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How to tackle tracklements in Catalunya — or sauces for courses in Barcelona

21st May 2015
Tracklements & sauces in Barcelona

The Norm

Though things are changing, we don’t do ‘cocktail’ sauce and other sweet’n’spicy gloops in Barcelona.

If in a snack bar, or bar-restaurant, and you’ve ordered a burger then your server may bring you tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard automatically. If they don’t, and you want them, ask for them — ketchup [ketch-oop] — mahonesa [my-yon-essa]— mostaza [moh-sta-sa].

Different salsas on supermarket shelf in Barcelona.

And, although a good brava sauce, as served with patates braves and bombas, is usually an in-house combination, you will occasionally see squeezy plastic bottles of the stuff in snack bars.

  • A regional sauce you may be offered is allioli (emulsified garlic).
  • Another regional sauce you may see being served is salsa romesco (tomato, olive oil, vinegar and spices).
  • A regional seafood sauce available in many bars you’ll see is salsa Espinaler, or, salsa especial per aperitius i escopinyes [salsa para berberechos y almejas — special sauce for cockles and clams].

Apart from a few dishes — such as arròs negre, fideuà negra, and grilled meats — all served with allioli, and calçots, served with a special, nutty variant on romesco, most of the flavours as provided by the huge variety of sauces, ketchups, relishes and jellies available in the U.S. and U.K. are incorporated into the dish.

For example, fish with tartare sauce, steak with black pepper sauce, venison with redcurrant sauce, roast beef with apple sauce (yes, roast beef, not pork, with apple sauce) and so on.

Here, the sauce, suco or suquet, is an integral part of the dish, NOT an accompaniment.

The Exceptions

Obviously everything I have witten above will not apply when frequenting an ethnic restaurant, or would-be gourmet burger bar, where you should find appropriate sauces for courses.

Barcelona, like many European cities, has embraced the fashion for upscaled meat patties — expect, no, demand, your preferred gloop to accompany your chosen slab of re-constituted minced meat.


When in seafood restaurants some U.S. visitors get vexed when they find that there is no ‘cocktail’ sauce. Don’t let it bother you. And, don’t waste time and energy trying to explain what cocktail sauce is — you’ll get even more frustrated.

Take a breath and ask for salsa Espinaler. If they have it, you’re looking good. Splash a little on your shellfish. Taste the splashed shellfish. Like it? OK. Want to improvise a ‘cocktail’ sauce? OK. Ask for some allioli and mix it with some salsa Espinaler. Try it. Are we looking good now? No? OK, try adding a dollop of romesco. Are we looking better?

Sauces that may be sought

You may find:

  • Worcester sauce — Yes, though considered a refined condiment and used mainly in cooking, it will be available in many bars and restaurants.
  • Tabasco — Yes, many restaurants will have a bottle of this lurking amid the shelves somewhere (probably behind the bar).
  • Salsa Espinaler — or a generic salsa per escopinyes [salsa para berberechos].
  • Tartare sauce — a good restaurant will offer this.
  • Salsa verde — green sauce.
  • Chimichurri — you’ll see this in quite a few places.
  • Sriracha — Chinese owned snack bars will usually have this.
  • Chilli ketchup — a good many Chinese owned snack bars will have this.
  • Soy sauce — you might get lucky, as a good many Chinese owned bars will have this.

You will not find:

  • A1/Daddies/HP/Hammonds’ chop sauce/OK/Steak sauce — forget it.
  • Mint sauce — what!? Get out of here.
  • Gulden’s — best of luck with that one.
  • BBQ — what’s that again?
  • Horseradish relish — don’t even go there.
  • Ranch dressing. WTF?
  • Mushroom ketchup — which planet are you from again?
  • Curry sauce — you are joking, right?

As for cranberry jelly, redcurrant jelly, bramble jelly, maple syrup, lime pickle, mango chutney, or any kind of chutney — well…remind me again, why did you come to Spain?

Of course, being Barcelona, where you can get pretty much anything you might want at a price, you can buy popular U.S. and U.K. brands of sauces, ketchups, mustards, horseradish concoctions, fruit jellies and chutneys at specialist home-from-home stores such as A Taste of Home & Taste of America.


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