Travel is synonymous with food and for me and no trip is complete without sampling the local cuisine. In all my years of travel experience, I found the best food in local markets. They are great places to soak up the local culture and guarantee vibrantly colourful photos. During our long pan Europe road trip which covered France and Spain, Tarek and I visited many such local watering holes and our most memorable food affair was at Girona, in Spain. It was only fitting since Girona is hailed as the new food capital of the world and the city boasts of the second best restaurant in the world. However, since we were on a budget trip, we gave the city‘s Michelin-starred restaurants a miss and instead opted for a very enjoyable Girona food market visit.
What to eat in Girona
Girona‘s Catalan cuisine showed up on our plates at various small eateries across the city and Suzanne, our BnB hostess was an exceptional cook. From Iberian ham tapas platters, xuixo pastries, grilled boitifarra, a typical Catalan sweet sausage to local liqueur Ratafia, our Girona experience was one big gastronomic affair. We were there in spring when Ajo paisajes or garlic scapes were in season and the whole city basked in a delicious aroma. Flower buds of the garlic plant, which are removed to allow the bulbs to fatten up, ajo paisajes made me so curious, that eventually, Suzanne stepped in to accompany me for a visit to the Girona food market. A proud Catalan, she loved everything about her city and the Girona food market visit is a very memorable one.
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Mingle with the locals
She took me to the local El Lleó market which is a sort of nerve center of Girona. The Spanish take their food seriously and they love to spend their time lavishly. Thus their marketplaces double up as a place for meeting up, exchanging boisterous holas and juicy gossips, along with some fresh produce shopping. The defiant Catalans are no different and Girona‘s local market was an interesting peep into the province‘s rich food culture. Housing around 60 stalls offering a mind-boggling variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, preserves, cheese and groceries, it was an absolutely photogenic place. Colours popped out from spiky artichokes and strings of sausages, as garlic scapes gave off a pungent aroma. The market was frequented by the locals at the time of our visit and we received our share of samplings, holas and a complimentary bottle of wine.
Sneak peek of Agora Market in Crete: Agora Market in Crete
Take those awesome photos
In the mornings, however, the vendors hardly have time even for a brief chat, since the Girona‘s chefs come to shop for their restaurants. Now, for a city which holds the title of having the second best restaurant in the world, along with fantastic food culture, that is a huge responsibility on the local market, yet it never fails to deliver. Bustling, laughing and friendly, it was a great place to wander, shop, take photos and gorge in some delicious snacks. Baby pickled aubergines, grilled artichoke hearts, and savoury coca pastries..the list of local Catalan dishes found there was endless and they were much pocket friendlier, than the reputed second best restaurant in the world.
Don’t leave Girona without trying these dishes
- Xuixo – Pronounced as ‘CHOO-chos’, this very sweet pastry filled with cream is a must try.
- Sweet ‘botifarra’ sausage – A local product hailing from the medieval times, is cured meat that can be eaten roasted with apple, cinnamon, and lemon.
- Pals Arros/Rice – Introduced by the Arabs from Valencia in the 12th century, this rice is used in numerous rice stews, especially a particular Empordà plate.
- Fesol d’ull ros – Locally known as the ‘banyolí’ bean, this is a typical kind of legume from the Baix Empordà and Estany area. They are excellent when eaten with shredded cod (‘bacallà escaixat’) or grilled vegetables (‘escalivada’).
- Ratafia – A local liquor made by mixing different regional ingredients (such as fruit, medicinal herbs, roots, pine nuts, and spices) in brandy.
- Pollastre amb Escamarlans – This is an unusual combination of chicken, and shellfish and is truly delicious.
- Beef with Bolets/Wild Mushrooms – The combination of juicy meat stewed with the mountain, mossy scented wild mushrooms (‘bolets’) is heavenly. It is slow cooked for best results.
- Can Xapa Chocolate – This is one of Girona’s best gastronomic heritage. Can Xapa is a bakery inside a 13th-century castle and their star product is the ‘xocolata a granel’. Made in slabs of 1.5kg that are then broken down into pieces, this chocolate has 85-percent cocoa and candied dried fruits.
Sounds delicious? Take a look for yourselves!
For more information, check out Localmarket.cat
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