Atún con tomate (tuna with tomato)
Tuna with tomato is just that: chunks of tuna on top of slices of Valencian tomato. It's usually eaten as a starter before a rice dish. The version pictured here from Senzone is a fancier riff on the typical version seen in this photo from Flickr member jlastras.
You may be familiar with rice-based Mexican horchata, but Spanish tiger nut-based horchata is the original and it was first made in Valencia, the center of tiger nut production in Spain. Learn more about how this sweet, milky, refreshing drink is made in my tour of the Mon Orxata factory, or read about two of Valencia's most famous horchaterias. And when you try horchata, don't forget to dip in a farton (a soft and airy breadstick, as pictured above with a cup of horchata from Horchatería El Siglo).
Horchatería El Siglo: Plaza de Santa Catalina, 11, 46001 Valencia, Spain (map); 34 96 391-8466
Coca Christina is a popular pastry eaten throughout the year. This flat, wide, Valencian cake made of eggs, sugar, almond, and lemon is baked on an edible wafer and comes generously sprinkled with sugar. The fluffy, not-too-sweet cake—great for snacking or a light dessert—reminded me most of almond macarons from Saint-Émilion, France, except 15 times larger.
Head to Pastelería Santa Catalina for a Coca Cristina after getting horchata from the neighboring Horchatería El Siglo or Horchatería Santa Catalina.
Pastelería Santa Catalina: Plaza Santa Catalina, 7, 46001 Valencia, Spain (map);
+34 963 92 28 17
Paella is one of Spain's most famous dishes (if not the most famous), but most people may not know it's originally from Valencia. Paella is a rice dish flavored with tomato, paprika, saffron, and rosemary, and cooked with meats, beans, and/or seafood. Although seafood paella is the most well known version, Valencian paella isn't seafood-laden; traditional ingredients include chicken, rabbit, bajoca (long green beans), garrafo (white broad beans), and snails, like the version pictured here from Palace Fesol.
Paella is named after the wide, shallow pan its cooked in, specifically called a paellera outside of Valencia. In Valencia the word paella refers to the rice dish and the pan, and paellera or paellero refers to the part of the house where paella is cooked and the gas burner the paella is cooked on.
Paella is normally eaten for lunch—more specifically on Sundays as part of a family gathering. Aside from tourist-focused restaurants, it's rare to find traditional Valencia restaurants that offer rice dishes at night. If you want to eat paella à la carte in Valencia, make sure to bring a companion: Any good restaurant that makes freshly prepared paella requires a minimum of two people. Some restaurants offer a "rice of the day" that may be paella or another rice dish that doesn't require two people to order it. Read more about ordering paella at About.com.
Want to make paella at home? These instructions by Valencia native José F. Martínez are the most in-depth I've found in English. He's not a professional chef, but being an associate professor for electrical and computer engineering at Cornell may have something to do with his fastidiousness.
Fideuà is similar to paella, and is usually cooked in the same kind of pan, but instead of rice it's made with very short, thin, straight noodles, or fideos. Unlike traditional Valencian paella fideuà does feature seafood—such as squid, cuttlefish, prawns, and fish—and is cooked in a seafood broth. To make it at home, check out this recipe at About.com.
All i pebre
All i pebre translates to "garlic and paprika," describing the main flavors in this light, flavorful sauce. Many kinds of fish can be cooked in all i pebre, but the most traditional is eel, which are found locally in the Albufera lagoon just seven miles south of Valencia. The eel comes out very tender, and accompanying chunks of potato make for a hearty but not heavy dish. The version pictured here is from Restaurant Mateu located right by the Albufera.