On a normal day, Cádiz is a small beach town on the Atlantic coast of southern Spain in Andalusia. But show up in February and you will be treated to the most spectacular two week Carnival in Spain. A lively festival with daily parades, music, fireworks, drag queens, dancing, costumes,and most importantly, traditional foods. So what should you eat?
What to Eat at Carnival in Cádiz
Tortillitas de Camarones
Tortillitas de Camarones are the first tradition on the list. Made with the smallest of shrimp, complete with eyes, shells, and legs. The baby shrimp are mixed into a chickpea and wheat flour batter, pan fried in a hefty amount of olive oil, and served on the street in paper cones. Guilty to say, I did not try the tortillitas on the street because I had had them the day prior in a tapas bar. Needless to say, the lines were lengthy, the aroma filled the air, and nothing but happy faces were strolling away from the stands in Plaza del Mercado.
The amazing and never ending shellfish are tradition #2. Growing up in Rhode Island, I have been eating shellfish my whole life. I am willing to try pretty much everything. If you want to try a new shellfish, Cádiz is the place to come. The streets were lined with folding bridge tables and wooden palates made into tables. Men surrounded their stands shucking oysters, hammering king crab legs, peeling shrimp, and cracking open sea urchins. Now I don’t know if it’s just me, but these types of fish are usually saved for special occasions and come with a significant price tag back in the states. At carnival in Cadiz, they were cheap! The baby shrimp were served in paper cones for €1, a plastic plate of oysters for as low as €5, a plate of sea urchins for €6, and a 1/4 kilo of crab legs in a bag for €7.
Although I don’t recommend the sea urchin, a flavor that my friend Stacy and I like to describe as low tide pudding… the crab legs and oysters were amazing. Choose your vendor wisely, squeeze a touch of lemon and enjoy!
The third regional tradition is manzanilla. Once you’ve had your fill of tortillitas and snacks from the raw bar, you need a drink, of course. The locals sip on Manzanilla at this festival from small plastic Champagne flutes like it is water.
Manzanilla wine is only made in the Cádiz region and is called manzanilla because the flavor is similar to that of chamomile tea (Chamomile is also called Manzanilla in Spanish). On inspection, the Manzanilla smells apple-like and sweet, but after the first taste your tastebuds will tell you otherwise. It is a very dry fino sherry wine with almost a bitter salty bite to it. I did not enjoy my first sip, but along side a salty jamón serrano sandwich, I can see how this flavor could be appealing. If you are like me and don’t like sherry, I recommend mixing the Manzanilla with a soda to make the drink locals call, Rebujito…or just go for a Cruzcampo, this local beer is sold at every bar and restaurant on tap, in bottles, and even 40s if you’re feeling extra thirsty.
Now that you have tasted Cádiz, it’s time to enjoy Carnival! Where is your favorite place to spend carnival?