Below is a list of Spanish food terms with explanations
and tips for eating out in Cordoba restaurants and southern Spain. Included are some useful Spanish phrases and vocabulary for ordering.
Remember that people tend to have a mid-day coffee and
piece of toast between 10-11am, and that many people have a tapa and a
drink around 1:30pm. Lunch is between 2-4pm, and cafés get busy
with meriendas (afternoon coffee or snack) between 5-6pm. Dinner is between
9-11pm, but they will serve you in many places even later.
English term or explanation
||Savourty tidbit, appetizer or finger-food consumed with
drinks. It also refers to a small portion of a dish at a restaurant. A tapa used to be served free with your drink in many bars. With the entrance of the Euro in the year 2001 and the dramatic increase in food prices, most tapas must be ordered.
||A plate of food, instead of only a tapa-size
serving. A good rule of thumb is to
order one ración of consistent food for each person (in Spain
it's normal for groups of people to order a servings different foods
and then eat a little of everything from the center, even a central
dish of salad).
|Media ración (1/2 Rac)
||Half the amount of a "ración".
|Albóndigas con tomate frito
||Meat balls in tomato sauce
||Fried calimari (squid). Breaded and deep-fried to perfection. If they are fresh they are delicious, if they aren't, they're like rubber bands. Don't hesitate to try "bocadillo de calamares" (fried squid sanwich) if you're eating on the run. "Calamar a la plancha" is the same squid, but grilled whole instead of in rings, and it looks and tastes like a squid instead of breaded finger food.
||Morsels of fried cod
||Aubergine, egg plant. Great either fried ("fritas") or served in the Moorish fashion with honey "con miel").
||Sandwich on small French loaf.
|Boquerones en vinagre
||Raw anchovies cured in vinegar and served with olive oil, parsley and garlic. A local speciality.
|Carne con tomate
||Meat (normally pork) in tomato sauce.
||The king of Spanish pork sausages, sometimes lightly spicy. May be served fried in olive oil (frito) or in a sauce ("al vino").
||Morsels of pig fried in olive oil until crispy.
|Cogollos con ajitos
||Tender lettuce hearts seasoned with little bits of garlic fried in olive oil.
||How does one explain croquettes? "Fried and breaded balls of mashed potatoes or minced meat", says the British Oxford Dictionary. But, in Spain, croquetas are very elaborate creations based on: flour, milk, butter, salt and nutmeg, mixed together to form a delicate dough, which is then coated with egg and bread crumbs. They can be fortified with just about anyting: chicken (pollo), cured ham (jamón serrano), spinach and pine nuts (espinacas y piñones), cod (bacalao) and cocido, local winter pork-based stews. Finally, they are fried until golden brown. You should order them only if they are shown on the menu as "croquetas caseras" (home-made), which do not have the same frozen-food-perfect look, but taste wonderful.
||Usually a basic salad with lettuce, tomato and not much else. Salt, oil and vinegar are provided apart for dressing it (go light on vinegar, heavier on olive oil, and salt to taste).
|Ensalada mixta especial OR de la casa
||Ingredients depend on the restaurant
||A light, smooth potato salad made with home-made mayonnaise, potatoes, carrots and peas. Served cool. Many people make a meal of it on hot summer days.
||Lightly breaded prawns fried and olive oil
|Gula (del Norte)
||A baby-eel substitute, sometimes produced with Alaskan cod. Not as exquisite (or pricey) as the real thing, but if prepared correctly with olive oil and garlic, quite tasty.
||Cured mountain-bred ham (hah-MON)
||Cured mountain-bred ham ("Ibérico" or "de bellota" indicates that the ham is premium quality or acorn-fed).
||Refers to a small, flat loaf of light bread, or the sandwich made with it.
||In Britain, it is called black pudding. A pork sausage whose main ingredients are blood and onions. Tastes infinitely better than it sounds.
||Known in Valencia as "paella", in Cordoba the local recipes are for "arroz", with many variations. Paella is available in touristy restaurants. A local tradition is to go to the country, build a campfire and cook a paella pan full of rice with vegetables and meat, which everyone eats from when it cools. This is called a "perol".
|Patatas alioli [recipe]
||Chunky, consistent bits of potato served in a garlicky, mayonnaise alioli sauce.
||For those of you who miss Mexican or Indian cuisine, here's just a touch of spice to your life: tasty little bits of fried potato with a spicy sauce.
||French fries for Americans, chips for the the British.
|Riñones de Jeréz
||Kidneys in Sherry
||Cordoba's most typical dish. A vegetable cold cream soup made of tomatoes, bread, vigin olive oil, garlic and salt. Sprinkled with hard-boiled egg and serrano ham. If you are a vegetarian, order it ("sin jamón" SEEN hah-MON)
||Breaded fillet of pork with
a cheese filling. Deep fried.
||A strong apertif (15-17% alcohol) which is excellent with tapas and shellfish. Explaining what a fino is very confused by the misnomer of "Sherry" which most English speakers use for fino. Sherry is a fino, but from Jerez and not from the Montilla-Moriles wine-producing region in Cordoba province. Unlike Sherry, Montilla-Moriles wines reach their alcohol levels naturally and do not need to be fortified or mixed with other wines.
||If you order vino blanco,
you will most likely be served a Montilla-Moriles "fino".
|Vino blanco afrutado
||Fruity, white wine (not a
||A wine glass
||A local term referring to
an out-of-date measurement. A confusing term, which many people think
means "half a glass", but is actually, more than a normal
glass. If you are drinking fino, which is a stronger wine (15-17%
alcohol), it's better to order "una copa".
||A bottle. An good way to order
wine, but if it's a Montilla-Moriles wine, a half bottle ("media
botella") is enough for 2 people with abundant tapas.
|Un "Vargas" (Tinto
||This local term is derived
from VALdepeñas red wine, merged with GAS, sparkling sweetened
soda water. What you get is a delightful drink served in the summer.
Some places ask if you want the red wine mixed with lemon soda ("con
limón"), but it's much better with the traditional
gaseosa ("con Casera"). Outside of Cordoba, it is called
"un tinto de verano". If you don't want a lot of wine in your Vargas, ask for "un Vargas clarito".
||Beer mixed with "Casera"
||Non-alcoholic beer (I'm not
sure what the difference is with the new product (0,0%), called "cero-cero").
||Coffee. Outside of hotel buffets,
don't expect to find filtered British or American coffee, although
you can order an envelope of soluble "Nes-Café" with
water "con agua caliente". Be careful, because most people
who order "Nes-Café" want decaffeinated ("Sin
cafeína") and not normal caffeinated coffee. And most
people mix their "Nes-Café" with hot milk, and not
water. Try this: "un Nes-café NORMAL con agua, no leche"
(A envelope of normal coffee, with water, not milk). Good luck. Coffee
in most of Spain refers to Espresso coffee.
||A small cup of strong espresso
|Café con leche
||Café au lait, or latte.
A cup of espresso with hot milk. Breakfast and late afternoon standard.
||A cup of hot milk with a little
espresso coffee (not as strong as café con leche).
||Good luck ordering tea in
Córdoba. 90% of waiters will pretend to understand and then
bring you a bag of diabolically bad tea floating in a glass of hot
milk if you order "té con leche". If you're really
desperate for it, try saying "té con agua y un poco de
||Hey, are you going to listen to my order over this shouting?
|¿Me pone...? (mei-POH-nei)
||Would you please serve me a ... (Could I have a ...)
|La cuenta, por favor.
||The bill, please.
Don't forget that if you are American, you cannot bring
meat products back with you, even though animals are apparently more thoroughly
inspected than in the States. Other food products may be taken from you
by the US Customs as well. Chorizo and Jamón Serrano are at the
top of the no-fly list. Cured cheese is usually OK. Check with the Customs Deptartment for restrictions.