The Ebro Delta is not only famous for its natural environments, but is also a renowned gastronomic destination, distinguishing itself from other great destinations by offering various unique dishes. Its cuisine occupies a leading position within the great Mediterranean diet, as its environment offers the ideal location to satisfy the most demanding palates in terms of farm-to-fork food, based on natural ingredients found locally here in the Delta.
Eels and Elvers
Eels breed wildly in the salty waters of the natural marshes and in the river. It can be prepared in the form of smoked eel canapés (made using natural tomato and finely chopped garlic mixed with small bits of eel on freshly toasted bread). Eel “chapadillo” is a very typical dish (dried eel cut up and grilled) along with eel in “suc” (stewed eel in sauce). During the winter the elvers – used to prepare a delicious delicacy – are caught whilst swimming up the river, where they are trapped in nets placed along the riverbank by professional fisherman. They are eaten Bilbao style, with garlic and spicy chilli, but also in the “cavera” style, with a green sauce native to the Ebro Delta.
Seafood and Shellfish
From the long marine sand banks in the delta, razor shells are collected, which are locally known under the name of “canyuts”. They are characterised by a small size and huge flavour. They are unbeatable on the grill. Grooved carpet shells, locally known as “grúmols”, are also collected from the sand banks, providing one more great dish, steam cooked to preserve their natural flavour. We mustn’t forget tellins, locally called “tallarinas”, unbeatable when grilled, with the addition of each chef’s personal touch. In the Alfacs and Fangar bays mussels are grown in beds along with the famous Pacific oysters (locally known under the name of “ostrones”) on top of bateas, i.e. wooden buildings resting on poles driven into the seabed. Long ropes fastened to the part of the wooden poles emerging from the water hang down into the sea, where mussels and Pacific oysters are attached to be cultured and eventually collected for consumption. Prawns are the king of the seafood in the Ebro Delta; their tasting is essential and they are great cooked, grilled or served in a cocktail preparation with lettuce and cocktail sauce.
The Ebro Delta shoots its arrow in the very heart of the Mediterranean sea and, as it cannot be otherwise, the fish supply is of amazing quality and freshness. In the fishing ports of Deltebre, L’Ampolla, Sant Carles de la Ràpita and Las Casas de Alcanar, the fleets unload their catch daily, which you can see still alive in the local fish auction halls. The fish varieties most typical of the Ebro Delta are the gilthead sea bream and the sea bass, either salted, grilled or baked; the sole in an almond sauce and the ray cooked in many different ways. The “suquet” is a dish prepared with various types of fish stewed in a sauce. Very interesting.
An elaborate dish which deserves a special mention and is very typical in this area is rice. The main secret lies in the professional preparation of the “fumet”, i.e. the basic broth, made with delicious ingredients such as the mantis shrimp, another crustacean typical of the area. Also, the rice’s capacity to absorb flavours, along with its right cooking time (al dente) and its ability to remain such for a certain time, is the second secret to the success of rice. There are unlimited possibilities: rice with mantis shrimp and artichoke; with Norway lobster, goosefish and clams; with common lobster; with scallops; with cabbage and beans (very typical); with cuttlefish, artichokes and mushrooms; with duck, eel and snails; with eel and crabs, etc… Another dish based on the same formula, although without so many variations, is the “fideuà”, in which rice is replaced with thin noodles. Another typical dish is black rice, with squid ink, or the “arroz a banda”, which consists in serving separately first the fish that has been used and then the plain rice.
Fowl is also present in many dishes here in the Ebro Delta, and duck is probably its main representative. Its careful breeding and feeding and the careful selection of the breed result in a very tasty gastronomic delight. The confit thigh and magret with foie gras or grilled are especially exquisite.
The Mediterranean climate, with mild winter temperatures and the mineral quality of the land in the Ebro Delta and surrounding areas ensure excellent conditions for the production of oranges, tangerines, lemons, artichokes, tomatoes, peaches, cherries, vegetables, dried fruits, etc.
Worth mentioning among the most delicious desserts typical of the Ebro Delta are the “menjar blanc” (i.e. blancmange), made with rice flour and milk, “pastissets”, dumplings made with flour, oil and anise and stuffed with cabell d’àngel, sweet potato, cheese curds and other ingredients.
Throughout the year in many parts of the Ebro Delta and the surrounding areas, gastronomic events are held along with festivals dedicated to rice, artichokes, citrus, “fideuà”, stock, black pudding with rice, prawns, mantis shrimp, oysters, mussels, Norway lobsters, octopus, oily fish, desserts, etc. These events attract many people who can enjoy quality menus at reasonable prices in various restaurants around the area as well as buy products to take away.