No. Not Angola. The name is A-n-d-o-r-r-a! Though the official language is Catalan, many confess knowing next to nothing about this mystery of a microstate. It’s a pearl of breathtaking beauty neatly tucked away high up in the Pyrenees mountains.
Squished between Spain and France, this tiny country is an upscale destination for nature lovers. It has a population of about 77,000 and is considered part of the Catalonian region.
The food of any country often creates a sweet and savory convergence between culture and history. So, it’s important to probe a little to uncover the simmering story of this beautiful multilingual country, whose inhabitants proudly boast of mostly Andorran, Spanish, French, and even Portuguese roots.
Though a distinct mix of Catalan, Spanish, and French influences, Andorran gastronomy is qualified as mountain food and belongs to the western Mediterranean type of cuisine.
But it’s not just the food, it’s the fact that many traditional dishes in Andorra are tightly intertwined with its seasons and festival periods. Now, if you seriously thirst for an authentic culinary voyage, then head for the mountain restaurants or bordas.
It’s in these bordas that you’ll discover the most tantalizing, mouth-watering mountain dishes prepared in the traditional way. Here, meals are made using recipes and utensils that have been passed down from many generations.
A borda in Catalan is a typical stone-built building found in the Pyrenees mountains. These simple, often rustic type restaurants are the ones you find discreetly located often on the outskirts and beyond. Either head towards St Julia de Loria, or in the opposite direction as you ascend, traversing Escaldes-Engordany. When you arrive, here are the top 9 must-taste dishes to ask for:
Galtes de Porc (Pigs Cheeks)
Galtes de porc is a nice dish for foodies game to experiment with new meat delicacies from afar. It might surprise some to know that pig cheeks are eaten, but these soft and succulent cuts of meat are a delicacy in Andorra.
This popular dish is prepared in a variety of ways throughout the country, but more especially in a sauce. The cheeks are initially browned in the oven before being combined with other ingredients to prepare the sauce. The recipe of a renowned Andorran chef combines pork cheeks with red wine, celery leaves, leeks, broth, and other fresh staple ingredients like garlic, carrots, onions, tomatoes, salt & black pepper.
Similar to leeks, calçots are seasonal vegetables native to the Catalan region. Originating from the onion family, they’re eaten mostly between January and April, beckoning the arrival of spring, and signaling the changing of seasons.
This seasonal vegetable is traditionally eaten during a Calçotada – a celebration of gastronomy, where humongous servings of barbecued calçots are served with Romesco sauce, bread, and red wine.
Escudella (Boiled Pork with Vegetables)
Famished and ready to entice your palate? Andorra’s national dish comes highly recommended. With many variations to choose from, this rich and hearty meal is eaten mostly in winter but features high on menus during the holy days of San Sebastia, Santa Llucia, and San Antoni, as well.
Escudella is basically boiled pork or a conglomerate of meat, along with vegetables. The most authentic versions are the ones made with an amazing variety of meats which might include pigs ears, chicken, veal, and sausage. During Christmas time, it’s reinvented and upgraded into sopa grossa, with shell macaroni added.
Always served hot and fresh, escudella is one of the best foods in Andorra. If you have a chance to try it, don’t miss it!
Trinxat (Similar to Bubbles & Squeak)
Trinxat is a popular dish in mountain areas. It originates in the Catalonian regions of Cerdanya and Alt Urgell in Spain, but it is widely eaten in Andorra, where it’s considered a real delight. Trinxat in Catalan means “sliced, minced or chopped”.
With its strong flavor, this sumptuous potato-based meal takes its name from its method of preparation (ingredients are sliced, mashed, and crushed with a fork). Similar to the British bubble and squeak, trinxat is a winter dish, whose main ingredients are cabbage, potato, garlic, bacon, bringuera (pork blood sausage), and butifarra.
Amanida de Xicoira (Chicory Leaf Salad)
Summer in Andorra is festival time. It’s a season that’s ushered in with equally heart-warming yet light dishes revered by Andorrans for their cooling effect during the hot summer months. It’s no wonder Amanida de Xicoira is an all-time favorite.
Xicoira is one of several varieties of plush, healthy vegetables that grow on the many mountainsides of Andorra. Made with wild chicory leaves, bacon, and often snails, this sumptuous salad is just one more expression of the nutrition-conscious Andorran culture.
Trucha a la Andorrana (Andorran-style Trout)
Though landlocked, Andorra is blessed with many clean rivers thriving with fresh trout. The air at such high altitudes can do wonders for the respiratory system. But it gets better. Imagine the taste of fresh-water trout from a sparkling pristine river created by nature high up in the Pyrenees mountains. These sparkling rivers are highly prized and protected by government regulation.
So, make no mistake. While Andorrans certainly do love their meat, fish-lovers still abound. This explains why Trucha a la Andorrana is a home staple that’s always served in grand style. It’s a simple dish made with seasoned, grilled trout, often wrapped in ham. An almond sauce is made with parsley, hard cheese, white almonds, and extra virgin olive oil, as an accompaniment.
It’s not possible to write about Andorran cuisine without mentioning embotits. Extending even beyond the rocky terrains of Andorra, these cured, dry sausages are infused in all Catalan cuisine, yet it’s important to note that Andorrans are particularly proud of the quality of their own home-produced meat. This means that here, embotits are made only from choicest lean meats of the largest pigs to ensure the dark coloring and unique flavor for which they are known.
While many dishes in Andorra are seasonal, expect to find artisan embotits in almost every local home throughout the year. Here are some intriguing yet tasty types to try on your next trip:
Botifarra blanca (white blood sausage) made with cooked offal and hearts, a small amount of red bell pepper, and bacon fat.
Botifarra negra (black/blood sausage) one of the country’s most important dishes, whose main ingredients are blood, fatty bacon, and onions.
Bringuera, cooked with parts of select meats, lean meats, and bacon fats.
Bull de Fetge, calls for boiled liver, bacon and bacon fat, garlic, and parsley.
Bull de llengua (tongue of bull), made with the tongue that’s been cleaned and scalded, and salt and pepper.
Bull de ronyó, made in the same way as bull de llengua, but with kidney instead. Other ingredients include salt, pepper, grains, and parsley leaves.
Cargols a la lluna (Snails)
The French love their grenouilles (frog legs). Andorrans love their cargols (snails). There are many different kinds of snails, and some of them can be quite big. Yet, it’s the small garden snails that are the most common species found in the region, and are considered a true delicacy.
Although prepared in different ways in Catalonia, in Andorra, they’re served as a dish called cargols a la lluna. The snails are roasted in the oven and served with a garlic-based mayonnaise called alioli, and of course, olive oil and salt, to taste.
Crema Catalana (Custard Dessert)
A great dessert for spring, crema catalana is a Spanish custard and one of the most popular desserts in Andorra. Many believe it to be one of the oldest custard desserts in Europe. It’s probably the most widely eaten dessert in the country, and at the top of the list for those new to Andorran gastronomy.
This crunchy and creamy delight is very similar to the French crème brûlée (burnt cream custard), but while crema catalana is made using milk, cornstarch, and eggs to thicken, crème brûlée is made using thick cream. Also, crema catalana is made with a thinner crust and caramelized sugar. Other ingredients include sugar, cinnamon, cream, and butter. A kitchen blow torch is often used to caramelize the tops, and the dessert is served immediately.