A calçotada is an exclusively Catalan gastronomic experience which is peculiar because of both the kind of food eaten (literally a “shod”spring onion) and the way it is eaten, with the hands while wearing an enormous bib. The sauce provides a unique touch.
The “calçots” season runs from November to April and you cannot visit Catalonia during these months without trying them. This variety of spring onion owes its large white stalk to the fact that soil is packed and repacked onto the plant. After harvested, it is grilled directly without peeling it. The onions are eaten by hand by peeling off the outer burned parts. It is relatively easy to reach the tender, flavourful heart of the onion by pressing at the base with your fingertips and drawing out the insides by pulling with the fingers of the other hand. Then you dip the onion into the calçot sauce and eat them. No silverware is used. The hands get black and the sauce will probably drip onto your chest, so a large bib is worn while eating calçots.
Many family and popular celebrations of this kind (called calçotadas) are held in the countryside and villages in late winter to savour calçots, and they are always followed by grilled meat and sausage. There are also many restaurants that specialise in calçots, especially in the region where they originated, Valls and the county of Alt Camp in Tarragona. But you can also enjoy this traditional country food in the heart of Barcelona.
What is the sauce made of?
Ripe tomatoes, a ñora (a kind of pepper), garlic, olive oil, hazelnuts and fried bread. It can be madein a blender by blending together all the ingredients.The tomatoes and garlic are baked until soft and then their pulp is used, as well as the pulp of the pepper after first soaking it.