Sometimes, I just crave something salty. Luckily for me, one of Catalonia’s most well-known traditional dishes, Esqueixada, has that fresh, salty, oniony and tomatoey flavour that makes me oh so happy.
Esqueixada, meaning “torn” or “shredded”, is one of Catalonia’s favourite warm weather dishes, a homely dish enjoyed in many waterfront restaurants in the Spanish region. The salad dish is made up of yummy shredded salt cod, tomatoes, onions, vinegar, salt and sometimes bell peppers and olives. Esqueixada’s simplicity is so different from the molecularised foods emerging from Catalonia’s “boom gastronómico” but that’s where its beauty lies.
The salad makes use of the Catalan staple salt cod, an homage to its Mediterranean coastline and love of fish, as well as tomatoes, brought from the New World by Spain’s own Columbus. The use of such key ingredients encapsulates the way in which Catalan cuisine weaves together its rich culture and history and how it’s an “inheritance from and tribute to all the civilizations that have ruled Europe since Imperial Roman times”.1
I’ve never seen this dish plated up in Melbourne and would definitely not classify it as haute cuisine. Outside of Catalonia and even Spain, the only difference with the dish concerns the availability of ingredients. Salt cod is not too popular in most parts of the world, and thus when making the dish, the cod would have to be cured and salted at home. I did come across some Ferran Adrii inspired versions of the dish however, demonstrating how the traditional, home-style cooking of the region is being modernized.
Prior to studying Catalan cuisine, I wouldn’t have even considered the significance behind such a simple salad!
1L’any del menjar, cuina i gastronomia, p. 20.