One Bite at a Time: Eating in San Sebastian

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san sebastian

San Sebastián is in the heart of Basque Country

San Sebastián is a Spanish coastal city in Basque Country. It also has the good fortune of being located on the southern end of the Bay of Biscay and a mere 12 miles from the French border.

Basque Country refers to the name given to the home of the Basque people in the region that straddles the border between France and Spain on the Atlantic coast.

While the international waves crash together on the shoreline, the combination of Spanish and French cuisine collide quite often here, creating a magnificent  combination of two very distinct cuisines.

Fun Fact: San Sebastián was selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2016 (shared with Wrocław, Poland).

San Sebastián Restaurants

San Sebastián and its surrounding area has the 2nd highest number of restaurants per capital in the world that have been awarded Michelin stars (Kyoto, Japan is #1.)

Fun Fact: Michelin stars are awarded by the oldest European hotel and restaurant reference guide, The Michelin Guide. The Stars are highly coveted  and hard to achieve. Additionally, based on the 2013 ranking, two of the world’s top ten best restaurants can be found San Sebastián .

Check out: San Sebastián’s Best Restaurants

Basque Cuisine

The Basque people, like any area of the world, have cultivated their cuisine based on what their region has to offer. This particular area has fresh fish and seafood from the coast and fresh meat, vegetables, and legumes from further inland.

Olive oil, tomatoes and a variety of peppers also feature quite a bit in Basque cuisine.

Grilling, while simple in its concept, takes generations to perfect, and the Basque people have genuinely mastered this art. You haven’t tried grilled fish until you’ve tried Basque grilled fish. Don’t miss out on this local treasure.

Pintxos (tapas)

Pintxos (or Pinchos if you are not in Basque Country) are the region’s version of tapas–small appetizers designed to be shared and eaten in a social setting. The main difference being that pintxos are traditionally served on a skewer or toothpick, and typically include a piece of bread.

Bars all of over the city feature these tasty snacks but be sure to check out the Old Quarter, where pintxos are especially prominent.

San Sebastian Pintxos

Check out: The 9 Best Pintxos Bars in San Sebastian and What to Eat There

KokotxasSan Sebastian Kokotxas

Kokotxas is kind of hard to describe and also hard to find outside of Basque Country. It is the part of the fish head just under the mouth, sort of like the double chin of the fish. It has also been referred to as “fish cheeks”.

Traditionally, kokotxas is cooked in a Pil-Pil sauce (a combination of garlic, dry chilies, olive oil, and water or fish stock). While the fish cooks it releases a gelatin that mixes with all of the other ingredients and creates this truly amazing and unique regional dish.

Mamia or Cuajada (milk curd)

Traditionally, Cuajada is made from goat’s milk and served as a dessert with honey and walnuts or sometimes sugar. It is prepared by warming the raw milk and mixing in rennet or plant extracts and letting it curdle. Cuajada means ‘curdled’ in Spanish. In Basque, it is called mamia.

Marmitako (tuna pot)

Marmitako means ‘from the pot’ and is a fish stew traditionally eaten on tuna fishing boats. Today it is a simple dish with potatoes, onions, peppers, and tomatoes.

San Sebastian Marmitako


Piperrada (PipSan Sebastian Piperradaerade in French) is a typical Basque dish prepared with sauteed onion, green and red peppers, and tomatoes. It is often served as a side dish or may include egg, garlic or ham and served as a main course.

One more thing…

Are you planning a trip to the Michelin Starred Basque country of San Sebastian? If you are we hope your travel plan includes a medical emergency plan. Have you ever thought about how you will get home (and how you will pay for it) if you are far from home and have a medical emergency? We don’t want you to be stuck in this situation. If you are traveling the world, please have a medical plan.

Don’t have a plan?


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