Ask anyone who has been to Galicia what the best thing to do there is and the resounding answer will be ‘eat’. Situated on the north-west coast of Spain, seafood is the Galician speciality, but I have to admit the popular dishes here are not the type of seafood I was used to. As a reluctant crustacean consumer Galicia presented me with a few challenges that I was ultimately grateful to have undertaken. From barnacles to octopus, I sampled some of Galicia’s best dishes this past weekend and it turns out I really like them.
- Percebes (Goose Barnacles)
Galicia’s most well-known seafood speciality is possibly the strangest looking thing I’ve ever eaten. Percebes (or goose barnacles) are a Galician delicacy, relatively expensive to buy (approx 60 euros per kilo at the fish market) and even more so around holidays when they’re in high demand. To the uninitiated like myself, however, they look like something from the Jurassic age – I honestly wondered if I was being presented with a bag of dinosaur feet as opposed to a seafood speciality.
Pushing my reservations aside I cracked my first one open, using my nail to lift the ‘claw’ and removing the leathery dark skin to reveal the light pink meat inside. I popped it in my mouth and was pretty astounded to find I liked it. Cooked lightly in salted water, Percebes have a more palatable (at least to me) texture than other seafood like urchins and oysters. I was expecting to be hit with a strong fishy taste but the truth is they were pretty discreet. The only thing I’m not sure about it how long it takes to eat a plate of them – I think need to work on my knack for cracking them open.
- Pulpo A Feira (Galician-style Octopus)
Another Galician speciality that I challenged myself to sample was Pulpo A Feria, which literally translates to ‘fair style Octopus’. Galician-style octopus is lightly boiled (left too long it goes rubbery), drizzled with paprika and olive oil and served on a bed of boiled potatoes. The orange of the paprika and wooden platter the dish is traditionally served on make it one of the more attractive seafood dishes we sampled on this trip – as long as you don’t mind the look of the tentacles! Again this was something I was surprised to find I enjoyed – it was not at all rubbery like I was expecting but rather rich and oily. This is definitely a dish I’d order again in future.
- Complimentary Churros
Although not solely a Galician dish, I’ve included churros (a Spanish doughnut-style stick often served with a pot of melted chocolate to dunk them in) on this list because I was overjoyed to discover they came free with the coffee at a café we visited in Viveiro. Much like a small plate of tapas is often given out free in bars, it’s not unusual for Galician cafes to give out free churros with coffee orders as a way of winning customer loyalty. It sure made a good impression on me!
- Torta De Santiago
A Galician cake that has been around since the Middle Ages is Torta de Santiago. The Torta is a rich, almond based pie that comes with or without a shortcrust pasty bottom. Traditionally the top was dusted with sugar in the shape of the Cross of Saint James (or cruz de Santiago), which is how the pie got its name. Most restaurants in Galicia will have a torta de Santiago for you to try, it’s best eaten on a not-so-full belly though as it can be quite heavy. As a sweet treats lover I was pleased to spot it on the breakfast buffet at our hotel in Ribadeo, it was a pretty good way to start the day in Galicia.
- Modern Galician cuisine at Michelin-starred Arbore de Veira
Although this last one is not technically a dish I couldn’t write a post about the cuisine in Galicia and not mention the incredible Michelin star dining experience we had in A Coruña. At Arbore de Veira, Galician chef Luis Veira serves up modern Galician cuisine; a fusion of Galicia’s best ingredients with unexpected international influences.
The restaurant itself is a modern and intimate space, seating just 20 diners at a time and decorated with sculptures made from kitchen utensils. Uniquely the restaurant offers a relaxed seating area for each table, a group of 12 were enjoying wine on sofas surrounded by art before moving to the main table to begin their 8 course degustation.
Our group of 4 were seated behind a discreet curtain and over the space of 4 hours were wowed by dishes such as a cherry bonbon stuffed with foie gras and the white chocolate filled golden ball, which was one of 3 delicious desserts.
Each creative concoction was immaculately presented on a different traditional piece of crockery that complimented the food perfectly.
But one of the most surprising elements of the evening was discovering that this incredible experience costs just 55 euros per person, making it the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the country. I can only imagine what a dining experience like this would cost elsewhere.
Have you tried any of these Galician dishes? Would you like to?
This post was written as part of the #inGalicia blog trip, created and managed by Captivate in partnership with the Spanish tourism board. All thoughts, opinions and satisfied belly remain my own. Subscribe here for more updates on the serene villages, secret beaches and stylish accommodation in Galicia.