Valencia is surrounded by its huerta, a fertile coastal agricultural plain that supplies it with excellent fruit and vegetables.
You're seriously spoiled for choice when it comes to the numerous restaurants. Less tapas-hopping is done in Valencia than in the rest of Spain. Locals tend to sit down at bar or table to eat a meal of various tapas portions.
In the centre there are numerous traditional options, as well as trendy tapas choices. The main eating zones are the Barrio del Carmen, L'Eixample and, above all, the vibrant tapas-packed streets of Russafa.
Valencia is the home of rice dishes, which go far beyond what the rest of the world thinks of as paella. For Valencians, rice is exclusively a lunchtime dish, though a few places do prepare it at dinnertime for the tourist trade.
On weekends, heading to the beach, into the huerta or to Albufera villages such as Pinedo or El Palmar to eat rice dishes is a local tradition, but Valencians also love to get together at someone's house and cook up a rice dish themselves.
Valencian Rice Dishes
There's a whole world of rices in Valencia. Paella is a dry rice, with the liquid evaporated. Rices served with broth are known as caldoso (soupy) or meloso, which are wet. Rices reflect the seasons, with winter and summer ingredients making their way into the dish depending on the month. Almost any ingredient can find its way into one, including all types of vegetables, fish, seafood and meat.
Paellas are typical of the Valencian coast. Meat paellas normally have chicken and rabbit, with green beans and other vegetables in summer, or perhaps fava beans and artichokes in winter.
Fish rices tend to be served more liquid, with calamari or cuttlefish supplying the flavour and prawns or langoustines for decoration. If you add prawns to a meat paella, it's a paella mixta. Arroz negro (black rice) is another typical coastal rice that's made with squid ink and fish stock.
Fideuà is similar to paella, but made with fine pasta. Fresh rockfish are used to make a fish stock. The dish is faster to cook, as the noodles are done faster than rice.
Popular seafood-based winter rices include a cauliflower and salt-cod paella.
In the interior, rices tend to be heavier. In Alcoy and Xàtiva, rices are baked in the oven and might have pork, sausage, beans and black pudding. In Alicante’s interior one typical rice has snails, rabbit and chickpeas, while around Orihuela arroz con costra (crusty rice) is made in the oven with a crust of beaten egg on top.