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The skewered fish are cooked over hot charcoals on the beach. SUR
In search of the new king or queen of sardines

In search of the new king or queen of sardines

Ruta del Espeto. The competition to find the best fish cooked on skewers on the Costa del Sol starts today and continues until 18th June

Carmen Alcaraz

Friday, 2 June 2023

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Sardines on skewers, cooked over hot coals, have become a symbol of Malaga. This dish, which is popular throughout the summer, in all the months without an 'r', has transcended gourmet cooking and is now an icon.

The origins of the espeto as it is called , dates back almost 140 years to when Miguel Martínez Soler, a fisherman from El Palo known locally as Migué el de las sardinas, decided to thread the fish on canes stuck in the sand and roast them over hot charcoal next to his bar, La Gran Parada. This method of cooking intensified the flavours of the fish, added the smokiness of the coals and soon other seafood was also cooked this way.

It may sound like a simple method but in fact it needs a certain amount of skill to achieve a perfectly cooked sardine. Not only because of the high temperatures that the 'espeteros' have to endure (a secret passed on as a legacy between generations) but also because of the knowledge needed of the product, time and care needed. A true art that conquers and reconquers the diners that sample the result.

Espeto of sardines
Espeto of sardines Josele

However there are some basic rules to follow to be able to take part in this league of champions.

The first is always choosing the best quality product and the size, which must be consistent to ensure even cooking and that won't become dry or remain raw. The bones should be easy to remove, the skin crispy and the flesh moist and succulent after being over the intense fire for a few minutes each side.

In order to honour the espeto in the way that it deserves, SUR in English's sister paper, Diario SUR, has organised the sixth Ruta del Espeto, an important event for lovers of good food.

The event takes place from 2 until 18 June and is backed by the Sabor a Málaga brand and the Diputación Provincial de Málaga with the support of Cruzcampo and the Asociación de Chiringuitos (beach bars) de la Costa del Sol.

This year, a total of 42 establishments throughout the province will take part. Information on the bars and restaurants taking part are available at www.rutadelespeto.diariosur.es

Clients who vote for their favourite espeto will be entered into a draw for five vouchers, worth 50€ each, which can be used in one of the establishments chosen by the organiser. To take part, all you have to do is sample the espetos at the venues on the list and mark them from 1 to 10 on the official page of the competition: www.rutadelespeto.diariosur.es which is available from today.

The chiringuito that has the highest number of public votes will win 1,000 euros' worth of publicity in the SUR supplement, Málaga en la Mesa. A jury of experts, comprising of representatives from Sabor a Málaga, Cruzcampo, the Asociación de Chiringuitos and from SUR, including their food critic Enrique Bellver, will select the five candidates who will go forward to the final and who will have fifteen minutes to prepare the perfect espeto.

The candidate that prepares the best will be awarded the Premio al Mejor Espeto and given 3,000 euros of publicity.

Last year's winners

Last year, the jury's award went to Marina Playa, a family business with more than three decades of experience, and Narval Marisquería was selected with the best public rating.

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