Top 5 Supermarket Finds: Spanish Edition

Good morning! Hope everyone at home is enjoying the Fourth of July long weekend!

Today is a lazy Sunday morning – nearly 11 a.m. and I’m still lounging around in pajamas. I figured since I’ve already been glued to the computer for the past hour that I should take the time to post about something very dear to my heart…. grocery store products!

The supermarket is probably my favorite place to go shopping. Maybe it’s because of the relatively cheap prices of the products  after living in a bunch of different places it’s interesting for me to check out what each store carries compared to other parts of the country/globe. Plus you get a glimpse into the daily life of the native people of a certain region, aka what they eat on a daily basis!

So now that you know that I spend a lot of my time at Spanish supermarkets noisily looking into other’s shopping baskets searching for unique products we don’t have in the Chicago-land area – I thought I’d share some of the very best!

In no particular order (well except for number one, it actually IS the best thing your money can buy here)….

Best Supermarket Products! 2011 Ray Edition

1) Nocilla

The is the Spaniard’s version of Nutella (the latter I believe comes from Italy) – It’s a smooth peanut butter-like spread made with hazelnuts and chocolate. It’s marketed mainly to kids as a merienda (a pre-dinner snack) (ha yes here in Spain they have specific names for their snack times depending on what time of day it is, pretty cool huh??) But even though Nocilla is suppose to be a snack for growing kiddos, there’s no reason it can’t be enjoyed by 24 year-olds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, right? 😉

This was one of the first products I fell in love with from Spain – the first time I tried it (Thanks Hillary!) was when I studied abroad in Madrid back in 2007… and it’s been an obsession ever since….

See? It’s the Spanish version of peanut butter only 10X more delicious and addicting. I love Nocilla so much that we have to keep it “out of reach” in the top cabinet of the kitchen…. if it didn’t have said “hiding place” I can’t imagine how many containers of it we would go through in a week…

2) Parodontax Toothpaste

Excellent for removing Nocilla from crevices of teeth

Admittedly this is a product that Diego raves about more than me… but I have to say it’s the most interesting tooth paste I’ve ever tried.

First off – the package claims that its main ingredients are plant derived (I’ve never researched it but from the taste of the toothpaste I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t have any of the “normal” toothpaste chemicals).

I was a little grossed out by its color at first (red/pink) and its salty taste and grimy texture but after the shock factor wore off I decided that I approved of this strange European “natural” toothpaste.

Additional plus factor: my live in pharmacist claims that it does wonders to prevent gum disease – Who can argue with that?

 3) Mejillones de lata en escabeche

(Canned mussels in a weird brown oil-sauce) <— Oxford dictionary translaiton 😉

Because Spain is a peninsula surround by such large bodies of water as the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, seafood is much more abundant here than in Midwestern USA. At home I’ve only seen canned tuna and sardines – but here there’s a whole isle of the supermarket dedicated to canned ocean delights.

My current favorite happens to be these mussels – but I’m not positive if I love the seafood itself or the sauce that they come “swimming in”. In any case, a can of these babies makes a great salad topper – or can just  be eaten straight from the can 🙂 (I’m quite a culinary expert huh?)

As for this escabeche sauce… I’m looking at the ingredients list to see what gives it its distinctive flavor but the descriptions are rather vague. It reads: olive oil, vinegar, salt, and spices. Hmmm, I’ll have to do some further research to see what kinds of spices are actually used. Either way though, these are delicious!

4) Membrillo

Another sweet treat that you eat by spreading onto bread! I would describe membrillo as a really dense jelly/jam which holds it’s shape like Jello does. Unlike Jello though,  membrillo doesn’t come from a packet of powder – but from a fruit called quince.

We definitely don’t have this fruit growing in my part of the US – do you? After a Wikipedia fact check, I see that quince comes from Asia and is a relative of the apple and the pear (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quince) Who knew?

Here I’ve seen membrillo consumed by itself spread on bread/toast or combined with a soft white cold cheese and eaten together as a dessert. So tasty and simple!

Why do we make our desserts so complicated in the US?

Because more the more unhealthy ingredients you can squeeze onto a plate - the better the dessert

5) Fairy dish washing liquid

I’ve seen this brand of dish soap in many of the Spanish households that I’ve visited. I never paid much attention to it until Diego discovered that they sold Fairy dish soap in Sydney and had us buy it for our apartment there. Since then I’ve been a believer.

Ha I usually only get obsessed with food and beauty products – this is the first time in my that I feel a cleaning product is worth raving about. But seriously, you use only a tiny amount and it makes so much suds! A bottle of the Green Stuff lasts for ages!

My final comment about Fairy is to say that one of my English co-workers in Sydney called all dish soap “fairy” the way an American would call all glass cleaning spray by the brand name Windex. This leads me to believe that Fairy dominates the dish washing soap market of England as well as of Spain. (and two European countries can’t be wrong!)

It’s about time to wrap up this Consumer Reports type post and enjoy Sunday! Have a wonderful holiday USA – I’m already planning some 4th of July surprises for Monday here in Gijón 🙂

Photo links

http://britgrocer.com/shop/home.php?cat=296&sort=orderby&sort_direction=0
http://elhematocritico.blogspot.com/2008/03/la-contraportada-de-nocilla-experience.html
http://lescasesdearriba.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/avellanas-chocolate-nocilla/
http://jamonpremium.es/mejillones-en-escabeche-balea-lata-de-490g
http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Articles/Ethnic-Unique-Foods-Ingredients-645/quince-paste.aspx
http://www.restaurante-gallego-valencia.es/carta-platos/plato.php?Link=queso-tetilla-membrillo

http://www.nutricentre.com/images/product/medium/STA32.jpg
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3 thoughts on “Top 5 Supermarket Finds: Spanish Edition

  1. Parodontax Toothpaste: Do you think it could be pink baking soda? That would check out with the salty taste and gritty texture.

    • you’re right! here’s the ingredient list:
      Ingredients:Sodium Bicarbonate, aqua, glycerin, cocamidopropyl betaine, alcohol, krameria triandra, mentha piperita, mentha arvensis, echinacea purpurea, commiphora myrrha, chamomilla recutita, salvia offinalis, sodium fluoride, xanthan gum, sodium saccharin, sodium benzoate, limonene, Cl 77491.

      I can’t believe I didn’t think of that – I guess my brain is programmed to think that toothpaste should look and taste like Crest products 🙂

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