It Rains In Spain

Seafood in Galicia – A Beginners Guide

mariscada

So you’ve packed the umbrella, brushed up on galego and you’re ready to head up to the far north-west of Spain to Galicia. In a land of crashing waves and dramatic coastlines, where the tides punish the cliffs relentlessly – life, culture and gastronomy unsurprisingly revolve around the wild Atlantic.

Along with the magical city of Santiago de Compostela, and the twisting, turning coastal roads of the Rias baixas (lower inlets) and Rias Altas (higher inlets), one of the great attractions of Galicia is her plentiful, cheap and diverse seafood. The truth is that great seafood is found all over this land, from Tui in the south to Ribadeo in the North-East, and you’re never far away from a generous plate of fresh fare. There are, of course, particular villages which specialize in certain dishes, but fret not if you haven’t the time nor the inclination to drive 200km to taste clams as the larger towns will offer top class seafood at wonderful prices if you know where to look, and what you’re looking for.

The golden rule is to accept that seafood is a delicacy and although it is certainly cheaper here than almost anywhere else, if you see an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is. The famed Rua do Franco street in Santiago de Compostela is lined with bars and restaurants offering a mariscada (essentially a huge platter of mixed seafood) at remarkable prices (30-40€). On closer inspection, what is offered on the platter turns out to be the cheaper and more abundant options (giant prawns, mussels and razor clams) which although look impressive piled high to the sky on your plate, is very cheap to buy and is not the best that Galicia has to offer.

Whilst there is no doubting that the mariscada can be fun (and more expensive options do offer quality) the local Galegos insist that the best way is to choose what you want to try and order a certain weight of said product in a recommended bar/restaurant. So, in order to help you out, here’s a short glossary and guide to the different seafood available in Galicia, what to look out for on the menu and a couple of recommended spots to try it.

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Galician Seafood – The Menu Guide

Percebes (Goose Barnacles) – By diving under the ferocious Atlantic ocean between rocks, the Perecebeiros risk life and limb to prise these delightful treats off their rocky homes. Due to such difficulty in attaining them, combined with their deliciously salty sea taste, Percebes are mighty expensive. Often selling for upwards of 90€ per kilo in the market, 100g of Percebes (around 12 pieces) will set you back around 10€.

To eat them correctly, pierce the skin near the rocky part with your thumb and gently twist and pull until the skin comes away. Place the exposed flesh into your mouth and gently tug, holding the nail like end between your forefingers. The flesh should pop straight into your mouth leaving an exposed orangey lump in the nail-like end.

Pulpo a feira (Octopus) – The local octopus can be found all over Galicia in normal bars, restaurants and specialist pulperías. The octopus comes cooked with pimenton (paprika), salt and oil and has a juicy, unique taste. A must try. Expect to pay in the region of €9 for a decent plates worth.

Navajas (Razor Clams) – Long, thin and, well, shaped like a razor, these remarkably stange looking clams are superb with a dash of lemon and downed in one.

Zamburiñas (bay scallops) – These wonderful scallops are normally served a la plancha (grilled) with garlic and parsley. Tender and flavoursome, juicy and sensational.  Around €10 for 6-8 Zamburiñas.

Almejas (clams) – Normally served in one of two ways. Al vapor (steamed) or in the marvellous dish of Almejas a la Marinera (Clams served in a white wine, garlic and parsley broth). Divine, but often pricey.

Mejillones (mussels) – Galician mussles are normally to be found served al vapor (steamed) and are a good cheap option to beef out your more expensive choices.

Vieiras (sea scallops) – These huge sea scallops are normally sold individually (5-7€ each) and either come stuffed with a variety of filings or are served as they are. Terrific.

Buey de Mar (large crab) – This giant brown crab is a Galcian wonder and is served as it is, straight up and simple. Get stuck in.

Bogavante (large lobster) – Again, this clawed large relative of the lobster is served typically with rice (Arroz con Bogavante), a delicious mix utilizing this juicy, tender and meaty Galician native. Expect to pay €30 for Arroz con Bogavante for two people.

Cigalas (crayfish) – These meaty delights can be a little tough to get into, snap the back shell first and move on from there. The meat is aromatic and delicious. Be sure to snap the claws to get to what is generally seen as the finest strip of meat inside. Oh, and if you’re not squamish, squeeze the head and suck the frothy foam that emerges – yeah, I know. But do it.

Camarones (tiny shrimp) – Tiny and delicious, often not in season, but when they are take the opportunity. Don’t let their size fool you, they’re packed with flavor.

Ostras (Oysters) – These majestic creatures are revered worldwide, and Galicia offers a chance to gorge without spending your life savings. Head to the Mercado a pedra in Vigo and buy a dozen large oysters from the collection of vendors who congregate on Oyster street. Expect to pay 12€ for half a dozen in restaurants or half that in the Vigo market.

Berberechos (barnacles) – Steamed to perfection and with a dash of lemon these small treats are packed with flavor. A personal favourite. Expect to pay 7€ for a generous bowlful.

Langostinos (large prawns) – Flavoursome and bulky, Langostinos are a classic staple of Galician cuisine.

Mariscada – Not a seafood, but you’ll regularly sea this offered throughout Galicia. It is a huge platter of what is supposedly the freshest mix of seafood. Be careful though, in tourist areas you may be given simply cheap prawns, mussels and razor clams. If you’re going to order one, go for a slightly more expensive option (over 50€) – the old adage of you get what you pay for rings true, even in cheap Galcia.

So there you have an exhaustive guide to Galician seafood, how to eat it, the prices to expect and why it is so spectacular. A highlight of any trip to this part of Spain is to slowly meander around bars in one of it’s towns or cities trying the fresh catch with a local Albariño. As a complement to the seafood, there can be nothing better than this wonderful wine.

What is Albariño?

Albariño is Galcia’s most famous wine, grown in the Rias Baixas (south of Santiago de Compostela) in amongst the remarkable topography of the Atlantic inlets, smattered with pine trees. The wine is fruity and incredibly light and accompanies the seafood tremendously.

Recommended Bars and Restaurants for Seafood in Galcia

Even in the small villages in Galicia there are sublime options for tasting seafood, but as most people congregate in the larger towns and cities here are a few choice options.

Santiago de Compostela – The famed Rua do Franco street offers a plethora of seafood options so seperating the wheat from the chaff can be tough. You’ll never fail in the sublime Rápido (Rua do Franco 22) or in our top recommendation Restaurante Sexto II (Rua de Raiña 23, just off the Rua do Franco) where the friendly manager Antonio ensures high quality throughout.

Vigo – The Mercado a pedra (stone market) offers the famed Oyster street and has a smattering of great options around it. The once great but now slightly quieter Calle Laxe (or Calle del Pulpo as it’s locally known) does still offer a number of options. The much vaunted restaurant Rias Baixas 2 (Rua Republica Argentina 21) is a cheaper option, offering decent mariscadas, but locals say the quality can vary wildly.

O Grove – A touristy town, but with it’s location in the heart of the Rias Baixas, freshness and value abound.

 You may also be interested in

It Rains in Spain Guide to Galicia

It Rains in Spain Guide to Santiago de Compostela

It Rains in Spain Guide to Vigo

It Rains in Spain guide to A Coruña

It Rains in Spain Guide to the Rias Baixas

It Rains in Spain Guide to Lugo

 

Comments
One Response to “Seafood in Galicia – A Beginners Guide”
  1. Peter says:

    Great article, now I’ll know what to order when I go back.

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