Food guide: essential Spanish to eat well while travelling

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Spoken by more than 405 million people worldwide, Spanish is one of the most useful languages a traveller could hope to master.

Whether it’s a cantina in Mexico or a tapas bar in Spain, the ability to communicate with waiters, chefs and other diners allows visitors to bypass the tourist traps with their multilingual menus and head straight for the places where locals eat.

You don’t have to be fluent in Spanish to successfully eat out while away. All it takes is a handful of phrases, a little vocabulary, and the confidence to keep trying. Online courses can provide structured learning of languages, as can home-learning resources.

Spanish Food

The basics

In the morning, weary travellers are always keen to sample ‘desayuno’ (breakfast). Useful vocabulary includes ‘jugo de naranja’ (orange juice), ‘huevos fritos’ (fried eggs), ‘huevos tibios’ (boiled eggs), ‘tostadas’ (toast), ‘jamón y tocino’ (ham and bacon), ‘el café’ (coffee), and ‘la leche’ (milk).

Lunch, which is called ‘almuerzo’, might consist of ‘pollo’ (chicken), ‘pescado’ (fish), ‘emparedado’ (sandwich), ‘ensalada’ (salad), and ‘patatas fritas’ (chips).

‘La cena’ (dinner) is, for most travellers, the most exciting meal of the day – a chance to reflect on the day’s activities while sampling some new and exciting cuisine. Dishes might include ‘chuletas’ (lamb chops), ‘sopa’ (soup), ‘legumbres’ (vegetables), ‘bisté’ (steak), ‘fruta’ (fruit), and ‘helado (ice-cream).

Seafood Paella

World cuisine for Spanish-speakers

Basics aside, the ability to order food in Spanish can present you with a mouth-watering array of options depending on where you find yourself in the world.

In Mexico, no traveller should miss out on the chance to try the country’s famous range of ‘mole’ (sauce). These include ‘almendrado’ and ‘pipián’ – a pumpkin seed-based sauce traditionally served over roast chicken or enchiladas.

In Argentina, those choosing to learn Spanish abroad might be invited to an ‘asado’ – a barbecued meat feast. This might include ‘morcillas’ (black pudding), ‘chinchulines’ (cow chitterlings), ‘vacío’ (flank steak), ‘chivito’ (goat) and ‘verdurajo’ (grilled vegetables).

Those who find themselves in Nicaragua or Costa Rica will want to find somewhere authentic to try ‘gallo pinto’, which is a ‘comida tipica’ (typical food) of both countries that consists of specially prepared rice and beans.

Having food and drink vocabulary under your belt before you go can also save your meal, as you won’t be relying on the menu’s translation, which can sometimes be wrong. Speaking Spanish helps travelers to really maximize the foodie experience in Latin America and Spain.

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