Zaragoza, also known in English as Saragossa, is the capital city of the Zaragoza Province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It lies by the Ebro river and its tributaries, the Huerva and the Gállego, roughly in the centre of the Aragon and the Ebro basin.
The city is famous for its folklore, local cuisine, and landmarks such as the Basílica del Pilar, La Seo Cathedral and the Aljafería Palace. It was also a candidate for the European Capital of Culture in 2012.
We were gladly surprised by Zaragozan cuisine and also its numerous restaurants and bars, many of them concentrated in “El Tubo” area.
Pollo al Chilindrón
Chicken Chilindron is a dish originally from the province of Teruel, although with deep roots in Zaragoza’s cuisine. Its name comes from a card game which consists of the union of the jack, the horse and the king, whoever was the first to put them together won the game. In the recipe, the perfect union would be tomato, pepper and onion, or what is the same, the Chilindrón.
The ingredients are simple and humble and the preparation is very simple. All you have to do is fry the chicken, reserve it, and make a good sauce with onion, garlic and pepper. Mix everything and slowly cook it until the chicken is tender.
Migas is a traditional dish in Spanish cuisine. It was originally a breakfast dish that made use of leftover bread or tortas. Nowadays it is usually served as a first course for lunch or dinner.
The ingredients and preparation of Migas vary across the provinces of Spain. In Zaragoza, Migas include chorizo, bacon and fried egg, and are often served with grapes. But there are also variations including lamb tallow or the fat that covers the kidneys.
Ternasco al horno con patatas
Ternasco is probably the most characteristic dish not only of Zaragoza but also of the Aragon region. Ternasco is a lamb that is raised only in Aragon and that has to be from one of the breeds of the Autonomous Community (Ojinegra de Teruel, Maellana, Ansotana, Rasa Aragonesa or Roya Bilbilitana). It is a very young lamb, around three months old with a weight of between 10 and 13 kilos.
The lamb shoulder is normally used, although other parts such as the ribs, the low cut (skirt) or, of course, the leg, are also common.
Although the best-known way to prepare it is baked and accompanied by baked potatoes, some variations include it stewed with asparagus, artichokes and sausage, grilled accompanied by a salad or fried potatoes or in a stew accompanied by other meats.
Magras con tomate
Magras con tomate is another traditional dish in Zaragoza, although some people say it is originally from Murcia.
It is frequently consumed as a tapa but also makes a fantastic main dish when served with fries or rice. The end result is a delightful mixture with an elaboration that is relatively simple to produce because it is made with lean pork and crushed tomatoes. It can be eaten at any time of the day and it is normally served with bread.
Besides tomatoes, the other ingredients include fried ham, slices of bread, eggs and white wine.
Huevos al Salmorrejo
In Aragon brine is known as salmorra, and when the pig was slaughtered, as there was so much excess meat, it was put in brine or salmorra (salt). Then it was fried and preserved in oil.
That’s where the salmorrejo comes from, from the meats that were stewed once out of the can, to which asparagus was added and, at the end of cooking, some eggs that were poached for a few minutes in the stew, also adding some sausages.
Borrajas con patatas
Borraja is a vegetable that is rough when fresh but tender and tasty when cooked.
To make borrajas with potatoes, one of the typical foods of Zaragoza, all you have to do is cut and clean the stems into 3-4 cm sticks and put them in a pot with water, salt and potatoes. It is a sort of stew that tastes better when cooked slowly, and many people add eggs and sometimes pulled pork or lamb.
Arroz a la Zaragozana
This is a quite heavy rice dish in which only meat, garlic and onion are used. Pieces of lamb, pork ribs, sausages, sausage and ham are fried in a paella or wide frying pan (some people add chicken or rabbit instead of other fattier meats).
In other words, it is a sort of heavy and meat-based paella, although much fatty and less sophisticated in both taste and preparation.
Despite Zaragoza not being by the sea, ajoarriero cod is still considered a traditional dish. And unlike other areas in Spain such as Navarra or La Rioja where they use tomato and peppers, in Zaragoza it is sometimes made with potatoes and eggs.
Why is ajoarriero cod typical in Zaragoza (and Aragon) if it has no sea? Well, to answer this question we have to look back to a long time when refrigerators did not exist and the only way in which fish arrived inside was desalted or dehydrated.
Appendix: Recommended tapas in “El Tubo”
If you’re in Zaragoza I am sure you will visit El Tubo, walk around and have some delicious tapas. It turns out that some bars and restaurants specialise in particular tapas.
This is the case of Bar El Chapi, which signature dish is a mushroom tapa, and Taberna Doña Casta, the main dish is croquettes.
Other places we recommend visiting are: