Patatas Bravas are one of Madrid’ signature tapas. However, they are not exclusively from there. They are ubiquitous all around Spain but there is a city where they are reaching the category of piece of art: Barcelona, Madrid’s Eternal Rival, where Patatas Bravas are having their special sweet moment, with plenty of bars and restaurants working hard to make the best from this humble tuber.
Madrid’s Patatas Bravas are quite distinctive: fried big chunks of potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce or, if you want to stay classic and close to the origins: a light sauce made of flour, sweet smoked paprika, hot smoked paprika and broth or chicken stock but no tomato. Those are the classic Patatas Bravas, Madrid style. If you add mayonnaise or alioli -aioli-, they are called Patatas Mixtas -Mixed Potatoes-.
Barcelona’s Patatas Bravas
I think we can talk about Patatas Bravas Barcelona style without problem. Barcelona doesn’t give a fuck about the Mesetarian* distinction of Patatas Mixtas. They add a good amount of Alioli -a very Catalonian sauce- alongside a tomato sauce -that can be spicy or not- and because that ain’t enough to them, they finish this tapa with a drizzle of chilli oil. BAM! Patatas Bravas Barcelona style!
El Raval: The Barrio Chino
There was a time when Barcelona wasn’t Spain’s most known city and the tourist hole it is nowadays. A time when it’s liberal mentality was a blow of fresh air during the latest years of Franco’s dictatorship and the first years of the newborn democracy. A city home of hundreds of immigrants from South/South West Spain who left the poverty of their rural villages for the promises of an industrial city.
El Raval, in the centre of Barcelona, was the perfect picture: so many people from so different places that for the rest, that should be like the distant and unknown China. Thereby, the name: Barrio Chino, Chinese Quarter. No Chinese or Asians involved when El Raval got its nickname.
Then the 80’s, the heroin and an economical crisis came to Barcelona and the Barrio Chino, an already aged neighbourhood, started to turn into what it was known before: refuge for drug addicts, working place for prostitutes and meeting point for dubious “entrepreneurs”. The Olympic Games of 1992, with their bast and ridiculous budget, didn’t stop there although put Barcelona in the map. New neighbours settled there: people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and North Africa, mainly, made the Barrio Chino their home.
The picture was ready to be taken, but in the new cool and touristic Barcelona, few people ventured into these back alleys.
Barrio Chino Patatas Bravas
This recipe is my homage to this underground quarter in Barcelona. As I said, there were no Chinese living there when el Raval was named Barrio Chino but I wanted to give to my Patatas Bravas a Far Asian character, the international twist London baths everything with. Maybe in the future I will make a different version, with Indian, Pakistani and North African influences. But today, this is what I got for you. If you would like to enjoy it, join us at Tapas, Botanas & Petiscos this Friday 27th March.
*Mesetarian = Everybody that lives in the centre of Spain and think they are the centre of the Universe.
Ingredients (Serves 4, as a tapa):
- 10 medium potatoes
- Any normal olive or sunflower oil
- Chopped spring onions
- Sesame seeds
- Wasabi Aioli
- 75 ml Unsweetened soya milk
- Sunflower oil
- 25 ml olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1 tsp of English mustard
- 1 tbsp wasabi paste
- Salt to taste
- Gojuchang Tomato Sauce
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 piece of ginger, grated
- 3 heaped tbsp of Gojuchang paste
- 1 can of peeled plum tomatoes, blended
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 40 ml of olive oil
- Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
- Chinese Chilli Oil
- 2 tsp of Chinese 5 spices
- 2 tsp chilli flakes
- 100 ml. of sunflower oil
- Peel and chop the potatoes in 3 cm. -approx.- chunks. They don’t have to be regular or perfect pieces. Confit them in the oil at low temperature for 45 minutes, just stirring once. Meanwhile, let’s do the sauces:
- Put the soya milk in a blender jug and add 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil. Start to blend, with the hand blender stick firmly on the bottom of the jug. Little by little, start to add the rest of the sunflower oil. When you notice the sauce starts to thicken, you can move the stick up and down and around the sides of the jug.
- Add some more sunflower oil. Blend a little more and add the rest of the ingredients. We are looking for a sauce a little less thick than your regular mayonnaise, so add a little soya milk if necessary. It will settle and thicken back in the fridge. Set aside.
Gojuchang Tomato Sauce
- Fry the shallot, the garlic and the ginger in the sesame and vegetable oils until nicely soft and golden brown. Then, add the blended tomatoes and the Gojuchang paste.
- Cook on medium temperature until it thickens. Add some salt and black pepper to taste. Set aside once it has the consistency that turns you on.
Chinese Chilli Oil
- Add the sunflower to a little saucepan and simmer the Chinese 5 Spices and chilli flakes in it for 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
- Back to the potatoes! After 45 minutes of confiting, having stirred them once in the middle of the cooking, your potatoes should be soft enough and it’s time to finish them. Take them out from the oil. Put the fire to the maximum, we want to reach 200C, so a cooking thermometer would be helpful.
- When the oil has reached the desired temperature, put the potatoes back in it and fry them until they are nicely golden brown. This is going to be a matter of seconds, so stir them constantly and pay attention to take them out as soon as possible. If not, all this effort and time will be wasted and anyone here wants that to happen.
- Once they are cooked, transfer them to a plate with kitchen towel to remove the excess of oil and season them with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Let’s plate!. Put the potatoes on the plate, add a nice amount of Wasabi Aioli on the top of them, then some Gojuchang Tomato Sauce next to it and finish with a drizzle of the Chinese Chilli Oil.
- Garnish with chopped spring onions, sprinkle some sesame seeds and serve your Barrio Chino Patatas Bravas immediately.