Mercat St. Josep – La Boqueria

la boqueria

la boqueria

August 19th, 2013

I make a beeline for the La Boqueria (Barcelona’s beautiful and historical market) almost as soon as my plane lands.



Aside from general food shopping, I love the smell of Jamón Serrano, possibly even more than the taste if that’s possible. In Spain it’s normal to buy a whole ham and have it sitting in the kitchen on a purpose built support. You slice off what you need when required.



When I get to my final day (each visit) I go and buy my favourite Spanish foods to take home. Above is Ramos (stall 235), who specialise in cured meat and sausages. I always visit them to buy a large Chorizo de Bellota (which comes vacuum packed). Chorizo de Bellota  is made from Jamón Ibérico (Iberian pigs that have been allowed to roam free in oak forests, eating acorns – bellota) and smoked pimentón. Bellota signifies that it is the highest quality Spanish ham and pork. In acorn fed pigs, the fat contains a considerable amount of oleic acid, the constituent in olive oil that helps lower cholesterol levels.

whole chorizo

whole chorizo

The one above is almost 2 feet long – this size just fits into my suitcase diagonally. After removing the vacuum packaging, the chorizo needs to be hung up in a cool place to dry out. It can be eaten straight away, but it’s best if left for a week or so. Chorizo and Jamon Serrano are cured and will keep for years (ideally in an old fashioned larder) – that’s the point of curing. Once sliced, the end can be covered with clean muslin or kitchen paper and it can be left hanging. It keeps and tastes best out of the fridge.

chorizo de bellota

chorizo de bellota

I’ve tried just about all the chorizo in the Boqueria and this one is my favourite. I can’t find anything as good in England and certainly not for 27€.



My next essential buy is some Manchego from the cheese stall, Formatgeria Pacheco – Font (stall 945).

cheese window

cheese window

You can buy Manchego in Britain from most supermarkets, but generally its quite young, rubbery and processed, you won’t find the kind of variety in raw milk or aged cheeses that you get in Spain. Some aged Manchego can have a very similar taste and texture to Parmesan and Grana Padano.

front counter

front counter

The Cheese Lady is happy to let me taste the ones that take my fancy and I normally come away with roughly half a cheese – about a kilo. The one I chose, centre above, is an artesanal cheese, made from pur ovella (pure, raw sheep’s milk) and aged for 24 months.



It has a strong, sharp, peppery taste with a crumbly texture. Manchego is defined as a sheep’s milk cheese, produced by Manchega sheep, in the La Mancha region. However, there are a lot of Manchego style cheeses produced in other parts of Spain. The real thing is labeled Denominación de Origen Protegida (D.O.P.).

the brandada lady

the brandada lady

I consider the Chorizo and Manchego to be essential purchases, but if I’m still flush by the end of my stay, I visit the Brandada Lady (stall 728).



She sells the finest Brandada (a coarse purée of reconstituted salt cod, garlic and olive oil), Bacalao (salt cod, above)



and Mojama (salted, air dried tuna loin). Mojama is in effect tuna ham. It’s not cheap at 45€ a kilo, but it’s quite delicious and keeps for ages, so it’s easy to carry home in a suitcase.

foie gras mi cuit

foie gras mi cuit

Avinova – Aviram Ous i Caça (stall 703) is also worth a visit for foie gras and croquetas. My London butcher tells me that because of the high fat content, foie gras will keep for a  long time – years if frozen.

All the above stalls can be found on the Boqueria Map.

La Boqueria is at: Rambla, 91 08001 Barcelona

A visit to La Boquería is certainly worth while; it is the best showcase of ingredients in the city, with its fish products which arrive at the market from 7 pm, and fresh fish from the port of Rosas, as well as salt fish, poultry, fruit, meat and offal. Here one can find things that are impossible to find anywhere else in Barcelona.

Manuel Vázquez Montalban

Writer and gastronome.

About Mad Dog
This entry was posted in Barcelona, Fish, Food, Meat, Shopping, Spanish and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Mercat St. Josep – La Boqueria

  1. Tessa says:

    What fabulous ingredients!

  2. Ruth says:

    Your photographs and descriptions make my mouth water for the taste of all that wonderful food. I especially like the idea of “the cheese lady”. Mmmmm.

  3. Top shopping list. Even though I eat very little meat, Serrano is a definite exception. I love mojama but I’ve never seen the aged Manchego, but I think the Spanish shop in La Rochelle may have it. There’s a big Spanish and Basque population in La Rochelle as ETA used to have a big presence there:)

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Roger. I imagine you will find some mature Manchego in the Spanish shop – it’s extremely good. As you would imagine. the price increases with age 😉

  4. Jenny Betteridge says:

    I took a School trip to Barcelona recently – and whilst all the other small groups of girls went clothes shopping around Las Ramblas – I took my group (kicking and screaming) into Mercat St. Josep – La Boqueria ….after they squealed and ran away from the goats heads, intestines and testicles they all enjoyed the most amazing ice-cream that was so beautifully displayed with all the colours of the rainbow. I believe that I truly educated my pupils on that day!

    • Mad Dog says:

      You definitely had the right idea – they might have been a bit squeamish, but it’s good to know where real food comes from. I bet the ice cream was far superior to anything on the Ramblas too 😉

  5. It’s a place you could never tire of. You introduced me to Brandada through a post last year – wonderful stuff! We always travel with our jamon(es) when we drive to the UK…we’re very popular with friends and neighbours 🙂

    • Mad Dog says:

      I bet your car smells amazing! I’m sure you really appreciate the disparity in quality and price between here and Spain. My friend Audrey tried the chorizo and was completely blown away by the difference to what you can buy here 😉
      I still haven’t got round to making brandada, but I really should make the effort soon…

      • Yes, the smell is good – I love going into bar with lots of jamones hanging up (especially now you can’t smoke in bars). Have to confess I have only ever bought brandada, but I don’t think it’s that tricky to make. Now the smell of salt cod is quite another thing before it’s prepared (pretty disgusting!).

        • Mad Dog says:

          I can remember my mother cooking frozen cod for our cat, back in the 70’s – nothing beats the smell of that when you allow it to boil over – it’s quite horrible 😉

  6. ChgoJohn says:

    Oh, how I’d love to spend some time in that market. It would have to be upon my arrival, on my way from the airport to my hotel. I would never be able to bring any of my purchases home so I’d need every possible minute to eat it all before I left Europe. Remember, I can’t control myself in a farmers market. 🙂

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