Thursday, May 25, 2017

Minor Post about Food

Valencia is particularly known for two food items: paella valenciana and horchata. I've had a couple of paellas in Madrid, so I didn't make a point of looking for some in Valencia where I sought out some nearby Asian restaurants. But I did have some horchata there. Horchata is a favorite summer beverage and I remembered it fondly from when I lived in Spain many years ago. It is also available in Mexico, but it just doesn't seem the same there. And now I know the reason why. In Spain, horchata is made from chufas, in English, earth almonds, which are an edible tuber. In Mexico, it is made from rice with vanilla and cinnamon and usually comes out too sweet and rather tasteless. But when made from chufas, it has an earthy tang and is wonderfully refreshing. This is one of the elements in Spanish culture traceable to the Muslim rule. Here is a picture of horchata with the main ingredient, chufas:

I popped into a supermarket in Valencia where they had a refrigerator showing the wide variety of crustaceans available:

Shown are six or seven different kinds of what we would lump into the general category of "prawns." Here there are gambas, langostinos and others for which I don't know the Spanish name.

Another excellent dish is broiled scallops on the half shell:

And finally, a little ice cream stand with a lot of very yummy looking ice creams:


Marc Puckett said...

Had no idea that horchata wasn't an indigenous Mexican invention; yes, too sweet, like drinking 'sweet'. It is readily available in these parts commercially prepared, and at the outdoor market that operates from May to October-- will have to look about and see if any of those folks use chufas; the largest mercado doesn't open until 0800 otherwise I'd check. If they don't have it I doubt its traded in here.

"According to legend, the name derives from James I of Aragon who responded 'Això és or, xata' ('this is really gold, my child') to a little girl who had offered this drink to him. In countries of Latin America such as Mexico where horchata is quite popular, certain villages even today celebrate a 'Xata Day'." Hmm. That may be French nonsense, ha (from Wiki).

Bryan Townsend said...

Yes, I believe I read that that etymology is a myth. I would be surprised if they use chufas to make horchata in your parts, but they might use regular almonds, a totally different plant!

The problem with being any kind of a gourmet is not that you have to go to expensive restaurants, no, not at all. In fact, expensive restaurants are often not gourmet, just peculiar, these days, anyway. No, the problem is that you develop a taste for food items that are only available in their finest incarnations in very specific places: really good bagels are best eaten fresh-baked in Montreal because that is where, I think, the best bagels come from; for horchata you need to go to Spain; for really great salmon, the Pacific Northwest; oh, and back to Montreal for smoked meat!

Marc Puckett said...

Don't believe I have ever read anywhere that the best bagels are made in Montreal! :-)

Marc Puckett said...

My hopes of finding chufas locally are increasing-- they are gluten-free!!

Marc Puckett said...

They are and horchata made from them are sold at (wait for it)... Whole Foods. Went there once and saw no reason to move from my usual locally-owned groceries; perhaps it's time for a second visit.

Bryan Townsend said...

There are two basic bagel recipes: the New York bagel and the Montreal bagel. There are those, New Yorkers for example, who thing that their recipe is the best. I think it is simply because they have never had a Montreal bagel. Same with pastrami and smoked meat. Very similar, but smoked meat is far superior. You heard it here first!

All right, gluten-free horchata!