Fried Pig Face (and other food adventures) in Salamanca
I arrived in Salamanca at dusk, and it just so happened to be the perfect time of day to see the famous Plaza Mayor - considered by many to be the most beautiful plaza in Spain.
At night it’s pretty stunning, too.
Actually, the whole town is beautiful.
I think it’s because the buildings are uniformly this warm, golden color.
Right down to the Roman bridge.
But now on to the eating!
One of the foods that Salamanca is known for is the Hornazo - a pastry filled with chorizo, marinated pork loin, ham, and egg. Wherever you go in Salamanca, the Hornazo will have these specific ingredients. Any variation, and it’ll be called an empanada or something else to differentiate.
I’d read that one of the best places to get one was at Confitería la Industrial, so I figured that would be a good place to start.
The Hornazo is displayed in the middle here.
This was a great snack to munch on while walking around Salamanca, after the very light lunch of avocado toast I had had in Madrid. Quite firm and rather salty, with a buttery crust, it was a hefty slab of basically solid meat.
The next morning, I tried a different Hornazo, from a bakery I passed by on the way to the bus station.
Here, the pastry was more blond, and the ratio of filling to crust was more generous. Though at this point, I realized what I was missing from the Hornazo. I missed a kind of juiciness and warmth from it - both Hornazos were rather dry and dense, and cold. Cold chorizo isn’t so strange to me, but eating cold pork loin made me yearn for something freshly baked.
Continuing the meat trend, the first night I headed to Bar La Viga, for another specialty of Salamanca.
This bar was quite a character: posted on the walls were signs like “We don’t serve stag/hen parties,” “Singing prohibited,” and “For hygiene reasons, putting children on the bar is prohibited.”
Right on the napkin, they put the list of their specialties, with the number one item being what I was going for.
Fried pig face! Of course, cut up like this, it’s really not too different from any other kind of fried pig skin, with the best parts being the crunchy top layer, with the parts getting chewier and fatter underneath being less enjoyable. And it’s more sustainable this way, right? Truly nose to tail eating.
That first night, I proceeded to go for more tapas at Cuzco Bodega. Since it was early for dinner, I nabbed a coveted table outside.
I first had a oxtail mini burger. The oxtail had a delightful crispiness on the outside of the burger, but a rather sweet sauce detracted from the overall flavor.
Then I had the mini burrito of duck confit. Here, I wish there was more duck, and I was put off by the inclusion of cheese. And it was topped once again with a sticky sweet sauce! Why!
Now, it probably sounds like I hated the food, but it was really not too bad. And the service was really friendly. So, being on vacation, I went for their Tiramisu to finish off. It was okay, nothing too special.
My second night, I went to a restaurant called Tapas 3.0, about which I had read many good reviews.
I was also lucky to be able to get a table here, and I was glad to be seated inside at a proper table, since it was cold out. Each table was set with this rather large loaf of bread.
I started out with croquetas of jamón ibérico. These were okay, but just a bit too firm and cold in the centers.
The winner of the night was the “Manitas de cerdo deshuesadas y fritas con mostaza y encurtidos.” That means, de-boned pig trotters fried and served with mustard and pickles. This was delicious!
The pig trotter was recomposed into a cube, with chunks of meat bound together with gooeyness and juiciness. The mustard and pickled pearl onions cut the unctuousness skillfully.
Now, for my third and final dish, I ordered the tostón, also known as cochinillo, or roasted pig suckling. This was super recommended by the waitress as a special of the day, and she promoted it as being crispy on the outside and very tender on the inside. I had tried it once in Segovia, where it’s a famous dish, and I didn’t like it very much. The skin was too tough - couldn’t come close to a good roast pork from any American Chinatown. But I thought I would give it another try here, in the land of meat. I asked the waitress if it would be too much food for one person, and she assured me it wouldn’t be.
It absolutely was too much food. Though to the credit of Tapas 3.0, the meat was indeed super tender, and the skin was indeed crispy. It proved to me that there did exist good roast pork in Spain.
But at this point I actually started to feel unwell. I thought it was because of having had too much rich food, but over the next 48 hours, I actually suffered from a horrible stomach virus. I won’t go into gory details, but let’s just say that I wish I had had a private hotel room, rather than an Airbnb with shared bathroom.
On that pleasant note, let’s get back to the food, shall we?
The day before getting sick, I did get to try buñuelos de viento. They’re supposed to have originated in Valencia, of all places, but strangely they’re hard to find here, even around All Saints’ Day when they are traditional. In Salamanca, in contrast, they were everywhere that weekend of All Saints’ Day.
They’re like cream puffs, but the shell is much more delicate and thin, with a more favorable proportion of cream filling. They could be filled with whipped cream (my favorite), pastry cream, or chocolate whipped cream. I had a little cupful of these.
The typical Salamanca sweet is the maimón, and for that I went to another well-known pastry shop, Confitería Gil. They say the maimón has Arabic origins, hence this unique name.
There, the lady told me that a maimón only comes in a huge size, and she encouraged me to try the mini ones instead. They go by a different name, but she assured me that it was exactly the same dough as maimón. That was a smart suggestion.
What makes the maimón distinctive is the use of lots of egg. And the texture of the cake was unlike any I’d tried before. It was actually rather brittle and thirst-inducing. When my roommate tried it, he said it dried up his whole mouth!
So this was the totality of my food adventures in Salamanca. Unfortunately, due to the horrible stomach virus contracted somewhere on this trip, I left some specialties untried. I guess there’s always “next time”?