Food and drink

World’s best dishes: Spanish omelette

Borja Sanchez travels 6,600 miles to seek out the tortilla of titans

Spanish cuisine is mostly about regional food, with one key exception: the tortilla de patatas – Spanish omelette.

The recipe is simple: olive oil, potatoes and eggs – but Spaniards take it very seriously (and most people claim their mother’s tortilla is the best).

The dish originated in northern Spain’s Basque region. During the First Carlist War, a civil war fought in Spain almost 200 years ago, Carlist general Tomás de Zumalacárregui had to find a way to feed his army with the limited produce available as his forces attacked Bilbao.

In one rendition of the story, Zumalacárregui came across a farmhouse and demanded a meal from the farmer’s wife, who whipped up a simple omelette with the only ingredients she had: eggs, a potato and an onion.

Whether true or not, the popularity of the tortilla spread as the war dragged on.

Since then, the dish has become a national staple. It can be eaten at any time of day, as a snack or as a meal.

In Spain’s northwestern Galicia region, where potatoes first arrived from America, the town of Betanzos is famous for its runny egg tortilla. Restaurants there claim that overcooking tortilla is as bad as overcooking fish or steak. One of my favourite spots is Mesón O Pote, which has previously won a national prize for best tortilla.

At Cassio we serve three types of tortilla, made with the same philosophy: using the best quality ingredients (runny Japanese eggs and Spanish Agria potatoes) cooked in a simple way.

Borja Sanchez is the general manager of Spanish restaurant Cassio in Hong Kong.

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