Wednesday, 28 July 2010

feasting in galicia

A Spanish friend of mine, Maria, has Galician family and before I left for my holiday she instructed me on the wonderful specialties I had to experience while visiting this rugged, coastline embracing the cold Atlantic Ocean. Percebes were a must!

Jonas and I joined Fabio and Special Friend for a road trip along the coast, visiting tiny villages, fishing ports and the numerous (and unexpected) eucalyptus groves.

We started in Vigo, drove north across the autopista bridge overlooking a beautiful bay with many barges and swung through Santiago de Compostela before following the coast all the way south into Portugal.

Apart from some of the spectacular coastal views, my favourite part of Galicia was Santiago de Compostela, a gorgeous medieval town that serves as the final destination on the St James Pilgrimage (a walk starting in southern France and traversing northern Spain).

Santiago was quite a special place and I wish we’d had a few more days there. We saw mass in the lovely old cathedral, the interior garishly gold and the exterior covered in wonderful green moss and plants. It was quite wonderful. In the evening, we loved getting lost in the medieval lanes, wandering from tapas bar to tapas bar.

Pulpo á Feira
Octopus tentacles are dipped repeatedly in boiling water to seal on the colourful skin then cooked until ridiculously tender. It’s flavoured simply with smoky-sweet paprika and olive oil.

Cubed pork cooked to perfection, seasoned with a little garlic and served with chips. So simple and delicious.

A small fishing village

These wonderful clams has been on my “to eat” for more than six years and I was so happy I finally got to eat them in Spain. They are particularly numerous along the Atlantic coast, in Galicia and Basque country, and are best just grilled until they pop open then topped with herbs and olive oil. I just loved them and would happily eat them on a daily basis. They taste similar to scallops but have a texture closer to squid.

Estrella Galicia is a local pale lager and one of Jonas’ favourite beers. I drank some, but not being a beer fan I can’t wax lyrical on its qualities nor compare it to other beers. Suffice to say, many beer connoisseurs do say Estrella Galicia is a good, mass produced brew.

View of a church from the rocky hill tops

Local cheese and local cured meat. Good, great, best.

Pimientos de Padrón
These small, bite-sized peppers have a wonderful sweet flavour and come slightly charred and sprinkled with salt. It’s said that one in twelve will be extremely spicy, but after eating plates and plates of them throughout our time in Spain I got only one that was even mildly hot. After eating these peppers so often, I might just have overcome my distaste for capsicum.

Bodega Quinta do Buble (from Monterrei, Ourense) is made from 100% godello grapes and the 2009 vintage was an awesome, aromatic, gutsy wine that held up wonderfully against a plate of cured meats and cheeses.

Raya a la Gallega
Skate (sting ray) was poached in water, wine, garlic and paprika then peppers and peas are added and it’s served over sliced, poached potatoes. This particular one wasn’t very well cooked or seasoned, but I’ve seen photos of the dish which look much more intense and delicious so it’s worth a try.

A pretty fountain near the cathedral entrance
in Santiago de Compostela

These wonderfully strange little sea creatures are called goose barnacles in English, although I’ve never heard of them outside Spanish gastronomic dialogues. Does anyone know any other countries that eat them? They grow on rocks and are harvested depending cycles of the moon, being extremely difficult and dangerous to collect. In one small village I did see one man splashing around the rocks cutting lumps off for his dinner.

They come in small clusters, simply steamed and wrapped in linen to keep them warm. You rip one from the cluster, peel off the black skin and pull the short, pink flesh from inside the stone-like claw, discarding the fluffy red feathers that stay behind in the claw. They taste like more delicious, sweeter muscles and I adored them. Jonas and Special Friend thought they tasted alright, but Fabio was not a fan. That might have been due to him trying them first and eating the Kevlar-strength black skin before we asked the waiter how they should be eaten.

It was a wonderful holiday and a naturally pretty region, totally undeveloped and without pretention. There's not much in the way of architecture along the coast, but who needs buildings when you have rocky cliffs and sandy beaches.

For more on our recent holiday, check out:
* Food from the Basque Country
* A Fuego Negro, San Sebastian pinxtos bar
* Arzak, three Michelin star restaurant


  1. Birbirinden güzel resimler. Leziz yemekler. Ellerinize sağlık.


  2. Ciao Anna bellissime le foto della Galizie e anche dei piatti! Non avevo mai visto nulla di simile, mi riferisco ai crostacei? se non ho tradotto male, incredibili sembrano proprio zampe! A presto

  3. Looks like you had an amazing trip! Nothing like tasting local cuisine. That's an experience unto itself.

    Thank you,

  4. fuat - i can't speak turkish so have no idea what you said, but i see you've also been making manti lately!!!

    ornella - grazie! i crostacei sono strani, no?

    bridget - i did have a blast. i ate my way through spain :)

  5. Your pictures make me miss San Sebastian so much! I love the food from the Basque country...


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