As a self-confessed foodie, Barcelona's gastronomic offerings played more than a small role in my decision to move to the city. Before arriving, I thought I knew everything that there is to now about Catalan cuisine. I couldn't wait to get stuck into the cheeses, meats and seafood. As with much of my experience of Catalonia in general, there is so much more to the cuisine than first meets the eye - think less paellas and chorizo and more butifarra and fideuas.
Barcelona and its surrounding areas have become renowned internationally for food and the culture of eating. In recent years, the new wave of experimental gastronomic chefs, such as Ferran Adria (the founder of El Bulli restaurant), have brought the region to the world's attention. However, Catalunya has been a must-visit location for food lovers for many years.
Its location on the Mediterranean coast offers a generous and varied selection of ingredient options, allowing for some imaginative results. Due to Catalonia's location on the coast, seafood dishes are impressive and vegetables such as tomatoes, red peppers, aubergines, mushrooms and artichokes are in abundance. However, it is easy to forget that a lot of Catalonia is also made up of mountains and fields where pigs and sheep can roam. Thus, the Catalan interest in 'May Y Mantagna' ('Sea and Mountain' - think 'Surf n Turf') - the concept of having fish and meat on the same plate.
|Typical Catalan Salsas|
During your trip to Barcelona there are certain dishes that you will not be able to avoid - such as Pan Con Tomate and Crema Catalana. And then there are the dishes that you will have to make more of an effort to seek out. In this article I have provided a list of the dishes that I consider to be the most typically Catalan. I have also provided a list of some of the best restaurants for finding authentically Catalan fare.
Bonne Appétit, or as they say here in Catalonia 'Bon Profit'.
I have provided all of the names of the dishes in Catalan, with Castellano (Spanish) in brackets where appropriate.
Pa Amb Tomaquet (Pan Con Tomate): Bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes and drizzled with oil and salt. A true Catalan staple.
Calçots: These baby leeks are specific to Spring - traditional parties known as 'Calçotadas' take place during this period. The vegetables are normally barbecued and served with Romesco Sauce (see below).
Escalivada: A warm side dish of grilled vegetables (normally aubergines, red peppers, onions and tomatoes) skinned and de-seeded and served with oil.
Butifarra: An uncured spiced sausage with similarities to Cumberland sausage. Used both in cooking and as a tapa with 'pa amb tomaquet' (see above).
|A Typical Selection of Cured Meats|
Escudellla: Catalan stew made with a piece of meat, beans, potatoes, cabbage and sometimes pasta. It is made into three courses of food: a broth, followed by the meat course, followed by the vegetable course.
Xai Rostit Amb 12 Cabeçes d'All: Literally translated this means "Lamb Roasted with 12 Heads of Garlic" - it does what it says on the tin.
Embutidos: This is the collective name for a platter of cured meats, including fuet (pork) and jamon from the Vic region.
Esqueixada: A salad made with peppers, tomatoes, onions, red wine vinegar and shredded 'bacalao'. Bacalao is salt cod and is typical of the region - cod preserved in salt and soaked before serving.
Fideuas: Like a seafood paella, but served with short noodles, rather than rice.
Suquet de Peix: A Seafood Stew with potatoes, garlic and tomato. A wide variety of fish can be used in the stew, depending on what has been caught that day.
|Dried Red Peppers typical in Romesco Sauce|
Romesco: A sauce made from almonds, roasted garlic, olive oil and dried red peppers.
Alioli: A sauce made from garlic and olive oil. The ingredients are whipped up for a long time to make a white paste.
Crema Catalana: Similar to the French Crème Brulée. It is made with sugar, egg yolks and cinnamon and burnt on the top.
Mel I Mato: A soft, unsalted goats cheese served with honey and sometimes walnuts.
Panellets: Small round sweets made with almonds, sugar, eggs and pine nuts. They can be rolled in any number of coatings, but the traditional ones are rolled in pine nuts.
In order to find authentic and traditional Catalan restaurants, it is worth heading down the backstreets, away from the Ramblas. Look for restaurants with Catalan names (lots of x's or the word 'can' is always a clue). Here are some of our favourites here at Barcelona Tourist Guide:
Boqueria Food Market: This world-renowned market is not just known for its produce - it also has some bar style restaurants selling fresh local cuisine in a lively setting.
Cal Pep: One of Barcelona's best known tapas establishments. The friendly owner, Pep, will guide you through what dishes are best to try.
Can Culleretes: One of the oldest restaurants in Barcelona. Known for is suckling pig, amongst other local dishes.
Los Caracoles: Another of Barcelona's oldest restaurants. With a stone rotisserie outside it in the street. Famous for its snails - 'caracoles'.
Senyor Parelleda: A Review of Senyor Parellada Restaurant in Barcelona: A restaurant in a glamorous location with affordable prices serving local cuisine. Booking is recommended.
Others to look out for include Agut (Calle Trintat, 3 - Gotico) , 7 Portes (Passeig d'Isabel, 11) and Cal Boter (Calle Tordero, 62 - Gràcia).
Catalunya is one of the greatest places in the world to come to enjoy the food and do some research into the cuisine. Adventurous types will head straight for the snails, tripe and pigs trotters, but there is something for everybody in the diverse menus. Every day I learn something new about the treats in store in Barcelona. When you come to the city, don't be afraid to head off the beaten track and make some discoveries of your own.