As you may have noticed by reading our posts on València, there are many appeal of this city. And among these there is certainly food. Sitting at the table and tasting the Valencian specialties is a pleasure that cannot be completely renounced. Moreover, it is here that one of the dishes then became the flag of all Spain was born: paella.
Tapas, paella, horchata & C.
The name of the dish refers to the container in which it is cooked and even if there are several variations, the original one includes in addition to rice with the Denomination of Origin of València, chicken or duck, rabbit, “Ferraua” and “Garrofòn” which they are two types of native beans, snails, tomato, olive oil, saffron, garlic and salt.
Speaking of rice, the cultivation of this cereal in the surroundings of the Albufera Natural Park was introduced in the 8th century by the Arabs. Today the rice fields extend over an area of 16,000 hectares and there are three varieties: Bomba, Senia and Bahia.
You cannot leave València without taking a seat at the table and savoring the real Valencian paella, made with rice of the Bomba variety, with small and round grains. Where is it? In one of the barracas, the typical Valencian farmhouses that dot the Huerta, the expanse of vegetable gardens and orchards that surrounds the city. It is here that the juicy and fragrant oranges and the chufa or sweet bunting with which is prepared the horchata, the refreshing drink typical of València are grown.
We ate the paella prepared before our eyes and cooked directly on burning orange wood, as tradition commands, in the Barraca de Toni Montoliou.
And we combined one of the wines produced in the area: Bobal en Calma 2017, red wine of the Utiel-Requena Designation of Origin produced by the Dominio de la Vega recommended by Toni himself.
Before paella, a unique and nutritious dish, you can treat yourself to an aperitif. The most classic one is based on Cacau del Collaret peanuts, a particular variety that is grown only here in the Horta and which has a characteristic narrowing in the center between the grains, as if wearing a very tight necklace, which in Spanish is called collaret and which gives origin to the name, accompanied by one or more cañas of local beer.
Tasty vegetables that end up in salads also come from the area of the Garden. In the typical Valencian one there are tomatoes, lettuce, onion and olives, we tasted it at the Mi Cub at the Colon Market, an unmissable stop for gourmands. From the original modernist architecture it was once a food market while it is now a large gourmet space that houses 20 rooms including restaurants, beer gardens, cafes, but also butchers, fishmongers, delicatessens and horchateries.
A tour of the Mercado Central delights view and palate: the stalls are set up with real skill and invite you to come closer to look more closely at the fruit and vegetables, meats, fish, salami, cheeses and much more. But in addition to seeing you can also taste and you will be offered delicious local jamon or queso bites.
An enchantment guaranteed at the fish and shellfish stalls. The oysters, for which València is rightly famous, are smaller and more concave than the Atlantic ones from Galicia, but tastier and can be enjoyed open at the moment and directly at the counter.
We passed several times in the corridors of the fish market admiring the huge Galician crabs called buey which in Spanish means ox because of their size. And also the many varieties of molluscs such as navajas, our razor clams and tellinas, the clams for which I am crazy. So I certainly did not miss the opportunity to order a dish at the table during our lunch on the promenade of València at El Coso on Paseo Neptuno, where we also wanted to taste the paella de marisco, with seafood.
But never seen before the percebes, typical crustaceans of Galicia, Portugal and Morocco which in Italian are called “feet of the devil” but which are not found in our area. What does it taste like? We don’t know why we didn’t eat them, but what we can tell you is that they are very expensive!
Other classic Valencian gastronomy ingredients that you will find on the market? Caracoles, or snails that also enter the paella preparation, and octopus, prepared in various ways, all very appetizing.
One of the places we liked most is La Bernarda, which is located in a delightful little square in the heart of València in the area that once housed the Mercado de Tapineria, that is, the upholstery. Here Raquel and José, the owners, offer breakfasts and Valencian specialties: from patatas bravas seasoned with paprika and garlic mayonnaise, to the excellent Iberian jamon ham and to a delicious sausage prepared with bull tail stew, el rabo de toro.
Anchoas, anchovies from Cantabrico, immersed in olive oil and two good artisan cervezas cannot be missing at the table.
And don’t forget a toast with another symbol of the Spanish city: Agua de València, an alcoholic drink made with orange juice, cava or Spanish champagne, sugar and the addition of other liqueurs. The recipe varies according to the place where you drink and in some it is even secret.