Skewers, and more specifically the sardine skewers (espetos de sardinas), are a Malaga cuisine classic. One of the most appreciated delicacies by locals and tourists. One of the most demanded specialties in beach bars and restaurants on the extensive coast of Malaga.
Malaga sardine skewers have become a sign of cultural identity. Sign recognized in the monument to the espetero that is in the Antonio Machado Promenade, next to the Beach of the Misericordia, in Malaga.
Eating Espetos in Malaga is an element of the way of life and feel of its people. Another of the singularities of the cuisine of Malaga. An additional attraction for tourists. An ancestral culinary specialty linked to Malaga and the rest of Andalusia. The sardine skewer is also linked to the popular festival of the moraga.
Groups and associations want to safeguard the knowledge and know-how associated with the preparation of the sardine skewer. They have therefore requested UNESCO to be declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
We can eat skewers of sardines and of other fish and mollusks in bars of almost all the coastal towns of Andalusia. The sardine skewers are the best known. However, there are many other fish that are cooked in the skewer. Other fish and mollusks that get that special flavor, when being strung in a cane and roasted in the embers on the sandy beaches. The horse mackerel, gilt-head bream and sea bass skewers are delicious. As well as the squid or octopus skewers. You still haven’t tried them?
The exact date of birth of the sardine skewer is unknown. There are historical records of its existence at the end of the 19th century. The painting La Moraga (1879), by the Malaga painter Horacio Lengo, reflects this way of cooking the sardines on the beaches of Malaga. A chronicle of the visit of king Alfonso XII to the Axarquía in January of 1885, notes that he tasted its famous skewers. The first establishment that commercially offered the sardine skewer already existed in El Palo, in 1882.
Local historians agree in pointing out that it was the fishermen who started this peculiar way of eating sardines in Malaga. That they used the surplus fish and the cane fields near the beach to cook in the skewer.
HOW TO COOK IT
Even when it looks simple, espeto has its tricks. To prepare it properly we need to skew the fish through its stomach and through a specific spine lateral with a previously prepared cane branch. After this, we need to stick the branch on the sand next to the fire and put coarse salt on the fish. In Costa del Sol it is common to do this in a boat full of sand where the fire is made so that the fish is grilled. We recommend you take a picture of this moment, so that besides the smell, you keep a memory of one of the most emblematic images of Malaga.
HOW TO EAT IT
Normally each espeto comes with four or five sardines. It is eaten with your hands. A touch of lemon is enough to condiment this feast that fills your palate with flavour. There is a Spanish expression to describe a very tasty meal: “está para chuparse los dedos” (it’s delicious enough to suck my fingers). This is precisely what people do after eating espeto, since its flavour is really intense and pleasant.
Espetos are made with sardines, although in time, some new varieties have been introduced. For this reason, some restaurants use gilt-head breams or even prawns, although this is not very usual. It is easier to see it as brochette than as espeto. There are also places where the cane branch has been replaced by a steel rib.
THE BEST DRINK
Espeto needs to be complemented with a very cold drink. If you are enjoying the summer in Costa del Sol, do not forget to take a seat at a beach bar and ask for some sardines with a beer or summer red wine. Although it can be accompanied with any kind of drink, these are the best options. The mixture gets explosive in your mouth with the marine flavour of the fish and the bitterness of the beer, or the soft texture of wine with lemon.
WHERE TO HAVE THE BEST ESPETOS
El Zagal, in El Palo (Malaga)
El Palo is one of the marine neighbourhoods in Malaga, with a long strong tradition of espetos. Here, at El Zagal beach bar, you can enjoy some delicious sardines while enjoying the sea breeze.
El Tintero, in El Palo (Málaga)
El Tintero is one of the most famous beach bars in El Palo. Its espetos are well-known in all the area but also you will be able to taste the best fried fish in Costa del Sol. The portions served are generous and we are sure you won’t believe it when they “auction” the fish. You’d rather discover it by yourself.
Tropicana Beach Bar, Málaga
Located in the central beach la Malagueta, its fame comes precisely due to its delicious sardine espetos. While you wait for your food, you’ll be able to see how they cook your dish in the boats near the sea.
El Espeto Beach Bar, Torremolinos
These magnificent traditional espetos from Malaga are cooked above embers. This venue shares the name with the traditional dish. Here you can taste delicious sardines with a cold beer in front of the Mediterranean Sea.
La Venus Fried-fish shop, Marbella
If Marbella is your destination, your restaurant is La Venus Fried-fish, where you will find the best espetos in town. Besides this dish, you can also enjoy your lunch having the best fried fish in the area. Squids, clams or prawns are also part of this unique and high-quality menu.
El Madero Beach Bar, Estepona
Its boat was named after the beach bar located in this special settlement facing one of the most beautiful beaches in Estepona, La Rada. Apart from your espeto you can enjoy a cold mojito, a recommended combination of the place.
Chiringuito Mauri, Nerja
Mauri Beach Bar is the most well-known place to taste some espetos in East Costa del Sol. At the seaside you will see a garden with views of the Mediterranean sea, the perfect spot to enjoy your food. The bar is also famous for its paellas, which is good because you can taste two traditional Spanish dishes in the same place.
The Soleo Marbella restaurant is another of the best options to taste delicious sardine skewers. In an elegant and glamorous atmosphere, with an exquisite and professional treatment, the sardine skewers of Soleo Marbella taste much better.
WHERE TO STAY
The best option to stay in Costa del Sol and enjoy its espetos is Fuerte Hoteles. The chain features branches where you can enjoy all of our services and the best each region has to offer. 60 years’ experience is the best guarantee. Marbella or Torrox are some of the spots where you can find these great hotels.