11 Must Eat Foods in Catalonia, Spain
Barcelona attracts us to Catalonia with the promise of Gaudi and Picasso. However, it’s the cuisine that most impresses us. From Avant-garde Michelin star to traditional Spanish and Catalan dishes, the region is quickly becoming known more for its food than its art.
Any foodie worth his or her fork needs to make the pilgrimage to Catalonia. Start in Barcelona and then explore the rest of the region. Here are 11 must eat foods in Catalonia, Spain.
I’m pretty sure this is the national food of Spain, right? When I was there, I ate jamón with every meal of the day and even some snacks in between. I never complained because it’s the best ham in the world. Unlike anything you’ll get stateside.
For a special treat, splurge on Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. It will be the most expensive thing you eat in Spain, but it’s so worth it. You’ll never eat prosciutto again (Okay, you might. But you’ll be thinking of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota).
Best. Artichokes. Ever. Period. Whether they were grilled, marinated, pickled, or fried, Spanish artichokes are the most flavorful in the world. Given the artistic nature of Catalonia, it’s fun to taste each chef’s twist. Order the fried artichokes at Bar Cañete in Barcelona.
Olives were almost as prevalent as jamón. I’d say as equally delicious, too, but that jamón!
I love that each farmers market I went to had multiple booths selling olives. Some with over 20 varieties. Think spicy, think briny, think vinegary. It’s all there in the many varieties of Spanish olives. And here you thought a Spanish olive was that pimiento studded green thing in your martini…
Pimientos de Padron
These peppers are also referred to as roulette peppers. Why? Because you never know what the hell you’re going to get when you eat one. I ate one that was sweet. The next was so hot I finished half a bottle of cava on my own. Regardless of the gamble, they’re fun to eat and worth the risk. I recommend them alongside a grilled steak at El Xampanyet in Barcelona.
Pan con Tomate
Tomato bread is the garlic bread of Spain. It’s easy to make. Take a piece of crusty break, drizzle some Spanish olive oil on it, rub it with garlic, and smear tomato.
It’s served at most restaurants in Spain with your meal whether you ordered it or not. Regardless if you eat it, they will charge you for it. Don’t get mad. You aren’t going to change their custom. Instead, tell them you don’t want it when you sit down. But seriously, why would you?
Think paella meets pasta. Fideuá is dish of buckwheat noodles and calamari served with aioli on the side. #LifeAltering.
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After Spain, I traveled to Brussels – the city that is supposedly famous for its mussels. You know the saying, “Mussels from Brussels.” Or perhaps that’s referring to Jean-Claude Van Damme (whom I told I closely resemble)…
The mussels from Brussels didn’t compare to anything I had in Spain. In Spain, they were fresher, plumper, and prepared in a much more delicate manner. I couldn’t eat enough.
Braised Boar’s Tail
While it’s popular in many European countries, it’s next to impossible to find in the United States. Eat it for that reason. Sure, the meat is still attached to the bone (Don’t say ick. You eat BBQ ribs that way…), it’s fork tender, succulent, and moist. If you find yourself in Terres de l’Ebre, eat it at the Wine Cathedral in El Pinell de Brai.
It’s how you should start your day. Order yours with a hot chocolate and send me a thank you note.
Arroz Negro con Mariscos
Notice that paella didn’t make the list. It’s not that it isn’t worth eating; it’s that I want readers to eat beyond paella. Arroz negro con mariscos is a great baby step into other traditional Catalan foods. The black rice dish is similar to paella in many ways, except it’s brinier and you can taste more of the sea in it.
I’m pretty sure cava is the second official food of Spain, at least in Catalan. I recommend it with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or whenever you are thirsty.
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