“Spanish cuisine does not follow trends, it sets them,” says Edgar Sanuy Barahona, culinary director of Epicurean Group’s Spanish division. We are discussing what it is about food from the country that has made it a common sight on the streets of Hong Kong – and around the world – in recent years. “Because it’s a produce-based cuisine, it doesn’t follow trends.You can have trends, like burgers and shakes, but rarely do these trends put emphasis on using good produce. Spanish cuisine, like Japanese, builds its foundations on good seasonal produce, and that is appreciated worldwide.” “Traditional Spanish cuisine is about proximity with emphasis on the freshness of the product,” agrees head chef Antonio Martin at Olé Spanish Restaurant in Central, one of the oldest Spanish eateries in Hong Kong. “People use the veggies and legumes from the garden next to their house, the meat from where they live, or fish and seafood if they live by the coast, and olive oil, pork fat or butter depending on which geographical area in Spain they are from.” 7 hottest new Hong Kong restaurants to try now dining out is a thing again According to Martin, Spanish cuisine is all about simplicity. “We believe that if you use fresh ingredients, you do not need much more. The mixing of many ingredients used to be seen as a way to mask something wrong with the quality. Traditional Spanish cuisine places more importance on the aroma and flavour than the visual effect of the dish.” The food across Spain also differs around the country, with each of the 16 regions producing a different cuisine. Andalusia is rural, coastal and home to the well known, hearty gazpacho. Valencia, also rural and coastal, is famous for its seafood, especially the paella. Then there is mountainous La Rioja, where you find cold cuts of pork and lamb as well as frittata. La Rambla by Catalunya, in Hong Kong’s upscale IFC Mall, serves dishes from Barcelona in the region of Catalonia. “Barcelona is located in the Mediterranean, so there tends to be a focus on fresh seafood and vegetables, which allows for clean eating,” says executive chef Ferran Tadeo. “For example, a typical Barcelonan dish tends to include rice combined with grilled fish and roasted vegetables. In contrast, Madrid, which is located in the centre of Spain, tends to have richer, heavier food such as soups, meat stews, and roast pork.” Hong Kong’s first sustainable bar – from the bartender behind The Old Man At Rubia, Epicurean Group’s Spanish steakhouse on Hollywood Road, Sanuy serves dishes using ingredients from Galicia, in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. “Galicia is the source of many famous Spanish products and is considered to be a premium producing region in Spain,” he says. “One of the reasons is its location in the north, where the cold weather of Galicia – similar to Hokkaido – results in some of the best seafood in Europe. The most famous Spanish beef comes from Galicia, the Rubia Gallega. Other famous food and items include octopus, Albariño and Godello wine, and one of the most famous Spanish beers, Estrella Galicia, which we serve on tap at Rubia. Another relevant product is the Padrón pepper. Padrón is actually a little town in Galicia.” While regional produce influences Spanish cuisine as we know it today, many ingredients originate from the cultures of migrants who settled in the country. For example, the Romans introduced the tradition of foraging for mushrooms. Along with the Greeks, they also brought in viticulture and olive oil cultivation. The Spanish can thank the Moors for their daily usage of rice, sugar cane, saffron and almonds, and the New World, to which Spanish commodores sailed, for chocolate, tomatoes, paprika, potatoes, peppers and vanilla. Spanish cuisine has exploded internationally over the past 20 years, from tapas bars and Spanish restaurants, to ingredients such as Iberico pork appearing on menus everywhere. Even Chinese restaurants serve Iberico char siu , while jamón and Spanish olives can be found in almost every deli or supermarket across the globe. Tapas started to infiltrate global cuisine in the 2000s. The simple sharing plates, reminiscent of summer holidays on the Costa Brava, soared in popularity. Snacks like patatas bravas, chorizo and several others are also perfect for diners craving a small bite over a full-blown meal. But it was Spanish chefs – brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià of El Bulli fame, and the Roca brothers Jordi, Joan and Josep of El Celler de Can Roca – who really made the F&B world sit up and take notice. The now closed El Bulli restaurant, which was in the town of Roses on the Costa Brava, topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list five times. El Celler de Can Roca in Girona in the northern part of Catalonia, received the honour twice. These visionary chefs not only modernised and reinterpreted their country’s ingredients but Western cuisine as a whole, even taking on their French neighbours as world leaders in haute cuisine. Which Hong Kong eatery serves a dish inspired by Bruce Lee’s yellow jumpsuit? Ferran, for example, is known for deconstructing popular dishes and reinventing them. He once described his cuisine to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants team as “taking a dish that is well known and transforming all its ingredients, or part of them, then modifying the dish’s texture, form and/or its temperature. Deconstructed, such a dish will preserve its essence … but its appearance will be radically different from the original”. La Rambla’s Tadeo, who worked under the tutelage of the Adrià brothers for many years, credits Ferran for the worldwide popularity that Spanish cuisine currently enjoys. “Ferran Adrià, known as one of the best chefs in the world, changed the way people see food with his creative presentations and revolutionary cooking techniques,” he says. “El Bulli was a revolutionary school for many famous chefs worldwide.” Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .