With two restaurants featuring in the top 20 restaurants on earth, and three restaurants with three Michelin stars, San Sebastian is a foodie mecca. Tucked away in the Bay of Biscay, surrounded by mountains that dominate the Northern Spanish landscape, the town enjoys constant access to the freshest ingredients. These fine ingredients fuel the taste buds, and cement San Sebastian’s position as one of the top food destinations on the planet.
The first stop for any food lover should be Bretxa Market. Here you will find the secrets behind San Sebastian’s culinary success. The tomatoes on sale here come from Getaria, where the soil has a higher salt content than most, lending the tomatoes an even more intense and succulent flavour. The beef on sale is grass-fed and killed after the age of five. The older animal allows the meat to age and adds to the complexity of the flavour.
The anchovies on sale, a staple in San Sebastian, served with an olive and a guindilla pepper skewered on a stick, were caught just kilometres offshore in the Cantabrian Sea. Some come straight to the market, others are taken to local plants for curing in salt for six months.
A dazzling array of pintxos lined up on a San Sebastian bar counter.
San Sebastian cuisine borrows ingredients from other regions of Spain, carefully selecting the finest aspects of their cooking. Pimientos de piquillo come from nearby Navarre, where the locals roast the rich red peppers over embers after they are picked to give them a rich, smoky taste. The Basque locals in San Sebastian use them in their pimientos rellenos de bacalo dish, red peppers stuffed with cod.
The population of San Sebastian has a passion for food. They understand how to get the most out of their ingredients to stimulate every taste bud. The waiters pour the local wine and cider from a height, not just for the tourist’s cameras, but because it reduces the acidity and is more agreeable to the palate. When making one of the most famous Basque dishes, bacalao pil pil, the chefs shake the pan while cooking the cod so that the natural gelatine blends with the olive oil to create a light sauce.
Bacalao pil pil.
It is no accident that San Sebastian’s name is synonymous with culinary excellence. Its people built the town’s reputation for exquisite food through flawless attention to detail in every step of the culinary process. From market to plate, every ingredient in traditional Basque dishes has been selected based on individual merit. The results are dishes which stagger the taste buds and leaves hungry visitors satisfied to their very core.
Basque favourite dishes to try in San Sebastian:
Txuleta: Fore ribs grilled over coals
Alubias: Small black beans
Bacalao pil pil: Cod cooked in garlic and olive oil
Pastel Vasco: Traditional Basque cake with a soft interior
Kokotxas: Hake or Cod cheeks
Featured image from Wikimedia Commons by Keta.
Image from Wikimedia Commons by Elemaki.
Image from Flickr by Mover el Bigote