VALENCIAVALENCIA.COM - Valencia City Guide and Travel / Tourist Information
Eating in Valencia > Highlights of Valencian Cuisine
Valencia is a coastal Mediterranean city, surrounded by rice fields. As such, the cuisine is based on rice and fish / seafood, and quite often both in the same dish.
Paella, this most famous Spanish dish, actually originates from Valencia, so dont miss out on a chance to try paella in the place where it was born.
The basis of paella is rice cooked with tomatoes and saffron, often also with onion and garlic. The paella is fried on a big special frying dish, (also called paella).
Restaurants serious about paella will usually have a few kinds of paella on offer, most popular being paella valenciana, seafood paella and vegetable paella, suitable for vegetarians:
Paella Valenciana, the most traditional kind, is done with chicken and rabbit.
Note that a freshly cooked paella made especially for you will have to be big to be cooked properly (i.e. for two people minimum) and will take at least half an hour to make, so be patient. Some restaurants will let you call in advance to get it started.
Arroz a Banda
Another very popular traditional rice dish in Valencian cuisine, this is paella rice cooked in the water leftover from boiling fish, which results in rice with fish flavour. It is usally accompanied by a few prawns.
Fideua is basically a paella with noodles instead of rice. Fideua tends to have as many variations as the paella.
Arroz Negro (black rice) is essentially a simplified seafood paella with squid. The squid is cooked so that it spreads its ink over the dish, which results in a black colour - hence the name.
Arroz al Horno
= baked rice. The rice with onions, garlic, tomatoes, spices is mixed with potato cubes and chunks of chorizo (spicy spanish pork sausage). All this is baked in an oven.
With Valencian cuisine so heavily based on rice, the rice will continue dominating it beyond the most famous dishes we have outlined. You will find other variations on the rice theme.
All i Pebre
All i pebre is a kind of stew / soup / sauce that will usually contain potatoes and fish (or sometimes meat) in the juice of tomatoes and spices.
Seafood and Fish
In a coastal Mediterranean city like Valencia you will, naturally, find everything that the sea offers: fish, prawns, shrimps, lobsters, calamares, octopus, mussels, oysters, etc. Most typical Valencian restaurants will have a range of seafood and fish dishes (unless it is an "arroceria" - concentrating on rice dishes only). These vary a lot in their recipes and there is no famous name like paella, but there are a lot of different ones - usually "this fish grilled", "that fish in that sauce", etc. Some restaurants, like Ca Sento, have taken seafood to the level of art, famous nationwide. If you like seafood, in Valencia you will be spoiled for choice.
Just like with the seafood and fish, most Valencian restaurants will have a range of unknown but varied recipes of various chops, steaks and fillets from beef, chicken, lamb, pork, rabbit. The Valencians are particularly fond of grilling stuff.
The horchata is a traditional regional drink made of tiger nuts. It's sort of a sweet milk with its own gentle taste. The horchata is usually accompanied with sweet bread that you dip into it. It makes for a nice snack.
The Agua de Valencia, however, is a different breed. The Water of Valencia is more like Fire Water - ginebra mixed with wine and vodka, all in orange juice. Try it if you can handle it. Although this is just one of the recipes and they vary a lot. You can try it yourself, just mix the most stupid things together and enjoy.
Valencian wines deserve a special mention too. They are not widely known, yet those who discover them are amazed by the quality of wine-making in Valencian Country. To zoom in on your favourites read through the extensive reports on WinesOfValencia
Valencian oranges are a famous export, so if you like that fruit do make sure you try it here.
© ValenciaValencia.com 2006