Why is the calamari sandwich so typical in Madrid?

Irene A.

Irene A.

I was born in Madrid, I am not Gato though. My favourite food is Spanish omelette with onions! On weekends I love hiking in the mountains of Madrid. I’m a big movie buff. One of my favourite Spanish movies is Primos, have you seen it?
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Madrid is located at least 360km away from the seaside but this doesn’t prevent us from saying that one of the star products of our gastronomy is the squid. But not of any kind: in Madrid it’s common to eat battered squids as a sandwich, usually together with a ‘caña’ – basic size of a glass of beer in Madrid – and the perfect place to eat them is certainly one of the bars at Plaza Mayor, only a few minutes walking from Spaneasy.
This imported product is as popular (or even more) as any other native and it is perceived as an identifying symbol by Madrilenians. The reason is a mystery that deserves to be looked into the history of our city. It seems that the importation of fish and shellfish in Madrid started for religious reasons. The catholic reform of the XVI century imposed a restriction on meat during certain religious feasts, such as the Lent, and this caused the importation of products from other regions. The squid features, being without bones and easy to preserve, made easier its transportation to Madrid without any loss.
The clues we have about the calamari, lead us to Andalusian gastronomy, where the battered fish is very common and it is known there as ‘pescaito frito’. In the same way it is related to people from other coastal regions of Spain, such as Asturias and Galicia.
Calamari sandwich is considered within the context of the authentic bars of Madrid, as a cheap snack you can eat any time during the day and has nothing to do with sophistication.
The most authentic profile of Madrid (and it can’t be any other way) consists in Plaza Mayor and its surroundings, where you can smell the fried calamari as soon as you enter the square. There you will see lots of bars and restaurants where you can try their calamari sandwiches like if it was a competition. According to the profile of the restaurant you will be able to see different modalities with a certain variety in prices and unfortunately some of them will try to trick tourists with exorbitant prices for a low quality.
If you want to go safe, many point out Casa Rúa or Los Galayos as places with a good value for money, besides being bars with an authentic Madrilenian charm. Anyway, you can perfectly try one between 2,90 and the 6,50 euros of the genuine and legendary El Brillante, the most popular place for a calamari sandwich.
If you’ve ever had the chance to try one, tell us what is your opinion in the comment section below, but careful! If you say you don’t like calamari sandwiches, be prepared to the reaction of people in Madrid, who will probably take it as a sacrilege.

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