Talking about sardine espetos is like talking about the Costa del Sol. On your trip to Málaga you must try an 'espeto' (sardine skewer) right off the grill at one of the 'chiringuitos' (beach bars).
If you have ever been to Málaga, you have surely seen the "espeteros" grilling fish over the coals in boats on the beach. This tradition dates back to the 19th century and has been preserved until today, sardine espetos have become symbolic of Malaga's cuisine. Let's find out more about the history of this gastronomic delicacy.
What is an espeto?
To espetar (skewer) is to pierce several fish with a stick or reed in order to grill them. The sardine espeto is the most popular. Traditionally, the stick or reed is stuck in the sand near the grill or, in the case of the chiringuitos, in a boat full of charcoal.
This way of cooking has been handed down from generation to generation to the so-called 'amoragadores' (grillmeisters). Malagueños (people from Málaga) say that the best time to eat sardine espetos are during the months that don't have an "R" in them.
Origin of the espeto
In the 19th century, the province of Málaga lived mainly on fish. At that time, sardines were a food of the poor due to their low price. Those who lived on fish were often resigned to the fact that they had to eat the "bastina" (the leftovers of the fish).
At the end of the century, El Palo, which is now a district in the city of Málaga, was a fishing village with a great potential for socio-economic growth. With the arrival of the tramway and the train, malagueños from other areas began coming to El Palo to spend the day on the beach. It was at this time, in 1882 to be precise, when Miguel Martínez Soler, “Sardine Migué”, opened his famous beach bar: “La gran parada”. This would be the first of the many chiringuitos on the Costa del Sol and Soler was the first to skewer sardines on a reed and place them in the sand next to a fire.
“La gran parada” soon caught the attention not only of Malaga locals, but also of illustrious characters from Spanish history and became a reference point for Spaniards in the theatre business. These illustrious characters included the king Alfonso XII, who visited "La gran parada" on 21 January 1885. The king stopped by the chiringuito while he was on an official visit to look into an earthquake that had taken place in Axarquía. The historian Fernando Rueda describes the visit:
"When Miguel offered him one of his famous skewers, the King attacked the plate with a knife and fork. At that time, Miguel approached him and said, "Your Highness, not like that, with your fingers".
Miguel Martínez Soler is considered the "father of the espeteros" After him, many others appeared who turned the figure of an "espetero" into a profession that is passed down from generation to generation.
On your trip to Málaga you won't be able to see the legendary "La Gran Parada" but its legacy lives on and you'll be able to try a delicious sardine skewer in any chiringuito on the Costa del Sol.