Valencia is traditionally associated with paella, and you could survive quite happily here with a diet based on that delicious and regionally varied dish alone, but there are many more delights for you to feast on. Read on for some of our favourite Valencia specialties and where to source the best versions:
We might as well start with the biggie. Paella may be viewed by many non-Spaniards as Spain's national dish, but most Spaniards see the rice medley as a regional Valencian dish. The base is always sofrito (tomato, garlic, and onion), but other than that, almost anything goes. The traditional Valencian version has chicken, rabbit, and a white bean called garrafón, but you’ll also encounter mussels, snails, and even lobster in the mix. The most authentic version is served at Casa Roberto on Maestro Gozalbo
. Call ahead ask for yours to be made socarrat, with the crispy, burnt rice on the bottom of the pan.
Where Else to Eat
on Avenida Neptuno was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite restaurant in Valencia, and the quality remains the same. Raco del Turia on Carrier Ciscar is a great place to educate yourself in Valencian cuisine. The emphasis is on seriously traditional food, starting with the delightful selection of grilled vegetables dressed with a well-made romesco sauce. For a flavour of how local cuisine is evolving into something far more contemporary, go to Tasca Josue, situated in a busy, youthful neighborhood on Carrier Calixto III.
Agua de Valencia
Agua de Valencia (water of Valencia) is the local signature drink, and it’s far more potent than its name suggests. Served in pitchers like sangria, this concoction of cava, orange juice, vodka, gin, and sugar is made to share. Café de la Seu
on Calle Santo Cáliz uses a secret recipe for its excellent version.
Spanish empanadas (folded pastries) usually contain tuna, peppers, and tomato, but the regional versions you’ll find in Valencia are made with spinach or kale. Try the ones on sale at local markets, or head to the family-owned Pastelería Horno García on Avenida del Regne de Valencia in the Gran Vía neighborhood.
The life and soul of any regional culinary scene is the local food market, and Valencia’s best is its Mercado Central. Running since 1928 at Avenida Barón de Cárcer, it is a light and airy space with recently-restored tiles and stained glass. Try Charcutería Solaz for Spanish cured meats such as jamón ibérico. Manglano sells a local cheese called autor, made with raw goat’s milk and thistle rennet and aged underground for 60 days.
Saladitos (salty things) are artisanal crackers made with extra-virgin olive oil available in any grocery shop. Other popular snacks are hand-pressed fig cakes and old-style Marcona almond nougat. Try to get the one manufactured by Túrron de Jijona: It melts in the mouth.