An island tour of flavours of Tenerife

A couple of days ago I saw a map of Tenerife posted on Twitter which showed a handful of places on Tenerife with illustrations to show local culinary specialities associated with each. It was an interesting idea which got me thinking about the food we link to different areas based on our own experiences around the island.

There are some general rules when it comes to traditional Tenerife cuisine, like coastal areas are better for fish whereas inland towns and villages are the places to go for grilled meats and hearty stews. But some areas have quite specific foods linked to them. Here are ten examples starting with the island’s capital.

Parrot fish in Santa Cruz

Parrot fish, Tenerife
People who live in Santa Cruz are known as Chicharreros thanks to a liking for chicharro (horse mackerel) which was cheap and plentiful. But I’m picking another popular fish instead as it’s tastier, if more expensive – vieja (parrot fish). An official city guide we picked up on our first visit to the capital advised vieja was as popular with Santa Cruceros as chicharro and we’ve linked this tasty fish with the city ever since.

Cheese in Arico

Arico smoked cheese, Tenerife
If you drive along the old road in the south east hills which links the north with the south you pass a few small queserías (cheese-making farms). They’re not always easy to spot but if you venture along country lanes which link the road with the coast it’s not uncommon to pass herds of goats feasting on discarded excess tomatoes. Arico is especially renowned for its cheese, which regularly wins top awards. We particularly like the area’s smoked cheese (pictured).  Arico cheeses can be bought in most decent Canarian supermarkets.

Adeje’s garlic chicken

Garlic chicken, Adeje, Tenerife
The southern resort areas aren’t ideal places for seeking out the best of traditional Tenerife cuisine. However, travel a few minutes inland to Adeje Town and you’ll find a lip-smacking local speciality, pollo al ajillo (garlic chicken). We’d regularly take visiting friends and family to Otelo for a mountain of crispy, savoury chicken.

Mouth-burning cheese in Teno

Goats and tomatoes, Tenerife
You’re unlikely to find Teno cheese in the main Canarian supermarkets as production is really small scale. It takes a bit of effort to get some, maybe this is partly why we like it so much. One of our walking routes passes a cupboard-sized shop in Teno where, if it was open, we’d always pick up a couple of chunks of seriously strong semi-curado or an even stronger and curado which can be like the cheese version of Scotch bonnet chillies – so strong it burns.

Arroz caldoso in San Juan de la Rambla

Rice and seafood
Quite a few visitors to Tenerife ask about where to try paella. Forget paella, the speciality dish at Las Aguas in San Juan de la Rambla is arroz caldoso, more like a thick rice soup, with fish and/or seafood. Locals travel from all over to try the rice dishes here.

Sardines in Puerto de la Cruz

Sardinada, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife
There are plenty of good fish dishes to try around the harbour in Puerto de la Cruz, but the one we associate most with the town is the humble but tasty sardine. Each July a ‘sardinada’ is held where rows of blackened barbecues are set up in Plaza Europa and hundreds if not thousands of sardines are grilled and served with aniseed bread and a cup of beer or wine. Sardines are only good when there’s no R in the month, so winter visitors have to miss out on this one.

Gofio in La Orotava

Gofio bar, La Orotava, Tenerife
There are gofio mills in other traditional towns on Tenerife, but the ones in La Orotava especially stand out as a row of them were built in a line so they could share the same water. At least two of these mills still keep locals stocked up with this uniquely Canarian toasted flour. There are a few dishes in local restaurants which use gofio as an ingredient, but for something a bit different pop into Molino La Maquina and pick up a gofio energy bar.

Chestnuts in Acentejo

Chestnut honey, Acentejo, Tenerife
Acentejo encompasses a few municipalities along Tenerife’s north coast. It’s an area known for its wine and chestnuts. These feature more in the autumn months, with roasted chestnuts commonplace across Tenerife throughout November. A way to enjoy them all year round is to buy a jar of chestnut honey. It’s quite a different taste from other honeys – almost woody – but once you adjust to its intense flavour, it’s difficult to go back to run of the mill honeys.

Eels in Bajamar

Fisherman and moray eel, Bajamar, Tenerife
We discovered moray eel (morena) was a speciality around Bajamar in a quite brutal way. As we ate lunch in the Cofradia (restaurants run by the local fishing community) beside the town’s small harbour we watched a fisherman bash one’s head in a few feet away. Funnily enough we didn’t feel like ordering morena at that point, but vowed to try it at a later date. I like it, Andy is less keen.

Escaldón in Anaga

Escaldon, Anaga
To complete this culinary circuit of the island I’m ending at La Cueva in Anaga and another gofio dish, escaldón – a chunky paste made with gofio flour and stock. In truth it’s not my favourite Canarian dish. I don’t dislike it, but it is an acquired taste. However, I particularly like to watch friends who are escaldón ‘virgins’ try it for the first time. The cave restaurant in Anaga claims theirs is the best on Tenerife.

About Jack 469 Articles
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+

4 Comments

  1. As a frequent visitor to Tenerife your articles add a better understanding of the island and it’s culture, which is greatly appreciated, that in itself makes visiting a more enjoyable experience.
    Thank you

    • That’s a really good question and I don’t know the complete answer. There are about 130 species of crabs in the Canaries, of which only four are used in gastronomy. According to a paper by a Canarian marine scientist the smaller black shoreline crabs tend to be used more as bait.

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