If you have visited any of the Balearic Islands, you will know that its inhabitants are very proud of their traditional cuisine and that cooking plays an important role in their daily life.
More so than many other popular tourist destinations, good restaurants are in abundance. Dishes where homemade traditional food made from the natural produce from the land and sea that surrounds them are on order in the majority of restaurants, and finding a ‘bad’ restaurant is actually much harder than finding a good one.
The variety of typical dishes on the Balearic Islands is immense and there are so many delectable foods and typical products of the region to try that you won’t be disappointed. Whether you prefer sweet or savoury, there’s plenty to satisfy everyone’s tastes.
Some say that the regional cuisine of the Islands is based on that of Cataluña and Valencia due to the strong historical links that these areas share. Obviously, being located very close to each other, with a similar climate and natural landscape, many of the dishes and ingredients used will be the same, however, there are still a whole host of foods that you just can’t find anywhere else and that come with an authentic Balearic Island stamp.
The cuisine of the Islands varies from island to island, but many of the ingredients are the same. Seafood features highly for obvious reasons, as does pork due to the importance of pig breeding and farming. Almond trees cover the Islands and therefore are used in abundance in both sweet and savoury dishes, and of course olive oil, bread and tomatoes are an absolute must.
Below is a description of some of the most popular traditional products and dishes from the Balearic Islands. Some you may recognise and others you may not, but there may be one or two that you have tried before without even realising where they originated.
This is probably the most famous traditional product of Mallorca, and you will most likely find them in the majority of supermarkets, large bakeries and cafeterias across the country. The ensaimada is a spiral-shaped pastry made from yeast, lard and flour and sprinkled with icing sugar over the top. It is usually eaten for breakfast but is also a popular snack at around teatime. There are bakeries dedicated solely to the ensaimada, which can come filled with cream or fruit, although that’s not the norm, and, at the airport, you can buy boxes of these pastries in all sizes to take home. Some are even larger than a large pizza!
Spain is well-known for its production of different types of tasty sausages that range from the spicy chorizo to the milder and sweeter longaniza. However, there is only one major type of sausage to come out of Mallorca and it differs quite a lot from all the others. Sobrassada is a red, thick spicy or sweet sausage made from the black Balearic pig. There are imitations, so make sure that you choose a sobrassada with the Sobrasada de Mallorca de Cerdo Negro denomination. The sausage, which is actually raw, is made from minced pork loin that is mixed with paprika, giving it its red colour, salt and black pepper. It is then stuffed into the sausage skins and hung to cure for several weeks, but, because of the climate in Mallorca, which is fairly humid, it doesn’t dry out the same way as other types of sausages from the mainland do, and therefore remains fairly soft. Sobrassada can be found either sweet or spicy and can be eaten raw or cooked. It is very often served spread on traditional farmer’s style crusty bread.
Sopes Mallorquines or Mallorcan Soup is a traditional dish served in all typical restaurants in Mallorca that specialise in homemade cooking. It is usually served as a starter, but is a fairly hefty and filling dish in itself. And it’s delicious despite the fact that it is made out of very cheap and relatively uninspiring ingredients. Onion, garlic and parsley are fried for a few minutes and then green pepper and tomato slices are added. Next chopped cabbage is thrown into the dish along with water to cover and cauliflower, spinach and peas. Finally slices of day-old traditional bread are laid on top and the pan is left to rest until the bread has absorbed the liquid.
Caldereta de Langosta
Seafood is another speciality from the Balearic Islands, and they have plenty of varied dishes to demonstrate this. In fact, there is one type of lobster, the blue spiny lobster, that is abundant in the waters in this area only, and which is known to be the tastiest type of lobster around. For this reason, one of the most special dishes to come from the island on Menorca is the calderata de langosta, or the lobster stew. As with many excellent dishes from the Mediterranean, the ingredients for this stew are few, yet the result is stunning. Hours are spent making a delicious sofrito, a base mixture of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic and parsley, to which pieces of tasty lobster are added, and the whole dish is served with thin slices of crusty bread. However, take note that the caldereta de langosta can only be enjoyed during the spring and summer months as the local lobsters are a protected species and their fishing is prohibited at other times of the year.
While France is usually the country associated with good cheese, anyone that has spent any time in Spain will know that this country also produces almost as many excellent cheeses itself, and the Spanish take pride in their produce. Maó cheese, or Mahon cheese as it is also known as, comes from Menorca and is name after its capital – Mahon. This pale cheese is a fairly soft cheese made from cow’s milk and has a salty and buttery taste to it. You can distinguish this product from all the others as it is square in shape and has a bright orange wax seal covering it. Maó cheese that has aged for less time is softer and less salty. It is often served with fresh bread and red wine.
Tumbet is a typical vegetarian dish from the island of Mallorca. It can be eaten on its own, and is usually done so, or it can be served as an accompaniment to meat or fish. It is basically a mixture of sliced potatoes, peppers, onions and aubergine that have been seasoned and fried lightly in olive oil and then arranged in layers and baked in the oven. It is always baked and served in an earthenware dish, which is typical for many Spanish plates.
Coca de trampó
This is another popular traditional dish from the largest of the Balearic Islands, and you will find it in every bakery on the island. It is also known as a coca de verduras, as it only contains fresh vegetables. It is a savoury dish, similar to the Italian pizza. The base is a very thin, crispy pastry, which is topped with a delicious mixture of chopped tomatoes, onions and peppers.
Aubergines are used a lot in Mallorcan cuisine and you will usually find stuffed aubergines on a list of starters in any traditional restaurant. The aubergine flesh is removed from the skin and cooked with minced meat, garlic, onion, parsley, tomato frito and seasoning. This mixture is then returned to the aubergine skin and topped with breadcrumbs or cheese and baked in the oven.
And, to finish off every good meal, most Mallorcans will drink a small glass of hierbas mallorquines; a thick, green alcoholic liqueur made from a variety of herbs including mint, aniseed, rosemary, fennel and lemon rind. It is known to be a digestive and will therefore settle the stomach after a big meal.