Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Galicia (Spain). Part 2: Food and drink for the gourmet traveller

Galicia (Spain): Food and drink for the gourmet traveller. Nécoras.
 Nécoras (velvet crabs), luxury in a shell
I have already told you about my homeland, Galicia, in part one: from blue flags to green pastures. Now it is time to tell you all about its food.

Spanish gastronomy is very regional, each region has a very distinct way of cooking and, within Spain, each region tends to be known for one or a few of their dishes. For example, internationally paella is renowned as the quintessential Spanish dish, however in Spain it is known as typical of Valencia.

There is no regional dish in Galicia, there is in fact a myriad of them: empanada, nécoras, percebes, pulpo, cocido gallego, lacón con grelos, pimientos de padrón, filloas, bica and a never-ending etcetera. All of them are coveted by the rest of Spain, I would love for them to achieve this high status abroad too. This is just a very brief glimpse of a few of the dishes that Galicia has to offer.

With a coastline extending over 1,200 km (that is more than 745 miles of coast to explore), Galicia is of course renowned for its fresher than fresh fish and seafood. But thanks to all that rain and green fields, it is also famous for the quality of its beef and potatoes.

In my opinion, there is nothing like sitting outside by the sea in Panxón on a sunny day at the Punto e Coma eating calamares (calamari), pulpo (octopus) and navajas (razor clams) with a nice caña (draught lager, in fact make sure you try Estrella Galicia), followed by their fideos con almejas (short pasta with clams) or a nice steak or a huge veal chop with fries and roasted red peppers (the tastiest chips I've ever tasted have been in my homeland).

Galicia (Spain): Food and drink for the gourmet traveller. Calamari / calamares and octopus / pulpo.
Pulpo and Calamares
If you're feeling brave, try some pimientos de padrón. There is a saying "padrón peppers, some are hot and some are not" ("pementos de padrón, uns pican e outros non").
This is because these little green peppers are a gastronomic Russian roulette, when you put one in your mouth you can't be sure whether it will make your head explode like a chilli or be the mildest pepper on earth. Either way, they are rather tasty. There are two tricks, smell before you eat and don't eat the seeds, to avoid the head explosion. But if you get one, try to have some bread rather than water to make your mouth feel normal before trying the next one.

Something sweet

On a grey rainy day, above all in winter, there is nothing better than sitting in Baiona watching the grey ocean waves hit the rocks while dipping churros in a thick hot drinking chocolate from Emilín. Or you can try dipping bica in some coffee for breakfast or merienda. Something very typical too is the Tarta de Santiago. Not forgetting the famous filloas (similar to crêpes, typical of Carnival but to be enjoyed all year round).


The lager fan must not return home without trying a Estrella Galicia, preferably sitting in a terrace either in the sunshine watching Galician life happen before their eyes (don't forget that most probably they will bring you a little tapa to eat with it, already included in the price!).

Galicia (Spain): Food and drink for the gourmet traveller. Traditional empanada and Estrella Galicia beer.
Empanada (with Estrella Galicia): A flat pie
with a variety of fillings, from meat to seafood
to ham and cheese. My favourite is empanada de 
berberechos (with a filling of cockles and onions)
For the wine lover, Albariño is the star (and my absolute favourite). Perfect paired with seafood, try it with some of the fantastic just-caught nécoras (velvet crabs) or percebes  (goose barnacles, ugly to look at but so delicious). You can buy Albariño in the UK too but it's not the same as sitting down with a beach view in front of you and the rounded and green Galician mountain tops behind you.

Don't forget to try some Ribeiro wine too.


If you would like to cook some of the glorious Galician ingredients while you're there, make sure you head to one of the covered food markets where you will be able to buy them fresh. Don't worry if you don't speak Spanish, Galician people are all very friendly and want mind you pointing, nodding, signing, getting your dictionary or mobile out or any other attempts to make yourself understood.

Have you read Galicia (Spain). Part 1: From blue flags to green pastures?
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