The Iberian Peninsular is a very fortunate region of the world. This part of Europe is surrounded by a variety of different seas and oceans including both the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. These varied marine climates mean that there is a huge range of different fish and seafood available. Therefore fish, molluscs and crustaceans form a very important part of the Spanish diet, especially in the coastal areas.
There is a large variety of sea products and some even have designation of origin. However not only fine and pricey fish are used as ingredients, some of the most important seafood dishes are made with ingredients that were unappreciated by the wealthy families, the fishermen's meals used rock fish and red fish as their main ingredients.
Many of the inland regions made use of whatever they could grow to make their dishes, therefore leading to a large variety of vegetable dishes being made in the centre of Spain. In a way, this is similar to what happened around the coastal areas of Spain. The people here however used whatever the sea would provide them as opposed to what the land would. Of course, this means that fish dishes tend to vary by region, or more precisely, according to what fish can be caught in the region.
Fish dishes in the past were mainly restricted to these coastal areas as it was far too costly and too time consuming to transport the fish from the coast into the central areas of the country. Plus the fish would often go bad before it reached its destination as freezing and transportation technologies had not been developed. However today, you will always find a good Spanish fish restaurant wherever you go in Spain. Without doubt the best fish restaurants in Spain can be found along the coasts, as the fish is nearly always fresh and is often delivered straight from the fishing boats in the morning.
Catalonia, Valencia and Andalusia have an important seafood tradition. If you ever visit any of these regions we recommend a Spanish cooking course, you will not only get to try the inmense assortment of sea products in the country, but also learn how to prepare them in delicious ways!
If you want to try some of these Spanish fish dishes at a Spanish restaurant, you should definitely see if you can find a restaurant by the sea. The restaurant's location is clue that the fish will have been delivered fresh, plus you get the added benefit of a fitting setting, as well as the natural soundtrack of the crashing waves beyond. A good idea might be to ask the locals as to which restaurants are the best for fish dishes.
Cod, cuttlefish, squid, octopus, shrimp, tuna, you name it, you will be able to find somewhere that sells it. If you are lucky, you will find a restaurant that serves them in a number of different ways; each region having its own ways of preparing or flavouring certain fish and seafood dishes.
Amongst some of Spain's favourite fish are cod, hake and tuna and there are a number of different recipes that use these fishes, however they tend to be main dishes only. However, other fish such as sardines and anchovies are the preferred choice for Spanish tapas, and you will most likely find these fish pickled in vinager and then served on a piece of bread in the local bars. As for seafood, prawns, clams and mussels are also very common and make great tapas and starters. Other fish to look out for are octopus and squid which are always exquisitely cooked, and are often marinated in a spice of some sort. No matter what type of fish you like, you will always find a fish dish to your taste in Spain.
Below are the links to our pages on some of the most popular Spanish seafood dishes. On their pages, you will find some more information about these dishes history as well as some quick recipes for the dishes for you to try!