Ahh that “sweet” smell of fried oil wafting through the streets of Valencia and impregnating your clothes can only mean one thing: Fallas is here! The source of this smell is the countless stalls set up in the street all over Valencia selling what in Spain we poetically call “fruits of the frying pan” (Frutas de sarten). These “fruits” are dough morsels deep-fried in oil such as churros, porras and buñuelos. Buñuelos are popular all over Spain, especially during Lent, but in Valencia they have few local variations such as buñuelos de calabaza (Pumpkin Buñuelos) and buñuelos de higos (Fig Buñuelos).
I tend to avoid the stalls set up on the streets because they don’t usually change the frying oil frequently and therefore quality is compromised.
Buñuelos are best eaten once they have been just fried so make sure they don’t give you buñuelos from an old batch that’s been lying around for ages. I prefer to buy them straight from where they fry the buñuelos rather than sitting down in the bar and enjoying them at the table because then you can more or less control that they sell you the freshest ones.
Here are my top 5 places in order:
1 Mari Toñi
Don’t be put off by the ghastly decor which hasn’t changed since the 80s; this place offers genuine buñuelos and good hot chocolate surrounded by locals. It may not be located in the most picturesque area but it really is worth the short walk over the bridge from the historic centre to enjoy a few pumpkin buñuelos dunked into hot chocolate. During Fallas I don’t even think they close day or night…
2 Figues Albardaes
This is a temporary establishment which only opens during Fallas; it’s not actually called Figues Albardaes (it doesn’t seem to have a name) but this is the main star of this place. Figues Albardaes (or Higos Albardados in Spanish) are dried figs encased in buñuelo batter and deep fried; they are finger licking good! They also sell plain buñuelos too if you are not partial to figs.
3 Picó Masià
Picó Masiá is a café/ice cream parlour/horchateria that also turns into a temporary buñuelo shop during Fallas. You can either have them in-house or buy them from a window on the side of the establishment where you can watch them make the buñuelos. Service is great and the buñuelos themselves are perfectly crispy.
4 Bar Riera
This is another temporary buñuelo shop so make sure you come here to try their famous buñuelos that are mostly known by locals and not many tourists. The seating area is small so you’re best bet is to get them to go.
5 El Collado
This is one of the only places in Valencia which makes buñuelos practically all year around (from November to June) so don’t worry if you don’t make it here during Fallas as you have plenty more opportunities to go. I am not the biggest fan of their hot chocolate (I prefer mine thicker) but there is a fix to this “problem”. Buy your buñuelos here and then go around the corner to Chocolatería Artesano Comes & Vero (Artisan Chocolatiers) where you can buy proper hot chocolate (their spicy hot chocolate is amazing) and then enjoy your little delights in the area.
Popularity is not everything:
If you ask a Valencian for their favourite places to eat buñuelos chances are that on their list are those places where they have nostalgic sentiments attached to them. In most cases, the rise in popularity has also had a negative impact on them. Sometimes I feel that as they know that they have loyal clientele, they have lost some of the magic that made them popular in the first place. These places include Fabian and Horchateria Santa Catalina. Horchateria Santa Catalina is located in a beautiful establishment decorated in traditional tiles but the service is absolutely terrible all year around; I always avoid it like the plague.