Discovering new flavors is a big part of discovering the Catalan culture and traditions. Eating, drinking and togetherness are part of the main traditions here and we will take you on a culinary journey through this beautiful province.
Written by V.R. Sambros
For those who want to get out of Barcelona and travel inland, it is easy to catch the R3 train to Vic from Arc de Triomf station. In about an hour you will be in the heart of Catalonia. A city full of beautiful architecture, nice shops and delicious restaurants. Perfect for a 'day trip', if you want to see some more scenery and maybe even hike the mountains! A distinctive product that has been documented as far back as the 14th century is the "salchichon". Similar products are made in Puerto Rico and France, but none of them surpass the "Salchichon de Vic". This dried sausage is the pride of the heart of the province, but what makes this sausage so special?
Many are familiar with the Spanish sausage "fuet", which can be found in almost every Spanish restaurant. What exactly is the difference between fuet and salchichon? First of all, the salchichon is larger and wider than fuet, and because of its size, it takes longer to dry. Apart from that, no pepper is added to fuet, which is indispensable to the taste of salchichon. The main (taste) difference is that the "Salchichon de Vic" comes from ecological farms in the region, made with love, and this is something you can definitely taste.
The love for preparing and selling the product resulted in Casa Riera Ordeix in 1852, founded by Josep Riera Font. His Casa Riera Ordeix delivers the best products imaginable to this day. This passion is passed on from generation to generation and nothing has changed in the original preparation, although flavors with a twist have now also been developed. The famous store also has an online shop that delivers worldwide, but if you're in the area anyway it's something you can't miss!
The tradition of Catalonia
In the 19th century there was a farmer from Valls, Tarragona, who grew green onions. He decided to use a different method by planting a part of the onion deeper underground, making the white part of the onion longer and bigger. This is where the now extremely popular "calçots" originated. Since then, "Calçotadas" have been held between December and March.
Calçotadas are winter barbecues where calçots are prepared as a starter. The product is closely related to the spring onion. They are grilled over a charcoal fire until black and charred, and served in an old newspaper to keep them soft. You are supposed to pick off the outer black layer and dip the sweet and smooth streak in salvitxada sauce, and drink a glass (or a few glasses) of red wine. The salvitxada sauce also comes from Valls, of course, and is very similar to the Spanish romesco sauce, only it has a little less paprika flavor.
These calçotadas are undoubtedly part of Catalan culture. The regional products, the togetherness and conviviality, are all part of this important annual tradition that has been increasingly popular since the 19th century, including among tourists.
Can't find calçots because you are not in the region? Then pick up lovely spring onions from the market as an alternative, grill them until charred, and make your own salvitaxada or romesco sauce. Buy a bottle of red Priorat, a perfectly matching wine from the area and enjoy! It's delicious, simple, and cozy. A perfect excuse to start the barbecue in winter, isn't it?
After a wonderful day strolling through the city of Barcelona, sitting on the beach and drinking aperol, it is time to sit down for a hearty Catalan dinner. A fifteen minute walk from the beach, restaurant 7 Portes was established in 1836. This pearl knows how to move with the rapid changes of the city, but remains authentic. It's no coincidence that 7 Portes is one of the best and oldest restaurants in the city.
One of their traditional Catalan dishes is "Paella Catalana". Paella is of course a popular dish worldwide, but the Catalan version is just a little bit different! The dish, like traditional paella, is prepared with saffron rice. To this, Catalans add chicken, longozina sausage, crayfish and plums. Depending on the season, it is served with artichoke and peas.
By the way, did you know that the name "Paella" is actually the pan in which it is prepared? The dish was once created by farmers and workers who made lunch over a fire, using rice as the base, and everything they had on hand was added. This has expanded into one of the most popular meals worldwide, including the one with a Catalan twist.
Last but not least, dessert!
"La Crema Catalana" is without a doubt the best known and most popular dessert in Catalonia, with several variations. Many confuse it with the French "Crème Brûlée" but the base is different, and the Catalans are very proud of it. They use milk that is slowly thickened with cornstarch, cinnamon, lime and orange zest, while the French use cream and vanilla. This sweet and creamy dessert is one of the oldest European desserts to feature in medieval Catalan cookbooks. It is also no coincidence that in the middle of Barcelona's old Gothic quarter, there is a small tapas bar, Bodega de La Palma, which is said to sell the best crema catalana in the city.
Their well-deserved reputation is also due to the great patatas bravas, good service, and the traditional Spanish atmosphere.
Hoping to see you soon!
Since there is currently plenty of time to plan your trip to Catalonia, it might be an idea to bring the Catalan flavors into your home and be creative during these times. A holiday to the province is probably not planned this year, but we hope that you can come this way in the future to enjoy the culinary traditions.