Have you ever tasted cuisine from the beautiful region of Valencia? One of the autonomous communities in eastern Spain, Valencia is a majestic region with its own unique regional Spanish cuisine. In this article, we take a look at nine delicious Valencian dishes.
Valencian Food & Flavours
Due to its rich history and location on the Mediterranean Sea, Valencian food is incredibly diverse. In antiquity, Valencia was invaded by various ancient cultures, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths, and the Moors. Each of these cultures left an indelible trace on the local food. Fish, seafood and rice abound in the cuisine of the coastal plains, while game meat, lamb and kid goats are plentiful in the inland mountain areas. Many Spanish rice dishes, such as the world-famous paella, originate here.
Valencian Food #1: Paella Valenciana
The most famous Spanish dish of all hails from Valencia.
Paella has its origins in Valencia during the Moorish invasion, when the Moors brought rice to the wetlands near the Albufera Lake in the 10th century.
People may not realise that paella Valenciana is quite different from the fluffy, yellow rice dish popular in other regions of Spain. Here in Valencia, traditional paella Valenciana is a shallow golden-brown layer of rice studded with chicken, rabbit, snails, green beans, fat white beans called garrafó, saffron, tomatoes, artichokes, peas, olive oil, and just the right amount of socarrat (the slightly toasted rice at the bottom of the pan).
Modern versions of this ever-popular dish often feature seafood such as prawns, mussels and lobster, vegetables such as artichokes, or come as ‘mixed’ paella (a variety containing both meat and fish). Of course, the best paella always has a layer of crispy rice soaking up the juice along the bottom.
Valencian Food #2: Fideuà
Fideuà (from the Valencian word ‘fideuada’, meaning ‘a lot of noodles’) is a cousin of paella Valenciana — with a big difference. Instead of rice, it features thin, buckwheat pasta noodles called fideos. Originating in the Valencian town of Gandia, the dish attracts lots of visitors with the annual fideuà cooking contest, a favourite local celebration. The pasta is accompanied by a variety of local seafood, such as hake, rockfish, monkfish, cuttlefish, squid, prawns and crayfish, with a heavy squeeze of lemon.
Valencian Food #3: All i Pebre
A true gastronomic hidden gem, All i Pebre is a signature dish from the Island of El Palmar in Albufera de Valencia. This is a tasty stew consisting of fresh eels and potatoes, fried and simmered to perfection in a fragrant sauce of garlic, paprika, chilli peppers and ground almonds.
Valencian Food #4: Esgarraet
Esgarraet is the Valencian answer to tapas. Deriving its name from the Valencian word for ‘disrupted’, this dish consists of torn strips of bacalao (salty, dried codfish), garlic and sweet slivers of roasted red capsicum, all doused with extra virgin olive oil. Of course, there’s always plenty of crusty bread on the side to soak up the hearty juices.
Valencian Food #5: Buñuelos de Calabaza
Buñuelos de Calabaza are delicious fried dough balls, made with a sweet pumpkin batter and dusted liberally with sugar. This traditional snack is popular in spring and during the Las Fallas festival, often eaten with a cup of hot chocolate.
Valencian Food #6: Arròs Negre
Arròs negra is a popular seafood and rice dish with a deep black colouring. The dish typically contains many kinds of seafood, including cuttlefish or squid that has been cooked in its own ink, and seasoned with garlic, paprika and fish stock.
Valencian Food #7: Arròs a Banda
A dish typical of Alicante, arròs a banda literally means ‘rice served apart’. As the name suggests, this is a two-part dish, consisting of a fish stew and rice. It is traditionally served with the fish offered first, and the savoury, stock-infused rice served with a dollop of garlic aioli as a second course.
This is a humble dish eaten by Valencian fishermen in Alicante, who would sell the best of their catch and keep the leftovers to make a fish stock to cook rice in. The traditional stew was originally made with a local bony fish, potatoes, ñora pepper and garlic. Now, the modern version often incorporates fish stock and prawns.
Valencian Food #8: Suquet de Peix
A dish with humble origins, Suquet de Peix is a traditional fisherman’s stew, described as the Valencian answer to Bouillabaisse. This is a hearty, simple but mouth-watering stew, combining eels, potatoes and fish with lots of garlic. The stew, originally intended to feed scores of hungry Valencian fishermen, traditionally uses leftover and hard-to-sell fish from the day’s catch. In modern variants, Valencian restaurants make use of prestige fish such as monkfish, gilt-head bream and grouper.
Valencian Food #9: Turrón
A culinary relic of the Moorish invasion of Valencia in the 8th century, Turrón is a delicious brittle candy, crafted from almonds and honey. This sweet dish first originated when the Moorish invaders brought almonds to Valencia. The most famous types of turrón are the turrón de Jijona and the turrón de Alicante. Turrón de Alicante is a hard turrón, created with whole almonds and egg whites, sugar and honey, while turrón de Jijona is a sweet almond and honey flavoured paste or butter. Both styles are equally delicious!
Ready to try some delicious and authentic Spanish food right here in Brisbane? Book a table at Moda Restaurant today!