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The Talisman Bocadillo

Every day in Barcelona I bought a jamón bocadillo from the market around the corner. It was a morning ritual. Before heading out on my explorations I would enter the bottom floor of the shopping mall near where I was staying. It was a hodgepodge food court of sorts which held an open grocery stall selling bottled refreshments, packaged desserts, and a few cheese selections.


The first day I bought one because I was hungry and couldn’t find anywhere open for breakfast. There they were stacked like bulbous bricks by the counter. They looked nourishing, welcoming, safe. I unwrapped the saran and devoured the semi-hard barra de pan, barely tasting the ham inside, before I even finished paying for it. 

Bocadillo-peppers-BT.JPEGThe second day I bought one because I was going on a long hike and didn’t know if I would be able to find food along the way. That bocadillo saved me from exhaustion during my excursion. Under the strain of the midday sun and the arduous walking nothing tasted as victorious as that bocadillo consumed with a tepid bottle of water.

Bocadillo-jamon-BT.JPEGThe third day I bought one because by that time the bocadillo had taken on the properties of a talisman to me. I couldn’t take on the city until I’d purchased my oblong baguette of jamón. Once I forgot it in my bag until returning home late at night — to find the bread soggy and the meat turned rancid in the heat of my backpack.   

Bocadillo-sandwich-BTStill I got them. The bocadillos became more than a means of sustenance. They were the key to getting me through a foreign city, the cipher to tackling a foreign tongue. They were my good luck charm, ensuring that I would survive the quotidian rigorous assaults to my senses. Traveling robs me of control and challenges my identity. To mitigate the fears that arise from such nudniks I always need a source of solace with me. In Barcelona, these little sandwiches were that source, edible tokens of consolation.



Serves 1                Total Time: 30 minutes [10 minutes preparation; 20 minutes cooking]


For the sandwich:

1 loaf of bread (either baguette or soft roll) 

2 thin slices pork loin

2 thin slices jamón serrano*

1 green bell peppers, sliced lengthwise 

1 large tomato, sliced in circles

2 Tbsp olive oil

Mojo picón sauce

Salt & black pepper


For the mojo picón sauce:

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1 Tbsp white vinegar

3 Tbsp olive oil

⅜ tsp smoked paprika

⅛ tsp ground cumin

Pinch of salt


For the mojo picón sauce:

  1. Mix the garlic, smoked paprika, and cumin in a small bowl.
  2. Beat in the olive oil and vinegar with a fork or whisk and add salt to taste.

For the jamón bocadillo: 

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan.
  2. Slice the green peppers and fry them in the oil for 10 minutes or until they are tender.
  3. Remove the peppers onto a plate and add salt to them.
  4. Place the pork loin slices in the same small saucepan of oil and sauté them for 3-4 minutes on one side, or until they are golden brown. Flip the slices onto their opposite side and cook to achieve same amount of color.
  5. Slice the bread in half and toast for 5 minutes or until lightly tanned.
  6. Drizzle each toast with olive oil.
  7. Place peppers, pork loin, tomatoes, and ham between the bread slices.
  8. Pour a bit of mojo picón sauce in between the meat layers or serve on the side as a dip. Enjoy! 

* BT Tip: The jamón Serrano is a relative of the famed jamón Iberico, but comes from Cerdos Blancos (white pigs). For those not eating meat, substitute sardines, omelet, or potatoes and beans for other delicious fillings.


89 replies »

  1. This is why I enjoy food so much. It can transcend itself, becoming something representative of connection, of memories, of a place we had strong feelings about. And the photos are so good, think I’m going to go have a snack now.

    • Hahaha…enjoy your snack. I agree food can represent so very much in our lives and reveal so much about the people we are and have become. Thanks so much for your visit.

  2. When I visited Barcelona not too long ago, I really enjoyed all the good food. But, yes, a bocadillo, is an excellent, quick and easy “meal”. It’s hard to beat the Spanish ham!

    • Haha, you are so right! It is hard to beat the Spanish ham. Thankfully I too was able to enjoy marvelous other dishes during my time in Barcelona: paella, patatas bravas, croquetas, boquerones….remembering all the fantastic dishes is making me hungry!

  3. Bocadillos are the best! They are the epitome of Spain! I can totally relate on the Bocadillo providing nourishment on a grueling and long walk–they really hit the spot. Whenever I first land in Spain, jamon and queso on bread is the first thing I get. Although, after a while, it can start to wear on you, haha!

    Thanks for reminding me of Spain!

    • You know! ☺️ Thankfully I didn’t get tired of them while in Barcelona, but I can understand that feeling. Has happened to me in other destinations. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  4. Your food photography is making my mouth water. (Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard…)

    It’s interesting how sometimes food can become representational of an experience, especially while travelling, isn’t it? For myself, I find those amazing food experiences can never be replicated in another time or place, even if the item itself isn’t unusual or exotic.

    • Hahaha. 😆 Thanks. I so agree with you. Food is so often much more than sustenance. It has been on my travels many things: a means of bonding, a comfort, an armor against the unknowns of travel life, and the memory of an entire city. And while I enjoy trying to create that dish again, as you say, it’s never the same.

  5. Such a warm post. Although, I have a confession. I’m not a fan of cure meats and Basil has a tough time convincing me to try them (like Jamon). My Spanish friend coaxed me and finally gave up. You have a way with words though. I would have tried it, had I been there with you. Sending you a warm hug!

    • Haha, that’s the best compliment, thank you! I never try to force feed my favorite dishes to friends, but it makes me happy to hear you say that you would’ve tried the jamón with me. So much of wanting to try a particular food has to do with how it’s presented, the texture, the aroma, and how comfortable you feel in the surroundings (also who you are with). Lots of love to you, my sweet and courageous friend. ❤️

      • Awww! Until we meet then! Keep some Jamon for me. I hear it tastes better with age? 🙂 Thank you for such a wonderful compliment. I must bear it mind when I go to the dentist. Haha. xoxo

    • I think you would too! Every part of a sandwich is so important and in this case – as you point out – the bread really helps give it a crunchy and delicious flavor. Thanks so much for stopping by. Wishing you a very wonderful new year!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by! It’s always so fun to chat with you. I’ve been rereading some of your older posts about Mumbai and Tangier and enjoying them hugely. Wishing you a New Year full of joy and wonder.

  6. I so enjoyed your ode to a sandwich. Intertwining the diversity of your days with the consistency of this delicacy is masterful. I can relate to your sentiment that travel robs you of control and challenges your identity. I too manage such discomforts on the road with little doses of consistency. For me, it is my travel blanky/sarong. If I have that with me, everything is going to be alright.

    • Thank you. I used to have a pair of travel shoes with a similar security blanket comfort, but sadly they fell apart after over a decade of service. I like that you have the same connection with your sarong; it seems so apropos for a seafaring spirit like you.

  7. You are wise to eat Spanish jamon, daily while in Spain. Glad you discovered it immediately to fuel you on your adventures. Can’t wait to hear more about them!

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