The coolest Málaga: the season of espetos is now open
It is undoubtedly the most emblematic dish of popular Málaga cuisine.
The espeto is revered in Málaga for its quality and flavor, for the way it is cooked, the uniqueness of the boats in which it is cooked and for having crossed the borders of the city and become a gastronomic reference both inland and on the Costa del Sol.
This dish is so special that it even has its own gastronomic route. We tell you about the most significant characteristics of this delicacy and a lot of curiosities that you probably didn't know.
What is an espeto?
“Espetar” is to skewer the fish on a piece of reed and roast it over a fire on the sand on the beach. But we have to go back almost a century and a half to understand the origin of espeto de sardinas. It was the fisherman from Palencia known as the 'padre de los espetos' (‘father of the espetos’), Miguel Martínes Soler or 'Migué el de las sardinas', who first skewered one of these fish on a rod and grilled it on the sand of the beach.
Although it may seem easy, not everyone knows the art of cooking an espeto, its technique and how to get the best flavor out of it. This tradition has been passed down from father to son and has become specialized in a trade commonly known as "espetero”.
Better in the months without R
Although in the capital you can eat sardine skewers all year round, the truth is that there is a saying that sardine skewers in Málaga are better in the months without R, that is, from May to August. However, there are those who are more refined and say that from Carmen to La Victoria (from 16th July to 8th September), when this fish has full fat, a fat that contains the beneficial omega 3.
The Málaga sardine is a different one. It is a small blue fish, almost the size of a finger, which acquires its characteristics from the area where it is caught: the Mediterranean Sea, waters that, as they have higher temperatures, increase the amount of plankton, allowing the fish to eat more and thus increase its fat percentage and, therefore, its flavor.
Nowadays, to prepare an espeto de sardinas, you need a small boat filled with sand from the beach, wood to light the fire, fresh sardines from Málaga, salt, and reeds to skewer them. Then, the fish loins are skewered with the reeds and salted, and then placed on the embers so that they are cooked with just the right amount of heat. The hands of an expert espetero will do the rest..
Sorting the sardines on the tiller, placing them at the right distance from the coals, turning them so that they are cooked on both sides, ensuring that they are neither raw nor dry and giving them the right amount of salt are all part of this traditional process.
Oh! The espeto is eaten using your fingers.
Where to eat espetos in Málaga
Málaga is full of chiringuitos (beach bars) and seaside bars where you can enjoy a good espeto. From the old fishermen's bars in Pedregalejo and El Palo, to the beaches of La Malagueta, Huelin or La Misericordia, the city's coastline offers countless options to enjoy this exquisite dish.
Did you know…?
Espeto de sardinas is so popular and loved that it even has a gastronomic route dedicated to it. This year the 5th Espeto Route (in Spanish ‘V Ruta del Espeto’) will be held, an initiative of Sabor a Málaga, which aims to highlight the value of this dish and support its candidacy as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. More information is available here.