el paraiso del jamon, madrid
With a halo of fluorescence, El Paraiso Del Jamon is a beacon of all things cured and porky in downtown Madrid. Upon the sight of so many luscious hams hanging by the hoof, we were on cloud nine and floated straight in.
Ham on the walls, on the counter and the best hams – the jamon iberico de bellota – hung proudly above us. It was ham heaven. Through the haze of cigarette smoke, the suspended legs gleamed with sweat, queues of them waiting to be consumed.
(Yes, that’s the price on the red board – 27.50 Euros a kilo bought by the leg, compared to a whopping $300+/kg in Perth. Best to eat up while in Madrid!)
Little cups for catching the juices.The hooves are exposed to show the breed of pig.
There are four major types of Spanish dry cured hams. The most commonly known (and most affordable) is jamon serrano (‘mountain ham’) usually comes from plain old white pigs fed on compound cereals.
The best hams come from Iberian pigs, of which there are three distinct types of hams often called ‘pata negra’ because of their cute black hooves. Jamon iberico is simply ham from Iberian pigs fed a compound diet. Jamon iberico de recebo are from Iberian pigs with some acorns in their diet.
The big daddy is the jamon iberico de bellota. These pigs live the high life, free ranging on mountain pastures, snaffling roots and herbs and fattened on oak acorns. That is, until they are slaughtered and arrive somewhere like El Paraiso.
No, not all locals look so wannabe gangster (complete with gold chain) but the locals love the deli here.
Hand carved jamon iberico de bellota.
Some three years ago we fell in love with jamon. And by the time we reached Madrid, it seemed we’d been waiting a lifetime to stuff ourselves silly – just like the pigs did before their delectable demise!
The first night we ordered a sampler plate comprised of four hams – serrano, lomo, jamon and jamon iberico de bellota – topped off with thick wedges of sheep’s milk manchego. Deliciously salty and indulgent.
The blob of potato salad bound by copious amounts of white mayonnaise is oddly called Russian salad.
I have no idea why it’s called Russian salad but it’s probably related to Spain’s fascist past… Studded with piquillo peppers and slathered with garlic mayonnaise, we mop up the silky salad with the crusty bread, which is compulsory with every meal.
We loved the ham so much we come back for a second round! We decide to go the whole hog (sorry for the pun) and order a plate of jamon iberico de bellota. It’s always cut to order off the leg (complete with black hoof), the trained sharp blade carving through the thick ivory white fat.
We devour every slice with patient fervour, chewing the smooth, melting fat. The deep, nutty, almost sweet, woody taste of the flesh exaggerates the richness of the fat.
Blame it on the phenomenon of food always tasting better on holidays but, compared to home, halfway around the world, somehow jamon tastes sweeter in Madrid.
A close up of, I reckon, the best ham in the world.
Little cups to catch the curing juices.
El Paraiso Del Jamon
C/ San Bernardo, 8, 28015 Madrid, Spain
T: 915 226 044
Metro: Santo Domingo
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