Andalusia is associated with sunshine, flamenco and bullfighting. It not only delights with its beautiful landscape of numerous national parks, beaches and mountain paths, but also fascinates with its extraordinary architecture and Moorish heritage. The capital of the Costa del Sol, a sunny coastline in the south of Andalusia, is lively Malaga, which attracts visitors all year round not only with its monuments and pleasantly warm aura but also with its delicious cuisine, which draws handfuls from local sources. The city is one of the most important fishing ports in Spain; as a result, seafood reigns supreme on local tables.
Good morning Malaga
Before setting off on a walk through the streets of Malaga, it’s worth starting the day with a typical Andalusian breakfast. Just pop into one of the many cafés or bars that can be found around almost every corner here. In the Mediterranean, a traditional morning starts with a cup of aromatic black coffee, perfectly accompanied by sweet churros con chocolate. Greater hunger can be satisfied with a piece of Spanish tortilla or a crusty baguette, served classically with jamón serrano. While strolling through the city, pop into one of the many bakeries and treat yourself to a tortas locas – a pastry filled with sweet cream, iced with a hint of orange and decorated with a cherry. In the afternoon, the people of Malaga meet in bars and cafés to relax after a long day with a cup of coffee in hand. This custom even has its own name: a merienda has already become a permanent feature of everyday life here.
Andalusia in a nutshell
Tapas – traditional Spanish delicacies served on small plates, which you will find in almost every bar in Malaga. They are not just snacks to stimulate our taste buds; they are a local way of life. The name of these delicacies means nothing more than ‘lid’ and refers to an old tradition – when drinking wine, Spaniards would cover their glasses with a piece of dry sausage to protect the contents from unwanted fuzz and insects. Nowadays, tapas is an excuse to go out in the evening and meet with friends.
Visiting tapas bars is, therefore, the perfect way to get a feel for the city. Plates of snacks, served both hot and cold, are eaten standing up at the counter or at tall wooden barrels. Local drinks also go hand in hand with tapas. The delicacies can be exchanged with companions, and after eating a few of these plates, the culinary journey continues at the next bar.
Some of the most popular snacks in tapas bars include patatas bravas (or fried potatoes), seafood, chorizo, cheese or olives. It’s worth checking if they also serve the classic Ensalada Malagueña – a cold salad with potatoes, boiled egg, cod or tuna, onions, green olives and orange. This last element gives the dish an unusual flavour.
Taste of the sea on the plate
Due to its location, the cuisine of Andalusia is based primarily on the gifts of the sea. These almost straight from the boat land on your plate. They can be tasted in marisquerias, restaurants specialising in local fish and seafood dishes, as well as in chiringuitos – bars located on the local beaches. An absolute classic served in such stalls set on the sand is espetos. Six sardines stuffed on skewer sticks, sprinkled only with sea salt and accompanied by olive oil, land on a charcoal-fired grill that resembles a boat. It is one of those delicacies that tastes best when it comes straight from the grill and which you consume while sitting on the beach in Malaga.
There are, of course, many more local delicacies to be had in a chiringuito. When on the Spanish coast, be sure to try the fritura malagueña, a plate filled to the brim with fried sea specialities. It includes small fish, crustaceans, prawns and squid, all served in a crispy, golden batter, with a slice of lemon to enhance the flavour. The local hoppy beverage, Victoria, goes well with these sea snacks.
One of Malaga’s classic delicacies is also undoubtedly the gambas al Pil-Pil. Fresh prawns, fried with garlic, peppers, fresh chillies and white wine, are served in small clay pots. Complementing this simple but flavourful dish is a fresh, crusty baguette, which we can dip in the leftover sauce at the bottom of the pot.
The abundance of fish and seafood makes Malaga the place to try one of Spain’s most famous dishes, paella. We can taste this dish in some bars as a tapas version, but it is classically served in a paellera – a large, round pan. Accompanied by fresh seafood, usually prawns and mussels, the rice is a real festival of flavours that is best enjoyed when shared with your companions.
In search of traditional flavours
Like most Spanish cities, Malaga boasts numerous markets where you can buy local delicacies. Fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and seafood dominate the stalls. In search of products typical of the region, a trip to Atarazanas is worthwhile. The building itself, which houses the market, is impressive. It was built back in the 14th century during the time of the Arabs in the Iberian Peninsula and was used as a shipyard. In later years, it housed barracks, a hospital and even a convent, among other things. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the building was recognised as a site of great historical value. Thanks to a significant refurbishment at the beginning of the 21st century, Atarazanas has become one of the most interesting and essential spots on the culinary map of Malaga.
Inside, a real feast for all the senses awaits. The aroma of food wafting here, the eye-catching colours, and the typical bustle create a unique atmosphere. The market is divided into three sections: one has meat-only stalls, another has juicy fruit and vegetables that ripen in the Andalusian sun, but it is the fish and seafood stalls that are most popular. The wealth of products available here will surprise even the biggest culinary enthusiasts. Strolling between the stalls, it is, of course, worth sampling these local delicacies. A recommended snack is undoubtedly the boquerones en vinagre, anchovies marinated in vinegar, garlic and parsley. The local goat’s cheese, made from the milk of the cabra malagueña goat, is excellent; zurrapa, which is local pork lard, as is chicharrón – fried pieces of bacon or pork rinds. It can get quite crowded at lunchtime, as Malagasy locals are well aware that Atarazanas also serves some of the best tapas in the city.
Taste the Malaga
Its taste is somewhat reminiscent of sultanas in caramel. Sweet and thick, Malaga is best as an apéritif and also pairs well with desserts, fruit or nuts. For a tasting of this local wine, head to Antigua Casa de Guardia, the oldest bar in Malaga. A winery has been operating here since 1840! The staff nimbly manoeuvre between the wooden barrels, refilling the guests’ empty glasses with more wine every now and then. The wide range of wines is complemented by tasty tapas. The atmosphere here is very relaxed, bustling and crowded, and the bar continues to be one of the favourite meeting places for Malaga’s inhabitants.