The Basque people, who live in a semi-autonomous region of northern Spain as well as in southwestern France, are believed to be the direct descendants of farmers who settled in the area some 35,000 years ago, making them perhaps the oldest ethnic community in Europe. Their language, called Euskara, is unrelated to any other language in the world.
While its cuisine has been influenced by neighboring French and Spanish dishes, Basque food is a unique mix of seafood and fish especially salt cod as well as cured ham and other meats, and the region is host to some of the best restaurants in the world. Among the most iconic Basque foods and dishes (and our favorites) are:
- Marmitako: A hearty fish stew made from potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes, marmitako which means “from the pot” was originally eaten on fishing boats along the coast.
- Gateau Basque: Called Etxeko biskotxa in Basque, this traditional dessert is made from layers of wheat flour cake and filled with vanilla cream, almonds or cherries.
- Jambon de Bayonne: Taking its name from the port city of Bayonne in southern France, this ham is cured for seven to ten months. It’s slightly sweet and has a chewy texture.
- Gerezi beltza arno gorriakin: This one-of-a-kind cherry soup is served warm or cold. The cherries are poached in wine with sugar and served with sour cream or even ice cream.
- Fish soup: This hearty soup is made from onions, garlic, tomatoes, celery, parsley, white wine and thyme. Local fish, squid or shrimp are then added.
- Pintxos (the “tx” in Basque is pronounced like “ch”) are the Basque equivalent of Spanish tapas or finger food snacks and usually consist of small slices of bread topped with ingredients like cod, anchovy, peppers or potatoes and fastened with a toothpick.