pa amb tomàquet

A guide to food in Spain


By Simon Rice

pa amb tomàquet (Catalan): toasted rustic bread spread with squidgy tomato and olive oil

This is definitely a Catalan thing although it’s catching on all over Spain – we’ve seen busloads of ‘foreign’ students, i.e. from other parts of Spain, being coached in the art of rubbing the cut tomato onto slices of bread and then liberally soaking with oil. It is the very thing to have with ham, meats or cheeses. (there are special thin skinned, juicy varieties of tomatoes for this – look out for them, they appear rather pallid and undersized – they are also very expensive!).

By Francis Barrett

In Catalunya, there is an excellent custom of rubbing tomato onto the bread to create pa amb tomaquet / pan con tomate . The tomatoes must be ripe or over-ripe; the squishier the better. Disgracefully, some places serve pa amb tomaquet using tinned tomatoes; this is unacceptable. Personally, I rub the tomato in first, then put the oil on, then salt. Garlic is an optional extra, which you should rub all over the bread before anything else. The problem is it makes your fingers stink.

Although it is well known that this custom also exists in Tuscany , pa amb tomaquet has become a cultural symbol for Catalunya. A traveller in Nepal told me that he once met a Catalan NGO development aid worker there who was feeling homesick; she said the thing she missed most of all was pa amb tomaquet . He thought this very odd, and couldn’t understand why she didn’t just rub some tomato on some Nepalese bread, but I don’t suppose it would be the same.