If you come to Malaga, capital of Andalucia, you should definitely come taste the iconic malagueña cuisine, sardines skewer (espeto de sardina in Spanish).
The method of grilling the sardines over an open fire has been a long tradition around Malaga and the surroundings areas dating back to the Phoenician and Roman fishermen who grilled a quick meal after returning from the sea.
This sardine skewer dish itself become famous throughout Spain in 1885 when King Alfonso XII was introduced to a portion of espeto by Don Miguel Martinez Soler, more commonly known as “Miguel de las Sardinas”.
Nowadays, you easily find boats and barbecue at the beachfront bar (called chiringuitos) ready to grill sardines!
It is a fascinating gastronomic ritual with the warm weather, the sea air, the smoke from the wood fire, and the salted sardine becoming slowly golden grilled to perfection.
Besides the ancient cook technique, the microclimate of Malaga helps not only the fishing but also even grilling the sardines. In just 400 km of Costa del Sol, from Algeciras to Almeria, the mountains protect the coastline from the north wind, which creates the nice breezes for barbecuing. The cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the warmer ones of the Mediterranean Sea helps to produce the plankton to feed the sardines and many other fishes.
Fiesta del Espeto
The rich gastronomic tradition surrounding the sardines skewer might even become an item of Intangible Cultural Heritage protected by UNESCO.
The initiative to achieve that goal came from the the City Hall, the Asociación Marbella Activa and La Carta Malacitana. Together they threw a party “Fiesta el Espeto”, which happened last 19th and 20th September.
Over one thousand kilos of sardine, fished the same day, had grilled over bonfire in a moraga – old way to barbecuing sardines in the boat! On the beach, a gathering of residents and tourists pushed for the campaign, signing the support for the application.
As night fell a team of volunteers lit the fire and the sardines grilled to perfection. They gave away dishes with a portion of sardines, a slice of tomato, and a chunk of bread.
Espeto de sardine tips
- Best months to eat the espeto is between May and September when the fish is more fat and tastier.
- The spit is made of cane and specially designed for holding between six or eight sardines.
- They are seasoned with coarse salt for at least 30 mins before cooking.
- Olive wood is traditionally used for two reasons:
- This type of wood is abundant in Malaga.
- It adds extra flavour to fish.
- The sardine skewers need to be slightly tilted to windward, that way the fish gets roasted and browned in the heat of the flame with no smoke.
- Under the Andalusian Regulations, sardines need to be at least 4.33inches long to be fished legally; the scales must have a silvery and shiny tone, flat stomach and bulging eyes with black wide pupil.
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