A spate of travel blogs about Tenerife following an organised blog trip by a UK low cost airline had me pondering about authentic Canarian food on Tenerife. The line in one of the blogs which prompted this bout of pondering was this:
“The most authentic dish you can order anywhere in Tenerife has to be huevos estrellados or as it’s sometimes known, huevos al estampido.”
These huevos al estampido were the big hit of Tenerife gastronomy with the visiting bloggers, and the dish was raved about in nearly all the travel blogs written following the trip.
I’m seriously familiar with huevos al estampido as I went through a spate of ordering dishes with differing names which all turned out to be a variation of huevos al estampido. In fact, this talent for accidentally ordering them follows me to other countries. In Portugal I’ve been caught out a couple of times by unfamiliar dishes on a menu which turned out to be… basically, egg and chips.
Huevos al estampido, huevos rotos, huevos estrellados, ovos mexidos – all egg and chips, usually with chorizo and maybe a few other slight variations. Egg and chips. No wonder it was so popular with the bloggers. It’s familiar comfort food, and it is tasty, especially with the added chorizo. After my initial disappointment at ordering egg and chips again, I always enjoy it.
But the most authentic dish on Tenerife? I have to disagree with that claim.
So what is the most authentic dish on Tenerife?
Papas arrugadas? Just about every article written about Tenerife and Canary Island gastronomy references these salty, wrinkled potatoes which are usually accompanied by mojos (sauces). It’s one of the only few authentic local foods even visitors who never leave purpose built resorts can’t avoid. I can’t remember staying in a resort hotel which didn’t include them as part of the dinner buffet. Mostly the potatoes aren’t the truly authentic papas arrugadas, but at least they’re a close(ish) relation to the real thing.
However, although often eaten with mojos as a tapas, they are more of an accompaniment themselves than a fully fledged dish.
Maybe the most authentic dish is vieja, or lapas? Cabra or conejo en salmorejo? Ropa vieja or potaje de berros? Queso asado or costillas con papas y de piña de millo?
Talking about queso asado (grilled cheese), whilst researching to see what others viewed as authentic Canarian cuisine I came across a food blog where the author was less than impressed with queso asado, writing “Have you ever tried to eat a soggy eraser?”
I think she felt the restaurant was to blame, but queso asado is often a bit like that, on the rubbery side. It’s not my favourite cheese even though I order it every now and again, yet a friend loves it and orders it every time we eat out together.
Returning to the pondering about the most authentic Tenerife dish, it’s not gofio as that isn’t a dish. So what is it?
Obviously claiming something is the “most authentic dish you can order” is hugely subjective. But after much deliberating, cogitating and digesting, I’m going to suggest a dish I’m not even that keen on – puchero. It’s what we refer to as an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink stew. You tend to see it scrawled on blackboards in front of restaurants in traditional parts of Tenerife. Sometimes it’s only available on certain days; sometimes you have to order it in advance – those are the truly authentic ones.
But why choose puchero over all the other potentials?
For a start, it’s been around for a long, long time. I’ve seen puchero referenced as being an authentic Canarian dish in the writings of 19th century travellers. But the thing that swayed me most was it was the dish chosen, with the approval of the Canary Island Government, by maestro Catalan chef Ferrán Adriá as the most emblematic Canarian dish when he, and catering students on all the islands, gave it a contemporary makeover it in 2018. A ‘foreigner’ rebooting a Canarian dish didn’t go down well with all locals, even if the actual dish he produced did… go down well that is.
Puchero is a hotchpotch which reflects the Canary Islands and their inhabitants. Its base may come from similar Spanish stews; however, it’s the additions which make it uniquely Canarian. It’s a culinary collaboration of the various nationalities which have settled the archipelago – sweet potato and corn from the New World; the spicy sauces (mojos) which accompany some versions were introduced by the Portuguese; and another traditional accompaniment, escaldón de gofio represents the pre-conquest inhabitants, the Guanche.
It’s difficult to think of anything more authentically Canarian than that mezcla.