Friday, October 7, 2011



A robust combination of sounds and colours will light up your morning at the Mercado Central alias Central Market in true local Spanish style as I discover that Spain is a foodie’s haven and Valencia is no exception….

The market is known to have a surface area of over 8,000 square meters with over one thousand selling posts and is full of radiant stalls run by local vendors with fresh produce from near and around. In a section on the far side of the market are all the fish stalls with sea-food laid out on beds of ice. Fresh seafood is delivered here every single day. Interestingly the original paella Valenciana does not contain any seafood as it originates from the nearby marshes. Authentic paella consists of rice, saffron, garlic, chicken and rabbit. As you stroll through the scores of stalls, it is impossible not to be impressed by the selections displayed right in front of your eyes. One can find everything from fresh fruits and meat to a paella pan that serves up to a hundred people. It certainly provides a unique glimpse into the culture and flavours of the city. Tasting an Olive from a vendor or a sweet and juicy orange juice are unforgettable experiences. Obviously one cannot bring home the fresh fruits and vegetables but the Bomba rice (heirloom variety), the spices, and the special pans for making paella are delicious reminders of your trip to carry back with you.
An enormous highlight of Mercado Central would have to be the architecture. Built in the early twentieth century, now this art nouveau market is bathed in an abundance of natural light through coloured window panels and decorated with colourful ceramics and mosaics at every turn. The spectacular domed ceiling, with its sky high windows, is breath-taking beautiful. And the perfect place to buy local delicacies.

You cannot leave Valencia without eating the famed Valencian oranges. However much you might be tempted to eat an orange off the many trees in the city, be warned that they may look pretty but taste bitter and sour. Head out to an orange grove is a good idea if you must pick your own oranges. But at the Central Market you can indulge in all manner of absolutely fresh and flavourful produce.

Native to almost every Spanish household ‘Jamon Espanol’ is this giant, cured pig leg that is placed in its own special holder usually on the kitchen counter and is carved off whenever some ham is needed. If you are looking for something inexpensive then go for ‘Jamon recebo’, from pigs fed on a mixed diet. But the best and most expensive is definitely the ‘Jamon Iberico’, from pigs which have supposedly dined on nothing other than fallen acorns (bellotas) from the holm oak. You will come across many stalls of Ham at the market, offering this and Serrano as well.

For those who don’t know, ‘paella’ is not the rice meal, but the metal pan in which it is cooked. The shallow pans ensure that the rice is spread out well, and the thin metal guarantees a fine crust on the bottom. No one can pass up the array of iron and stainless steel pans at Ceramicas Terriols stall, where the owner also provides a recipe with every buy you make.

All in all exciting new food experiences will make your visit quite memorable!!

Perched high above the ornate iron and glass dome, its feet resting on a golden ball, is the Cotorra Del Mercat, the big green parrot that is the symbol of this market.

The Mercado Central was inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1928.

Mercado Central de Valencia
Plaza Del Mercado, 1
46001 Valencia, Espana.
Tel: +34 963 829 100

Open Monday through Saturday from 7:30pm to 2:30pm.

Published in Imperia