Variations on Ensalada Valenciana

Classic dishes, as I have found out, may have many variations.  For example, Paella and Ensalada Valenciana (Valencian Salad). Both dishes originate from Valencia, Spain, but all are made in different ways by different restaurants.  So it was an adventure each time I ordered one of these dishes.

For this article, I would like to show you two versions of Ensalada Valenciana, and also to give you a recipe I found on a Spanish recipe website.  Both salads were an appetizer before the main course.  The first salad was from a small cafe on the side street to my hotel.  The salad came with:

  • lettuce
  • sliced onions
  • sliced tomatoes
  • green olives
  • olive oil to taste
  • salt to taste
First Ensalada Valenciana with olive oil and salt in the background

First Ensalada Valenciana with olive oil and salt in the background

A simple salad, similar to what I could get in Vancouver.  The only “Valencian” or Mediterranean specific ingredient to me would be the green olives.

The second salad was from La Pepica, an institution on the Valencia Beach, having been in business for more than 100 years.  Their salad contained:

  • lettuce
  • sliced tomatoes
  • julienned carrots
  • black and green olives
  • sliced hard boiled egg
  • flaked tuna
  • pickled unripe figs ( I think )
  • olive oil to taste
  • salt to taste

This was a very tasty salad. In particular I liked the pickled unripe figs.  At first glance they look like small green olives with a stem, but on closer look, you see patterning on the skin, and when you bite in, it is filled with hundreds of tiny seeds; no single large seed.  The pickled figs are quite addictive, sour, similar to a green pickle, but has some other vegetal flavour I cannot place.  All I can do is recommend to try them when you are in Spain, or pick up a bottle from a Mediterranean grocery store.  Each bite of the salad has different flavours and textures, from the tuna to the tomatoes, eggs, and more.  Recommended.

La Pepica Ensalada Valenciana

La Pepica Ensalada Valenciana

And to round out this article, I tried to see which of the two above dishes served to me was the more authentic version.  I searched many recipe websites, trying to concentrate on Spanish websites, as I felt that these websites would be have their recipes uploaded from cooks in Spain.  Again, I found many variations, but I think the La Pepica one would be the better variation.

A close recipe I found had the following ingredients for 2 people:

  • lettuce
  • a tomato salad
  • a boiled egg
  • a can of tuna
  • olives
  • asparagus
  • onion
  • anchovies in oil
  • virgin olive oil
  • salt

(http://www.gandiaturistica.com/ensalada-valenciana.htm)

Whatever variation you prefer, please try to make an Ensalada Valenciana this summer as a nice start to a summer dinner (and pair it with a Rosado wine), or try it at a restaurant in Spain if you are lucky enough to travel there.  Enjoy!

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