Tenerife’s year-round warm climate draws millions of tourists annually. Most head to purpose built resorts on Tenerife’s south coast where many restaurants offer ‘international’ fare. What they rarely offer is traditional Canary Islands cuisine.
For anyone wanting an authentic taste of the island, you really need to get out of the resorts and explore the Tenerife where the locals live, work, play and eat.
To travel in Tenerife is easy and cheap. The local bus service connects most towns and villages. Buy a bono card (€15 and €25) for discounted fares.
Outside of the resorts, most restaurants only serve Canarian Food.Its unsophisticated cuisine consisting of rustic stews like puchero and grilled meats and fish served with local speciality papas arrugadas (salty, wrinkled potatoes). These come with mojo verde (a green sauce made from cilantro and garlic) and mojo rojo (a red sauce made from chillies, red peppers and garlic).
Good value main courses specialities are conejo en salmorejo (rabbit in savoury sauce), cabra (goat) and pollo al ajillo (garlic chicken) which is particularly lip-smacking at Otelo in Adeje. For fish lovers, cherne (wreckfish) is a meaty white fish whilst vieja (parrot fish – yes, it has a beak) is probably the islanders’ favourite fish.
Like the rest of Spain, the menú del día is a perfect way to sample local food at low prices – three courses plus a drink costs from €5 upwards – but also look out for platos combinados (combinations of dishes). These can be bizarre, like pork steak and fillet of cherne separated by coleslaw, French fries and a fried egg, and usually cost around €6.
When it comes to snacking, churros (similar to crinkled doughnut strips) with hot chocolate are popular breakfast and post-fiesta snacks whilst hamburguesas (burgers) never go out of vogue with young Tinerfeños. Seek out places advertising hamburguesas caseras (home-made) like Salina Express in Puerto de la Cruz (also does meat-free burgers) and La Oficina in El Sauzal where the chunky, meaty burgers are addictively good and a steal at €2.70.
Tenerife has strong links with South America and this is occasionally reflected in the cuisine. A sensational snack, and a personal favourite, is the arepa. These fried corn cakes from Venezuela have fillings ranging from carne mechada (spicy shredded beef) to reina (chicken, avocado and mayonnaise). Areperas are found in the bigger towns across Tenerife with one of the best being at the picnic zone in Santiago del Teide.
You can regularly eat creative local cuisine on Tenerife for next to nothing. Check cultural centres for posters advertising ruta de tapas (tapas routes) where participating bars and restaurants offer inventive tapas dishes with a glass of wine or beer for €2.50. They’re fantastic fun—you never know what will appear on your plate—and an excellent way to sample lots of Tenerife’s culinary goodies without spending much money. Additionally, as there’s a drink with each tapas, you end up pretty merry after visiting a few establishments; it’s all part of the experience.