Valencia Mercado Central – A Market for Seafood Lovers

Jamones, Valencia Mercado Central
  Jamon, and on and on…

I’ve just come back from a holiday in Valencia, and if you get the chance, I highly recommend a visit to the ‘Mercado Central‘ market in the city, one of the largest and longest running markets in Europe.  The food market is divided into sections, with areas for vegetables, fish and meat.  It’s great to see so many things that you just don’t see in British markets, from unusual cuts of meat (sheeps head anyone?) to fish stalls that resemble alien invasions.  The seafood really is the star of the show too – the Spanish allegedly eat more seafood per person than anyone else at the world, and the range is really startling.  I draw the line at the rather bloody live eel executions though…

razor clams
Razor Clams – thhpppthpth

Razor clams are generally available at larger fishmongers and markets in the UK, though they can be quite expensive.  Cook as you would mussels – butter, garlic or shallots,  white wine, parsley. Now for something completely different…

Clams, Murex and Percebe Tellina, Canailla and Percebe.

Admittedly these are the spanish names for these little chaps, but the English translations won’t help you much either:

Tellina: As far as I can make out, Tellina is a type of clam, but many English recipes just refer to it as a Tellina.  Widely used in Italy, they are sweet tasting and can be eaten raw, or cooked in a tomato sauce.

Canailla: This is definitely the spanish term – the English term is ‘Murex’.  Which doesn’t help much… It is a type of whelk, widely used in Malaysia – it can be boiled and served with chilli sauce.  Apparently they used to be harvested to make purple dye.

Percebe: Known to the English speaking world as goose or gooseneck barnacle, I know of these from my childhood rockpooling days, though I had no idea they were edible.  And if I knew how expensive they were (£100+ per kilo), I would have gathered up the 200 or so of them that were dumped on Summerleaze beach in Bude about a month ago.  They have a similar taste to Lobster and are becoming rare, hence the expense. Boil them, strip the skin from the stalk, and eat the flesh.

Red Prawns

The langoustines in the foreground seem like the standard fare we get in the UK, but of particular interest are the huge red prawns just behind them.  I can’t find anything about them online (they were labelled ‘Rojos Frescoes Especiales’), and I was already too laden down with food to buy them,  but if anyone knows what they are, please leave a comment! (EDIT: I think they are rose shrimp, Aristeus Antennatus, who knew there were so many kinds of prawn…)

 Mojama Time

This is another Spanish speciality – Mojama, or salt cured tuna fillets.  It takes like a cured ham, with slight fish undertones.  Not unpleasant, more surprising than anything else, it should be eaten finely sliced with good olive oil.

I’ve only included a sample of the food available at the market, round every corner there was something new and unusual, but hopefully this shows how you can really discover a lot about country and regional food from a visit to their markets.  And although we often think that we already get the best of a countries offering in our own supermarkets and markets, there really is a lot more to be discovered.