Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tasty Tuesday: El Museo del Jamón

Jamón is my new religion. I've been eating it (as well as salchichón and lomo) like it's my job.

The Spanish take their ham very seriously. It's revered; it's almost sacred. And who can blame them? It's so, so delicious. You just can't miss it, because there are tons and tons of legs of ham, hanging from the ceilings of lots of restaurants, shops, bars, supermarkets, and other establishments here.

Where I live in Canada, only the lowest-grade Spanish ham (jamón serrano) is available near me, and it's super expensive - the equivalent of 1 € per slice. The last time I had some at home was from Michaelangelo's supermarket, $6 for five slices. Yikes!

Apart from going to the supermarket, the cheapest place to enjoy Spanish ham in Spain is at the popular tourist haunt, El Muséo del Jamón ("The Ham Museum").

I have to add that I'm a fan of Spanish tourist places. You see, in pretty much everywhere else in the world, tourist places are traps. They hawk poor-quality products for ridiculously inflated prices. However, I've noticed that here in Spain, shops and restaurants geared towards tourists are also frequented by locals, which means that the prices and quality are pretty decent.

El Muséo del Jamón is a chain of restaurants that can be found pretty much all over Spain. Here in Madrid they are absolutely everywhere. There's usually a standing bar and a sit-down area (where prices are higher!), where you can sample a huge variety of Spanish cured meats, sausages, sandwiches, as well as other typically Spanish foods (paella, calamari, garlic shrimp, etc.).

Jamón, of course, is a must-try. The good museum features three types: serrano (lowest grade, about 2,50 € per plate at the time of publication - pictured below), Salamanca (mid-grade, 4,20 €) and ibérico (the good stuff, which costs about 14,00 € a plate!). The difference is in the breed of pig and what they're fed - the best and most expensive kind of ham is jamón ibérico de bellota, which is a breed of black-hoofed pigs unique to Spain that are fed only acorn.

Other great things to try here include salchichón, which is a kind of cured, Spanish sausage. Don't mistake this for chorizo, which has paprika in it and is smoky and spicy - personally, I prefer salchichón, with the yummy peppercorns esconced inside. Lomo, cured meat made with pork tenderloin, is also worth trying. The queso de Manchego (Spanish cured cheese) is tasty as well, although it's a bit overpriced, in my opinion.

I'd stay away from the paella, because you should probably go to a specialty restaurant for that, and I also wouldn't have their platos combinados (platters with meat, potatoes and salad) because you could find cheaper and probably better versions at local restaurants.

In this economy, they've also released a value menu where certain sandwiches and drinks (pop, beer and water) only cost 1 €, so it's entirely possible to have a decent, filling meal for 2 €. Amazing.

So if you want to grab a quick bite to eat in Spain and experience a vital part of Spanish culinary culture at the same time, I'd suggest that you visit El Museo del Jamón.

Photos were taken at the following location:
Calle Mayor, 7
28013 Madrid

***P.S. I have a new posting schedule! I'll be posting on my blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and there will be new videos up on my Youtube channel every Wednesday - I hope you keep up with me! :D XOXOXO

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