Food & cuisine from Eastern Spain, Valencia and Alicante
Eastern Spain's cuisine is as varied as that of any Spanish region, but primarily it is a land of rice and its paellas and other forms of rice are probably amongst the most representative of dishes from this region of Spain.
It is the Moors we can thank for introducing rice to Eastern Spain in the 8th century. Its towns are full of history and inland the soil is fertile where a variety of crops abound - the area is particularly renowned for its oranges and of course the rice.
The Region of Valencia is sits on the Eastern side of the country, composed of the provinces of Castellon, Valencia and Alicante with Valencia City as its capital where it produces its very own type of rice - Valencian Rice (Arroz de Valencia). The best known of all its rice dishes is the paella mixta where the rice cooked with both seafood and chicken or rabbit and then scented and coloured with saffron. For some, a delicious variation of paella is the paella negra (black paella) which is coloured by the black ink from a squid. There is also Arroz Negra which is cooked the same way (See right).
You need a pretty strong stomach for the Paella Negra. Its not a dish that traditionally you might say was appetizing to look at.
Fruit & Nuts (Frutas y nueces)
Valencian Citric Fruits (Citricos Valencianos)
The entire region of Valencia produces a wide variety of oranges, mandarins, and lemons. Valencia produces approx. 125 million kilograms of mandarins, between 80 and 100 million kilograms of oranges and between 30 and 40 million kilos of lemons every year.
Valencia is also the birthplace of the soft drink horchata, made from something called a chufa which translates as "tiger nut" (grown all over Eastern Spain). Horchata looks like an off-white milk, smells vaguely of toffee and is served cold.
Valencia has three denominaciones de origen - Alicante, Utiel-Requena in the west of the province of Valencia, and Valencia, a scattered and varied area. Conoisseurs should try the fondillon from Alicante, a dark and treacly red wine that works best as a dessert accompaniment.
Valencia is the home of the most famous Spanish sweet: turron. It is made with almonds and traditionally eaten at Christmas. Thought to have been introduced by the Moors, turron is made by roasting the almonds then slowly cooking them with honey and egg white. There are two main varieties of turron, hard Alicante turron and soft Jijona turron, which is produced by grinding the almond and honey mix into a glutinous and smooth paste.