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14 lip-smacking culinary selections to try in Madrid

From tapas to calamari, feast upon Iberian cuisine that’s as lively as the city itself.

Churros con Chocolate

Crunchy batter and melted chocolate that make an ideal pairing

These long, fried fingers of dough have a doughnut-like texture coated in fine sugar granules, or cinnamon. They’re best enjoyed dunked into a cup of hot, creamy chocolate. Guzzle them up for breakfast in a churrería café, or grab them from a take-away van if you’re out and about.

Local tips: Churros come in a variety of thick and thin options with some filled with cream, chocolate or the caramel-like dulce de leche sauce.

Bocadillo de Calamares

A celebrated and scrumptious squid sandwich

Delicious in their simplicity, these ever-popular squid rings are cooked to slightly chewy perfection and coated in crispy golden batter before being stuffed into a fresh bread roll. For centuries, the bars around Plaza Mayor Square – and beyond onto the streets of Fuencarral, Noviciado and Botoneras – have emitted the unmistakable scent of fried calamari and the tang of lemon.

Local tip: Long-standing local, La Campana Bar, knows a thing or two about these sandwiches, which they’ve been dishing up since 1870.

Cocido Madrileño

Designed to battle the chills, a stew brimming with flavour

This selection of much-loved Spanish fare is the ideal winter warmer. This stew is plated up in stages established long ago. First, the stock from stewing bacon, ham and chicken is scooped out and presented with noodles, followed by boiled potatoes, chickpeas, steamed cabbage and carrots. The finale comes in the form of braised poultry and pork cuts that have been cooked to tender perfection.

Callos a la Madrileña

A winter meat dish filled with Spanish delicacies

Perhaps a more acquired taste, this generous helping of tripe is served up with slices of salty chorizo and cured morcilla blood sausages, presented steaming-hot and swimming in a thick, seasoned tomato and onion sauce.

Local tip: Locals like to savour this historic stew with a generous glass of rich-bodied red wine.

Sopa de ajo

A fragrant, satisfying soup with a garlic kick

Once a breakfast option, this garlic-infused broth was so popular that poet Ricardo de la Vega conjured up a dedication to its seven virtues. One such virtue is its ability to keep hunger at bay — and with the addition of eggs, ham and bread, it’s no wonder. Spiced up with paprika, salt and pepper, it’s cheap, cheerful and bound to keep you full until lunchtime.

Local tip: You’ll detect the unmistakable tang of garlic in the air during Lent and Easter processions.

Huevos Rotos

A livened-up jumble of fried eggs and chips

Often dramatically cut up at your table, this savoury feast – translating to “broken eggs” – includes some humble yet very tasty ingredients. Fried eggs are served, yolk-intact, over seasoned chips or potatoes, and onions before a dose of sea salt is added. Chorizo or ham can also be thrown into the mix for a meaty twist before being diced into delicious morsels.

Calamares Fritos

A simple seafood treat that’s deliciously moreish

A tapas dish that you’ll see popping up on almost every menu, deep-fried calamari is one that never fails to delight. Cut into rings, battered and garnished with a wedge of lemon, Madrileños devour these nibbles with a beer or vermouth.

Gambas Gabardina

Battered prawn morsels that make the perfect snack

Forming little golden crescents on the plate, these succulent prawns are tossed in flour, egg, salt and oil before being fried to crisp perfection. A classic tapas choice, they’re great to grab when you’ve paused for a pit-stop. The head is removed but the tail remains intact, making these an easy finger-food for munching with a cold drink.

Local tip: Variations on this classic whip a swig of beer into the batter mix, or use juicy langoustines instead of prawns.

Oreja a la Plancha

A tapas-sized helping of grilled pig’s ear, perfectly seasoned

This part of the pig may not be so commonly consumed but it makes for a unique tapas dish. Marinated in a mix of garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, the meat is grilled or roasted, then cut into crunchy, full-flavoured slithers. Head to the bars surrounding Plaza del Sol and order yourself a cold beer before tucking into this pork feast.

Local tip: Outside the city, traditional bars add mushrooms and bacon to the fusion of flavours.

Caracoles a la Madrileña

Snails in a lip-smacking stew

Left to simmer in a broth that includes chorizo, morcilla blood sausage and lamb offal, these mollusc morsels really soak up the meat’s rich juices. Dished up into a bowl, you’ll be given toothpicks or a spoon to scoop the tasty flesh out the shell.

Local tip: Make a trip to El Rastro’s Los Caracoles Bar. Named after the delicacy itself, it serves over 50 kg of the succulent shelled snacks daily.

Gallinejas

An economical dish that doesn’t scrimp on flavour

Stemming from modest origins, this once-popular dish pops up in a few bars across the centre. Fried with herbs, it’s a juicy offal mix that can be plated up by itself, or stuffed into a chunky slice of baguette.

Bacalao Robozado

A bar snack of simple and succulent battered cod

You’ll see this white, fleshy fish appear in various forms in menus across the city centre. A portion of cod is served up in strips, and sometimes on a slice of bread. Best enjoyed while sipping a cold beer.

Barquillos

Melt-in-the-mouth wafer-thin treats fit for a celebration

These rolls of sweet, flaky biscuit first were once boat-shaped, hence their nautical name. Intensely moreish, you’ll pick them up at street stalls and particularly during festivals and holidays.

Rosquillas de Santa Clara

A heavenly spin on the traditional doughnut

Once sold by nuns, these sweet morsels are a little heavier than their more familiar counterpart. Bite-sized, sweet nibbles, they’re round, or half-moon-shaped, flavoured with a drop or two of vanilla and sometimes drizzled with syrup or a dusting of sugar.

Local tip: Nip into a bakery for breakfast or a mid-morning snack and wash these down with a coffee.

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