Valencia – Ciutat Vella – La Xerea

La Xerea is a barrio in the old town, sandwiched between St Francesc and the riverbed of the Turia.

Rincon Latino (Elementary A), Carrer del Governador Vell

If you’re looking for a place to start a night out on the town, this divey shot bar might just be the place. Four of us came here in 2014 for a few slugs of the hard stuff. I recall the Quemadito (small fire), tequila and Tia Maria set alight, and the Vaquita Roja (small red cow) with strawberry liqueur and cream, but not much else!

La Riua (Intermediate B+), 27 Calle del Mar, Tel. 963 914 571 www.lariua.com

This is a very famous restaurant (mentioned in many guides) run by a husband and wife team, that serves very typical local rice dishes. Its popularity is such that it can be hard to get in if you go too late. I tried to reserve on a few occasions but it seems they don’t answer the phone as they prefer people to just walk up.

Six of us came here one night in 2012 and between us demolished a plate of Almejas Marinera (B), and two huge pans of Paella de la Mar (seafood paella) and Fideua de la Mar (same as paella but made with noodles instead of rice). Both were good but the general agreement was the paella (A) was better than the Fideua (B).

These went nicely with a few bottles of local Merse (2009) white (B).

The restaurant is good but perhaps not quite deserving of all the hype and the price of the food. Personally I prefer La Pepica down at the beach.

Most Brits view Paella as the national dish of Spain but most Spaniards see it as  a regional Valencian dish and the Valencians themselves see it as one of their defining symbols.

Originally the ingredients consisted of whatever could be caught in the fields and the true Paella Valenciana includes rabbit and snails although originally eels and water voles were used. The Moorish influence can be seen in the rice and the inclusion of saffron. Later poor local fishermen came up with the Paella de la Mar. Another popular version is the Paella Mixta which combines the other two but Valencianos see this as an abomination though you will see it in restaurants elsewhere in Spain.

The pan it is cooked in is also called a paella in Valencia (their name for every type of pan) but  the word ‘paellera’ is used elsewhere in the country. As well as allowing quick evaporation, essential for a correctly cooked paella, the broad pan allowed field labourers to eat straight from the pan without the need for plates. The toasted rice called ‘socarrat’ at the bottom of the pan is considered a delicacy and can only be achieved when cooking over an open flame.

The Valencian region produces nearly all the rice in Spain however the village of Calasparra in the neighbouring  region of Murcia is particularly famed for producing the most famous varieties Bomba and Sollana which are especially good for soaking up large amounts of liquid.

Fideua is also apparently from the Valencia region, specifically from a town called Gandia where it was invented in 1925.  As noodles replace the rice it is often better for seafood due to the shorter cooking time. It is optionally served with Allioli.

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