Catalan cuisine was one of the world’s best kept secrets until recently, with names such as Ferran Adria and the Roca brothers bringing it to world-wide renown. Interestingly, both of these cooks style is deeply rooted in Catalan tradition as well as innovation. Catalunya boasts rich, fertile soils for agriculture, warm Mediterranean sunshine, mountains for grazing, and an extensive coastline for seafood. It is perhaps this diversity that makes its food so unique and wonderful.
Here are ten dishes that are made in Catalunya, not elsewhere in Spain, and that you can try to get an idea of what Catalan food is about. Bon profit!
The Botifarra is a classic staple of Catalan cuisine and you´ll see it on menus across the city. Basically a pork and spice sausage, botifarras tend to be large. High-end versions can feature mushrooms or different meats such as Rabbit or even Calamares. Traditionally the botifarra is served with white beans and sometimes garlic mayonnaise. A sausage-lover’s treat!
Catalan cuisine features numerous excellent vegetable dishes, of which escalivada possibly reigns supreme. It is classically made of roasted aubergines, red peppers and onions that have been peeled; the flesh is then served in strips with an olive oil dressing. The name means ´scorched´, the dish was often made over a fire in the past.
3. Crema Catalana
Crema Catalana is in fact the origin of Creme Brulee, which is not in fact a French dish as most people believe. With thick gold custard topped with burnt sugar, you’ll most probably find that the dish is familiar, though it is usually served cold here.
Esquixada means ‘torn´. The name refers to the preparation of this delicious raw salad which is made with tomatoes, onions, olives and raw cod that has been cured and dried (the latter being the torn element). An excellent dish to enjoy in the heights of summer, it is both tasty and easy to digest.
Catalans love sausages! Fuet is a ridiculously moreish cured sausage, like France’s saussicon or Italy’s salami. Only better, as this one is from Catalunya! Buy one, try a slice, and expect to finish the whole e piece in one go.
A fideuà is pretty much paella made with pasta instead of rice. Fideu is the Catalan word for a noodle, and the dish is prepared with fine short strips of pasta similar to mini lengths of spaghetti.
Like the famous Catalan seafood rice dishes, this is then cooked in seafood broth with tomato and garlic, as well as a host of shellfish including typically prawns, mussels, cuttlefish and clams.
A fideuà should always be accompanied by a garlic mayonnaise – allioli.
7. Pa amb tomaquet
Catalans can’t believe that the rest of the world has yet to catch on to this delicious way of eating bread. A slice of day old bread or toast is rubbed with garlic, then with a tomato that has been chopped in half, and then drizzled with oil and salt. So simple, yet amazing!
8. Mar i Montanya
There are a whole host of dishes that come under this category, which is one of the truly unique traits of Catalan cooking. Mar i Montanya means ‘sea and mountain’ but this is no surf and turf. The list is endless, but classics include Chicken cooked with giant prawns and rabbit cooked with clams. This is one you have to try while you are in Barcelona.
9. Arros a la cassola
Paella is not a very Catalan dish, at least not in its classic incarnation, which is a dish from down in Valencia, and popular right across Spain. A Catalan rice dish tends to be more ‘calodoso’ (soupy – with more broth) and very often is exclusively fish based, as Catalans love their seafood.
A cassola is a casserole dish, and paella is actually the name of a low-sided pan, a frying pan more or less in English, in which classic Valencia paella is prepared. By cooking rice in the casserole dish more liquid is retained and dryness avoided.
10. Faves a la Catalana
Old fashioned but much loved, you´ll often find this on a humble menu del dia in Barcelona. Faves are broad beans, which are cooked with tomato, lots of garlic and then a mixture of cured sausages such as chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage), or bull, which is a similar Catalan counterpart.