The cuisine of the Region of Valencia
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The Region of Valencia... the Mediterranean Diet
The cuisine from the Region of Valencia enjoys great prestige at both a national and international level. Its traditional recipes are prepared using natural ingredients such as oil, vegetables, spices, fruit, fresh meat or fish and has come to be known as "the Mediterranean Diet". The incredible variety of rice dishes and desserts is outstanding. All this without forgetting the great variety of fruit which the Region of Valencia produces in abundance. Its traditional soft drinks have also become well-known, such as tiger nut milk ("horchata de chufa"). Its long wine-growing tradition has given rise to a delicious range of wines with their Denominations of Origin, which when added to the local soups comprise some of the most exquisite recipes of Valencian cooking.
The secret of rice Rice is the ultimate Valencian product. The Muslims started to grow this cereal and passed on their production techniques to the Christians who continue to use them to this day. Rice can be accompanied by almost anything. It is interesting to see that in Valencia, the way rice is cooked is determined not only be the ingredients it contains but also by the type of vessel in which it is prepared. Therefore, if it is to be cooked in a cooking pot or deep earthenware dish it will have more juices. Rice dishes which are baked in the oven are the driest of all. When they are cooked in a special paella pan (type of shallow, flat frying pan), the chef is making the most famous of all Valencian dishes: the "paella valenciana". It was originally popular to serve this dish at festivals or on public holidays but now it is famous world-wide. However, there are many more types of rice dishes: "arroz en perdiú", "arroz al forn" (baked in the oven), "rossjat", "arroz a banda" (with fish), "arroz con costra" (with an egg crust), etc.
Stews Apart from rice, the Region of Valencia also has many soups and stews known locally as "ollas" which are made from the stock of pulses and meat. In Castellon, the "olla de la plana" , cooked with vegetables, haricot beans and saffron, and "la olla recapte", with potatoes and pork; in Alicante turkey is used in a lot of these dishes, "ollica de verduras" (vegetables), "olla de cardet" (thistles) and "Alacant", which substitutes rice for lentils, "giraboix" (cod, green beans and potatoes) from Xixona, etc.
Meat With regards meat, the traveller will find ox and beef, which used to be reserved for festivals or holidays. Game such as rabbit and duck are used in rice, chicken in paella, whilst lamb is usually roasted.
Fresh from the sea Due to the proximity of the sea, the Region of Valencia also has a wide variety of fish. Typical fish from the Valencian coasts include the spotted flounder, conger, whiting, hake, sea bass, gilt-head sea bream, red mullet, anglerfish and a small fish called the "aladroc" (anchovy), which can be fried, baked, covered in a salt casing, cooked in a "suquet" (type of stew), served with onion, with an almond or orange sauce or prepared in any other of the many ways which have been invented by the fertile Mediterranean imagination. There is one very characteristic and popular way of preparing fish in the Region of Valencia: "salazón". The fish is covered in salt for the preparation of "sardinas de cuba", "mojama", "tronc" and "sorra", which are made with various fish and taste strongly of the sea.
The Valencian market garden The traveller who goes inland will find wide-open spaces designated to the cultivation of fruit and vegetables.. Mountain slopes are reserved to grow almond trees and carob trees, whilst the rest of the land is used for abundant citrus trees and vegetables, which Valencia exports in quantity. Its tomatoes, lettuces, onions and any other ingredient of the chef's fancy are used to make the typical Valencian salad. Vegetables are often used in stews, especially the "bullit". Valencian fruit, some of which have a Denomination of Origin, are renowned world-wide and the quality and fame of its orange has made this fruit unique. Its "turrones" or nougat are also famous throughout the world, especially the type from Jijona and Alicante, which have Protected Geographical Denominations and are made exclusively of almond (Jirona uses ground almonds and Alicante uses whole ones). The introduction of other ingredients has given rise to a great variety of "turrones" and pralines of many different flavours which are prepared using expert confectionary techniques. The pumpkin and sweet potato are used to prepare"arnadí", a dessert served over Easter and well-known fried dishes include the many types of "orelletes". The most important soft drink from Valencia is the tiger nut milk, which at first was only drunk for dietary reasons but is now enjoyed as an original drink exclusive to this region. It is excellent in hot weather accompanied by 'fartons' (local pastries).
Wines and restaurants The Region of Valencia has wine with denominations of origin: Alicante, Utiel-Requena, Valencia and Cava. The majority of vineyards with denomination are located in the province of Valencia, the largest wine-growing land found in Utiel-Requena. The restaurant Girasol, in the province of Alicante and awarded two suns by the CAMPSA Guide, is a good place to try Mediterranean food. Ca Sento in Valencia, Rafael in Castellón de la Plana and Malena, also in Alicante, all awarded one sun by the CAMPSA Guide, are other good alternatives.