias region. Unlike the British cider, Sidra doesn not contain carbon dioxide gas and has to be poured by an expert server (escanciador) from a point above the head into the glass held below the waist. This helps oxygenate the cider as it ‘crashes’ into the glass below.
Don’t expect a full glass, because you will get a ‘culín’, about 120ml as you have to drink the cider immediately before it loses its carbonation and you will tast the acidity of the apple. The cider that’s left in the glass will be chucked on the floor to clean the glass and serve you again (and again, and again).
Besides drinking the cider, the Spanish have come up with many amazing meals where the cider is cooked in ceramic dishes, alongside hake, salmon (Asturias is Spain’s leading salmon producing region) or clams or (my favourite of the entire weekend) chorizo (“Chorizo a la Sidra”).
Tapas and Mains in Asturias
There are a wide variety of typical Asturian dishes, but here is a selection of the ones I actually tried and can recommend to you.
To start off, some of my favourite dishes were the “Tortinos. These are little sweet corn flour ‘cakes’ that can be topped with almost everything, such as ham, egg, beef, mushroom, etc.
“Fabada Asturiana” or simply “Fabada” is a rich stew made with large white beans (Fabes de la Granja), which are topped with pieces of pork shoulder (Llacón), morcilla, chorizo, and saffron (Azafrán).
If you want to make thise dish at home, no problem at all, you can find shrink-wrapped packages of all the ingredients needed in almost every shop in Oviedo:
“Bollu Preñao” is a half corn and half wheat pastry filled with chorizo:
“Pulpo a la Gallega” (or “Pulpo a Feira”) is not really typical Asturian, but also from the rest of Spain / Galicia. It’s tasty, nevertheless. It’s a very simple dish with only four ingredients: octopus, olive oil, paprika and salt.
“Mejillones Pumarada” were the mussels specialy from the Pumarada restaurant. The seafood in Oviedo is so fresh, yum!
“Pastel de Cabracho” is a pastei made from the Cabracho, which is a scorpionfish. It can be poisonous (looks like a stonefish), but on your plate, no need to worry about that. Just enjoy it!
Other Asturian dishes that are famous, but I didn’t get to try are:
- “Caldereta de Pescado” – a fish stew and also a popular dish of Asturias. The meal contains (besides fish) lobster and crab, onion, parsley, tomato and a bit of white wine and cognac.
- “Carne Gobernada” – an Asturian-style slow-cooked beef and onion in white wine dish.
Desserts in Asturias
Besides some pretty amazing main dishes and a variety of tapas, there are also a couple of typical desserts from Asturias that you might not want to skip:
“Nuestras Casadiellas” (or “Bollinas de Nuez”) are Asturian Tradition Nut Pies (sort of empanadas) and they ROCK.
Turrón (nougat) Ice cream. Apparently, one of the best places for ice cream in the city is at “Diego Verdu”, where they handmade the nougat and serve some amazing range of other flavours ice cream.
“Arroz con Leche” is Asturias famous rice pudding. You can find it almost everywhere in Oviedo!
“Carbayones” are another typical Asturian sweet and actually, a specialty of Oviedo. The name was given to the pastry by a baker as an homage and it refers to a beloved oak tree that was once cut down in the city center and became a symbol of the city.
But, some people say the name simply translates as ‘disgustingly sweet almond pastry’, which it totally is. To be precise, the carbayones is a puff pastry, filled with a mixture of egg, ground almonds, cognac, sugar, which is then covered with a crusty syrup of lemon juice, syrup and cinnamon. They are about the price of a good macaroon, but totally worth it.
You can buy it everywhere, but I would recommend to either visit the cute little tea house Rialto:
… or, even better: at the legendary shop “Camilo de Blas”, which is a shop dating back to 1914! The interior of this place is simply incredible!
Full yet? Here are some more sweet treats from Asturias:
- “Tocinillos de Cielo” – Dessert similar to flan
- “Carajitos” – Fritters filled with a hazelnut paste
- “Tarta de Manzana” – Apple tart topped with apricot preserves
- “Quesada Asturiana” – Cheesecake made with fresh goat cheese and decorated with fruit or powdered sugar
Bonus Tip: Mercado El Fontan
In the historic center of Oviedo, you will find the lively El Fontan market. The eye-catching building was designed by architect Javier Aguirre in 1882 , finalizing its construction in 1885. Here, you can find all kinds of fresh produce (vegetables, meat, fish, bread, etc.) and outside it’s surrounded by stalls selling flowers, books, antiques and the like. Make sure not to miss it!
I hope you enjoyed this roundup of typical food from Asturias and found some great places to taste all this goodness when you visit Oviedo! What would be the first thing you order?
All restaurants and shops mentioned in this article:
- Restaurant Tierra Astur – www.tierra-astur.com
- La Casa Real del Jamón – www.lacasarealdeljamon.com
- Restaurant La Pumarada – www.lapumarada.com
- Diego Verdú – www.diegoverdu.es
- Rialto – www.confiteriarialto.com
- Camilo de Blas – www.camilodeblas.es
- Mercado El Fontan – www.mercadofontan.es
Disclaimer: I visited Oviedo as part of the #SpainCities Blogger Campaign organised by Traverse Events and the Spain Tourism Board. All photos and opinions in this article are my own.