Food spotlight: Basque in one of the world’s most fascinating cultures

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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.

Have you ever tried Basque food? Here and here are a couple of delicious and simple-to-prepare recipes. And please share your thoughts with the Shop Talk Blog community forum!

 

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Did you know: Bilbao’s Guggenheim

The Basque Country’s largest city, Bilbao, has seen a cultural renaissance in recent years, thanks in large part to the iconic Guggenheim Museum, which opened there in 1997.

 

50 comments on “Food spotlight: Basque in one of the world’s most fascinating cultures

  1. I so enjoyed reading the recipes from the areas mentioned.
    I do all my own cooking and enjoy trying recipes from other countries and regions.
    Thank you for sharing these recipes!
    I shall be on a search for fresh shrimp to prepare this new recipe!

  2. I have had many good Pintoxs. I especially love one that is a crostini with a smooth and creamy cheese roasted red peppers and an olive temenade. I have also enjoyed the cured ham and a cured sausage that had a mild kick of spice. I enjoy the blend of tomatoes, onion, garlic, seafood and salt cod in the tomato broth. That along with crusty bread and a good glass of white wine is a perfect dinner.

  3. There used to be a Basque Restaurant in San Diego. Supposedly the food was GREAT, but a lot of people didn’t like the “communal” way of sitting at a long table with strangers. Never went and have always regretted not checking them out!

    • I had a pintzos lunch at a restaurant in the Basque village of San Miguel, Spain in the fall of 2016. Delicious! One of the best little sandwiches was baguette slices topped with crabmeat. A variety of small tastes!

  4. I have never ate or even tried Basque food. It sounds and looks delicious. Plus, I’m always willing to try something new. Just to have something to talk about an have my own opinion on it.

  5. We took a bus trip to France too in high school and I spent my honeymoon in Paris too. It was fun. Loved the French bread and wine. We begged the bus driver to stop on the way home because we were supposed to bring wine and fresh French bread home to our parents but we drank it all on the bus so we stopped at the border and pooled our money and got more for our parents. It was fun.

  6. I like French Basque cooking best, not so many fish dishes, it is more common up in the mountain. Whenever possible you should try to eat at a Basque restaurant.

  7. I am also a full blooded Spaniard my dad was born in Salamanca, SPAIN and my mother was born in Hawaii in 1913 and my dad was born in 1912. We have a little close to where I live it’s called the Basque Restrauant. Never eaten there and I heard there food was not very good.
    Have you ever heard of the Spanish potato pancake. It’s made with sliced potatos onion, and scrambled eggs?

  8. In my culture sitting at long tables with strangers was done at least once a day, usually at lunch time, you had your choice ring your own lunch, or have the cafeteria lunch, they would sure have a problem at benni Hanna’s I look forward in going, never enough time to meet everbody on thus planet, what better way then sharing a table!

  9. I wonder if there are any places to try such food, hete in Las Vegas. Sounds yummy! I will check it out and let you know!

  10. I am not familiar with Basque cooking, I usually only like my seafood or fish by itself. I will say some of these recipies sound very intising to me. And as my Dad would have said, just try it, and if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it. But I know I surely will love one of them!

  11. If you haven’t visited San Sebastián, on the northwest Atlantic coast of Spain in the Basque region, put it on your bucket list! Beautiful old town with narrow street after street of little pintxo bars, many serving only one specialty. You bar hop all night having one drink, one taste, and move on to the next. Because of the Michelin starred restaurants in the area, the overall quality of all food is exceptional.
    You must go!

  12. I love the Basque region of Spain. San Sebastián is my favorite city and the pintxos are amazing! Of the four times I’ve been lucky enough to visit I have yet to complete a pintxos crawl…. just too many to choose from. And Michelin star restaurants are concentrated in this area. Akelare not only has a great view but fantastic chefs. You cannot go wrong with a trip to Northern Spain. Agur!

  13. Northern Nevada has been a gathering place for people of Basque heritage for 100 + years , their food & culture notwithstanding .
    It has been speculated that the Basque’s arrived in waling ships ( boats ) to settle in Spain / France , possibly from N. Japan .

  14. Yes, very interesting! I wish we had the dessert and cherry soup recipies. I did sign up for the newsletter from yr first link. Thanks.

  15. Spain has always been on my bucket list. My YDNA on my father’s side takes me back to the Basque Country and I don’t have a paper trail beyond North Ireland.
    I would love to know more about those people. Maybe a form of my surname exists there. I live in Mesa, AZ, USA, i’ll try to find a restaurant close by that serves their food.

  16. The Basque region is known for a dish called BASQUE BEANS, and they bake their bread in heavy pots, NOT loaf pans like most of us do. The Irish don’t come close enough, but they got creative dishes too.

  17. The Santa Fe Basque Restaurant and hotel is amazing. It is in Fresno, CA. They do have long tables to eat and that has never bothered us. Their house wine and spumoni ice cream are both wonderful assets to the meal.

  18. I am not very familiar with Basque cuisine, but I am always interested in trying new foods and experiencing new cultures and styles.

  19. There is a Bask community in Bakersfield, Ca. They have a small restaurant and whenever I,am in the area I,make it a point to go there. Good food. Great people.

  20. After reading all of this; all of the food sounds soooooo delicious! My mouth is literally watering right now! These are all dishes that I would LOVE to try~ If only I would be lucky enough to travel there. I think I will use the internet to look up many of these dishes and hopefully I can have a hand at trying to cook them at home for my family. We love Spanish, Latin and even Argentinian food. Would love to try Basque as well. Yummmmm!

  21. Some of the food sound like I would try it. There are no Basque food place I know of in the western New York area.

  22. I think the recipes that you provided sounds good and could be tasty and healthy for you.I might try the fish recipe and the chest dessert one.Thanks for the info and more receipts please

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