12 Sep Unmissable Bites to Munch on in Barcelona & Where to Find Them
Some travel for romance, some for architecture and some to simply get lost. From country to country, different travelers proclaim different soul quests, and few of them cannot be finished in dazzling Barcelona. But, even though all of us travel there for different reasons, we all stay in the capital of Catalonia for its food. Fresh, oily and piquant, the Barcelona fare may just be the most exciting of the world’s gastronomies. Here’s what not to miss in the city that truly has it all.
Crunchy Bocadillo for Breakfast
Remember the irresistible crunch of a French baguette as it crumbles between your teeth? Spaniards first, and Catalans after them, have been baking their bread magnificently rustic as well, and succeeded in keeping it a sweet secret.
Barra de pan, the hard and dry type of loaf that’s been replacing pan de molde, or white bread, for centuries now, is the main culprit for the gastronomic sin that Barcelona’s bocadillo is. Accustomed to greasy fast food, you may see it as yet another sandwich to settle your hungry stomach before a long day out and about. Bocadillo, however, offers slightly more than you might expect.
Traditionally, the inside of the loaf hides dry meat or tuna, cheese or an omelette, but the one that’s considered a specialty in the capital is a bocadillo with chorizo sausage. Instead of mayonnaise, ketchup or mustard, Catalans moisten their loaves and grease their sandwiches with nothing but a generous drizzle of olive oil.
Where to Find Them: La Perla de Oro, Lolita Tapería, Jonny Aldana
The Fierce Crust of Patatas A La Catalana for Brunch
Can you dare to imagine a midday snack more irresistible than a plate of Catalan tapa? If you haven’t tried it yet, this snack dish is just as important a reason to rush off to Barcelona as architecture and romance are. Like anything else here, tapas are a way of celebrating life, and patatas a la Catalana are its most delightful part.
Unlike patatas bravas, its more famous cousin dish, this tapa is a more serious eat. Instead of sticking to potatoes only, Catalans prepare it with a fierce anchovy stuffing, season with parsley, red bell pepper and chives, and serve with sour crème.
Where to Find Them: Cerveseria Catalana, La Taverna del Clínic, Bohèmic
Creamy Sopa De Bolets for Pre-Lunch
Just like olives, peppers and rice, mushrooms have garnished Catalan plates since the beginning of this region’s gastronomic story. Indigenous varieties, like rovello (bloody milk cap), llanega (wax cap), ceps (porcini), camagroc (yellow footed chanterelle), trompete de la mort (black trumpet) and fredolic (grey knight) are not only dreamy by their names, but on the palate as well.
And, these are only those most popular among Barcelona chefs, with 26 classes of bolets more available for picking on the Catalan ground. Put together, these sorts make a deliciously piquant base for one of the local specialties, sopa de bolets. Made spicier with garlic, onion and tomatoes, enriched with olive oil and served with fried bread, a tureen of this delight is impossible to resist.
Where to Find Them: El Nou de Sarria
Savoury Romesco to Spice the Day Up
Above all else, Catalonia is the land of spices. All wonderfully complex and ingeniously fused together, these traces of flavour perfection have been explored a long time ago, and still continue to surprise our taste buds. Sauces, as the base of everything Catalan, are their culmination.
As much as Barcelona is known for its generous porringers of allioli, this magnificent delicacy has been claimed by the French a long time ago, leaving Catalans to gush even more passionately over its undeniably original culinary vice – the romesco sauce.
Traditionally prepared with raw almonds, but sometimes intensified with pine nuts and hazelnuts as well, romesco is as chilli, sweet and smoky as it gets. With locally produced noras being its key ingredient, the sauce is made wholesome with tomatoes, roasted garlic, spring onions and mint leaves, all amazingly drenched in olive oil and sherry vinegar, and only slightly dipped in the sunflower oil for a hint of seductive Barcelona summer.
Where to Find Them: Romesco, La Malandrina, El Català
Smokey Calçots for Hot-Blooded Vegetarians
If roaming the streets of Ciutat Vella in wintertime and feeling startled with a sudden craving for something toothsome, than Catalan calçots may just be the perfect pick for a pre-lunch snack. Similar to scallions, but lengthier and certainly more delish, this veggie is traditionally relished on the calçotada festivities, only hours after being harvested from the ground. First grilled, then brilliantly dipped into a romesco sauce, followed up by Spanish bread and a glass of Catalan cava, and traditionally served on terracotta tiles, calçots are certainly the most savoury of greens.
Where to Find Them: El Jardí de l’Àpat, l’Antic Forn, Can Martí
Legendary Fideua for a Seaside Dinner
In the country where every little tradition is interwoven with gastronomy, it’s quite common to hear legends at the dining table. Fideua, one of the richest fish dishes from the Catalan cuisine, is by all means of the sort that cannot be eaten without a story or two to spice up its flavour.
First prepared on a boat as a substitution for the region’s most beloved basic dish, the paella, fideua replaces rice with an unusual kind of noodles, made from fideus, a dry pasta that requires only a small amount of liquid for cooking. But that’s not all.
These brilliantly toasted noodles are then complemented with chunks of rockfish, cuttlefish, monkfish or squid and shellfish – crayfish, mantis or shrimps, preferably. Coating the pasta and fish chunks, the fideua stock is magnificently laced with saffron, onions and roasted tomatoes, and dressed with aioli sauce.
Where to Find Them: Can Ros, Elche, Salamanca
Tender Xai Rostit Amb for a Hearty Supper
Quite simple, but nonetheless exciting, the Catalan-style shoulder of lamb is a straightforward meat dish made for serious players. On the plate of xai rostit amb 12 cabeçes d’all, you’ll find no surprises other than those the name promises – the lamb meat is here wonderfully browned and tender, roasted in poignant juices of 12 garlic heads and tomatoes, moistened with sherry vinegar and sweet wine and made sharper on the palate with lemon zest. Pink on the inside and caramelised and chewy on the outside, the meat falls off the bone at the slightest touch, promising a punchy flavour. Hearty and wicked.
Where to Find Them: Senyor Parellada
Nutty Panellets for a Bit of Midnight Magic
While Catalan fideua has been born long time ago at sea and continues to live through fishermen tales of old, panellets are magnificently sweetened with magic. Demystified and translated to common tongue, panellets are nothing more than simple bread, yet Catalans have put all of their traditional gastronomic artistry into making these delicate dainties delightfully nutty and sweet.
Crunchy on the surface, panellets are commonly made of marzipan and rolled in almonds, but can now be found with aromatic cocoa powder coating, as well as topped with candied cherries, flaked with coconut, and infused with tender rose, coffee, cinnamon or lemon filling.
And, if that isn’t enough of magic, panellets are usually eaten during the Castanyada festivities, when youngsters find them instead of chestnuts, traditionally stolen and hidden all around the house the day before.
Where to Find Them: Patisseria La Colmena, Patisseria Baixas
The mouth-watering crunch of barra de pan, the beautifully browned crust of Catalan potatoes, the creaminess of tart fungi soups, the indescribable punch of romesco’s noras, the smokey grease of calcots and toasted noodles with fish chunks or the tenderness of lamb meat falling off the bone, and the nutty aroma of panellets for the end – a gastronomic day in Barcelona is why the Catalan capital is on the top of our list of most succulent bites of all time.