Spain // Cantabria and Asturias //

Asturian food and drink

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Asturian food is not for the faint-hearted, and it’s certainly not for vegetarians. The signature dish is fabada, a dense haricot-bean stew floating with pungent chunks of meat: black pudding, chorizo and ham. It’s served in a round terracotta dish, and you mop up the juice with the ubiquitous hunk of solid bread. Seafood is another feature, from sea urchins – particularly popular in Gijón – to sea bream and squid. The region produces a huge variety of handmade cheeses, most notably the veined and slightly spicy cabrales, which, in its purest form, is made with cow-, sheep- and goat-milk combined. Another variety is a small cone-shaped cheese, known as afuega’l pitu, which sometimes has a wrinkled exterior owing to its having been hung in cloth.

One sight you won’t miss is waiters and punters pouring sidra (cider) – which you can only order by the bottle – from above their heads into wide-rimmed glasses. The idea is that you knock back the frothing brew in one go. Since it’s a point of honour for the waiters to stare straight ahead rather than look at the glasses, and any residue that you don’t drink within a minute or two is summarily discarded on the floor, it’s hardly surprising the region seems to reek of stale cider.

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