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El Esmorzaret: What is Valencia’s sacred snack tradition?

The Local Spain
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El Esmorzaret: What is Valencia’s sacred snack tradition?
Valencia's esmorzaret tradition. Photo: Raphael Nogueira / Unsplash

You may wonder how Spaniards make it all the way until 2pm or even later for lunchtime, their main meal of the day. The trick is that they don’t, in many parts of Spain they’ll have a merienda or snack to tide them over, but in Valencia, they’ll have el esmorzaret.

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El esmorzaret is something akin to 'little breakfast' or snack. It is neither breakfast nor lunch, yet something in between, not unlike the elevenses that the British enjoy. More than just a little snack, however, el esmorzaret can actually be quite hearty and substantial and could even be considered a type of brunch. 

Unlike elevenses though, there isn’t a set time for el esmorzaret, the Valencian Tourist Board says that it’s “between 9:00, for the purists, and 12:00, for the stragglers”.

The tradition began in l’Horta, a fertile area which stretches 120 km2 around the city of Valencia, from Puzol in the north to Albufera in the south, as well as towns including Moncada, Paterna and Torrent. 

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The farmers who worked in the fields growing all the local fruits and vegetables would enjoy a mid-morning snack during a short break. Often they would bring their own filled baguettes and order a drink and an appetiser to accompany it. 

Since this time, the tradition has spread and extended to other areas of the region.

Today, the typical esmorzaret begins with a selection of appetisers, traditionally little nibbles such as cacau del collaret, a local type of peanut, some pickled vegetables, olives and tramussos. Tramussos are lupin or lupini beans, a member of the pea family and are slightly nutty and harder than other beans. They are traditionally eaten all over Spain as a snack. 

These nibbles will be accompanied by a drink - you could order anything you wanted, but to be a true Valencian esmorzaret eater, it would be a glass of beer or a type of tinto de verano or vi amb llimona as it's called in Valenciano, which is essentially red wine and lemonade. 

READ ALSO: How much does it really cost to live in Spain's Valencia?

Now here's where it becomes much more than just a snack, because the next course is a large baguette (bocadillo) stuffed with various hearty ingredients. It could be anything from deli meats to omelettes, fried egg or cheese. 

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But to be a true esmorzaret purist you could go with one of the classic Valencian creations instead of choosing your own fillings. One of the most popular is the chivito, filled with grilled pork loin, fried egg, crisply bacon, mayonnaise, cheese and topped off with a piece of lettuce. Another is the blanco y negro which is a mixture between longaniza sausage and blood sausage (or black pudding), as well as broad beans. 

Or you could opt for the traditional horse meat with wild garlic or the Almussafes, stuffed with sobresada sasuage meat, slices of cheese and caramelised onions. Another favourite is the Pepito, a small bread roll stuffed with titaina (like a tuna ratatouille) that is soaked in milk and egg before being fried. 

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The Valencian mid-morning snack doesn't stop there, however, no, it needs to be finished off with something a little extra. Many Spanish meals are completed with a coffee and the esmorzaret isn't all that different. The classic Valencian way to finish it off is with a cremaet. Creamaet is similar to the Spanish carajillo or the Catalan cremat and even the Galician queimada. These are all essentially some type of spirit mixed with some type of coffee or coffee beans. The Valencian cremaet is hot coffee with rum, slightly sweetened with sugar and flavoured with cinnamon sticks and lemon peel. 

Where to try esmorzaret in Valencia. Photo: Lynn Vdbr / Unsplash
 

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Where to find it:

The esmorzaret can be found in many traditional bars across Valencia, but for some of the best examples here's a list of some bars to order it in Valencia city. Look out for places that have been awarded the Cacau D’Or prize for esmorzaret excellence. 

Bar Nuevo Oslo - Bar Nuevo Oslo was the winner of the Cacau D’Or prize in 2022. It has all the fillings and the aperitivos laid out along the bar, so you can choose exactly what you want. 

Bar Mistela - Mistela reinvents the classic Valencian esmorzaret with inventive and creative bites. There's their version of the almussafes with scrambled eggs, poached onion, ham and cheese, and the Copa del Mundo - with Spanish tortilla (potato omelette), sausages and allioli (garlic mayonnaise).

La Cantina - Located in the hip Ruzafa area, La Cantina has become one of the best bars for esmorzaret in the city with its offerings for just €7. Its main offering is a sandwich filled with morcilla (blood sausage), broad beans and crisps. They also have options for vegans. 

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Central Bar - Located within the Mercat Central (central market), this bar is run by Ricard Camarena, one of Valencia's most famous chefs, who has two Michelin Stars. His signature bocadillo is filled with pork loin, mustard, cheese and fried onions. 

El Trocito del Medio - A classic for both snacks and lunch in Valencia, this spot is hugely popular and is always packed on weekends. Its offerings include baguettes filled with fried potatoes and tuna; fried egg, bacon and salad; and even calamari. 

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