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Centuries ago, before Old World Europeans knew of civilization across the Atlantic Ocean, the Canary Islands were considered the “edge of the world.”
This volcanically-formed archipelago, now one of the autonomous regions of Spain, has a unique geography, geology, history and, above all, culture — especially in its food. It’s a hodgepodge of heritages, fusing Spanish, North African Berber and, surprisingly, Cuban and Venezuelan, now that the New World has been “discovered” and there is a trans-Atlantic cultural exchange.
Traveling and eating through Tenerife, the largest Canary Island and an epicenter of Canarian culture as a whole, is like being on culinary bridge between the Old and New Worlds. Here are six typical, must-eat dishes, as well as where to find them.
ConejoOne of the most common meats on the islands is conejo, aka rabbit. While not common in the New World, this ubiquitous Old World protein is traditionally marinated in red wine, vinegar, garlic and spices, before being pan-fried in olive oil. The remaining marinade becomes a light, yet spicy salmorejo sauce, which is added to the pan for the meat to stew in. The meat should simmer until it’s very tender.
Where to Find It: An excellent canejo dish is frequently prepared at Casa Regulo, a restaurant inside a traditional house in the historic neighborhood of Puerto de la Cruz.
Papas Arrugadas With MojoAt every traditional Canarian meal, there is typically a portion of papas arrugadas, which literally translates to “wrinkly potatoes.” Small, unpeeled potatoes — introduced to the Old World plate by way of Peru — are boiled in seawater (or salted water) until soft. The water is removed, but the potatoes remain over heat to dry out; this results in the skins wrinkling and forming a texture that salt gets trapped in. The potatoes are served with the quintessential Canarian condiment of mojo, made in either the rojo (red) or verde (green) variety, depending on which chili pepper is used to fuse along with garlic, oil, vinegar, cumin and other spices.
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A post shared by Assata Walter (@assatawa) on Aug 9, 2018 at 12:58pm PDT
Where to Find It: This classic fare is found almost wherever Canarian food is served, including the rustic La Casona del Patio restaurant in Santiago del Teide.
AlmogroteEvery turophile — a connoisseur of cheese — will tell you that everything is better with cheese, and that’s valid when mojo is also involved. Melt sharp hard cheese into mojo (aka sauce), and you have almogrote, a delicious paste hailing from the nearby Canary Island of La Gomera. It’s perfect for dipping or spreading onto bread.
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A post shared by Zampones Sin Fronteras (@zampones) on Jun 14, 2019 at 5:09am PDT
Where to Find It: Though available wherever Canarian food is served, it’s the first course of every set menu at Bodeguita Canaria in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Cochino NegroWhile not as common as rabbit or goat, pork is prepared deliciously on the islands — but not from just any pig. Tenerife pork is highly regarded above all others because it’s locally sourced from a cochino negro, the “black pig,” which has been reintroduced and raised on the island. The endemic animal, with dark skin almost like a rhinoceros, is said to have more flavor than other swines, and it is served in the various ways that pork is prepared, from chorizo to albondigas (meatballs) — or even ground into burgers.
Where to Find It: For a true farm-to-table experience, head to Finca Alma de Trevejos in Vilaflor, a family-run eco farm that raises — as well as roasts — cochinos negros.
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A post shared by Anatoly Dementev (@vintlsib) on Apr 8, 2019 at 3:00am PDT
Pulpo and ChocoSince the Canary Islands is a group of isles surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, there’s no doubt that seafood is an integral part of local cuisine. While located on the west side of the Strait of Gibraltar, the Spanish archipelago takes some culinary cues from the Mediterranean, with dishes of choco (cuttlefish) and pulpo (octopus). These mollusks are often grilled simply, to let the flavor and texture shine through, and served with red peppers.
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A post shared by Pulpo Adicción (@pulpoadiccion) on Jun 14, 2019 at 9:35am PDT
Where to Find It: Pulpo is a specialty of the house at Casa Africa, a seaside restaurant in Taganana.
GofioTruly bridging the Old and New Worlds is gofio — a toasted flour of various grains, corn and chickpeas — that is also found in Latin American cooking. Gofio (as it was originally called by the natives of Gran Canaria island), is an essential and versatile Canarian ingredient that is served in different ways, from breakfast to evening dessert.
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A post shared by La Cuadra de San Diego (@lacuadradesandiego) on Jun 15, 2018 at 2:48am PDT
Gofio amasado takes the flour and mixes it with olive oil, honey, almonds and water, which is then pressed into a sausage shape and cut into medallions to be served with bread. Ecaldon de gofio is a traditional stew of spices, vegetables, onions and fish (or sometimes meat), thickened and flavored by the flour — a local favorite on a cold day.
Where to Find It: It’s served along with other tapas at Tasca El Obispado in La Laguna.