Sunny Sexy South
Why life is more fun closer to the equator

Eating Madrid #4

Eating out for me in Madrid, as in Berlin, is mainly about immigrant cuisine. Prepared food can be quite a bit more expensive in Madrid than Berlin, I’d say by a factor of as much as two. Berlin’s a strange case, there’s no doubt; even though Spain is in such terrible economic shape, Berlin restaurants still manage to be cheaper. But in Madrid, certain immigrant cuisines provide the best value: Moroccan, as I’ve already blogged, and Senegalese, which I really need to further explore.

I can safely say my quality of life here in the last couple of months has gone up a good 25%; my friend R. finally shared the secret of the best Mexican restaurant in Madrid: Mi Ciudad at Calle Hileras 7. As soon as I step inside, I feel as if I’ve been magically transported to the California-Baja California border. The years of over-saturation and my vow back in 2005 or so, that I’d be happy if I never had to eat Mexican again in my life, are completely forgotten. I gobble down the taquitos de mole and tinga, happily sniffling as I’ve lost some of my tolerance for FUEGO in the meantime, and buy take-out for a couple more nights of left-overs. They cost only an euro and a half and two or three put me in a blissful chile-induced endorphin daze.

In stark contrast, Chinese restaurants are a horror in any place I’ve ever been in Europe, and Madrid is no exception. So it’s best to prepare Chinese food at home. The best Chinese grocery I’ve found to-date is Tian Ping Universal in Plaza de los Mostenses quite near to Plaza de España. It has a wide selection of East Asian spices and sauces as well as the usual canned bamboo shoots and water chestnuts. Its sign is only in Chinese, though, so just look in the doors on the plaza until you see a large grocery. Finally, in Spain, leeks (puerros here) are much more in evidence than green onions, which are hard to find. But if you’re persistent, eventually you’ll find a fruit/vegetable stand that carries them.

I’ll finish with a plug for preparing one’s own food here. Spain really excels with fresh fruits and vegetables throughout much of the year. The Almería region is full of greenhouses that provide fresh produce for Spain and much of Europe year-round. These, along with the fresh seafood (fish and shellfish), are absurdly cheap compared with my main point of comparison, Berlin. Basmati and other aromatic rices are relatively easy to find here (cheapest at the German supermarket chain Lidl which is ubiquitous here). When cooking Indian food, which I can’t recommend in Madrid, one can, however, pick up naan in Lavapiés, as the Indian restaurants do have tandoori ovens, in stark contrast to Berlin.


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