The importance of eating, in Spain generally and Galicia specifically, cannot be over emphasized. The activity of getting the family together and sharing a meal (with plenty of wine) over a couple of hours is a daily routine and forms a major part of this regions culture. What the Galicians eat is also different to that of most English speaking nationalities and the aim of this page is to highlight a few of their favourite dishes.
Shellfish and seafood
The Galicians will eat virtually anything that comes from the sea and shellfish are their undisputed favourites. Their most popular dishes are:
- The Vieira, a fan-shaped sea scallop (known as the pilgrim's shell) is not just the symbol of Santiago de Compostela, but also a regional delicacy. The Vieira harvested off the coast of Galicia are tastier and plumper than those found in the rest of Spain. They can be eaten either, directly with a squeeze of lemon, with a splash of "Albariño" wine, or more exotically coated with bread crumbs and spices.
I was recently fortunate enough to attend a Galician wedding where "Vieras al graten" were served as the fourth fish course in an eleven course meal. Even though lobster and king prawns were also among the dishes the Vieras stood out for me as the most appetising.
Pulpo or octopus is not strictly speaking shellfish, but the Galicians slot it in the same category and it is perhaps the most popular of all the fruits of the sea. Traditionally pulpo is cooked whole in a large pan, following which it is cut into bite sized pieces with scissors. It is invariably seasoned with paprika, salt and first press olive oil.
Calamares (squid) are deep fried in a batter of fine flower (sometimes with egg) and sprinkled with lemon juice.
Navajas (which means pocket knives) are an acquired taste and are the animal or shellfish that resides within a razor shell. They are popular and expensive, but I suggest you ask to see one before you order. Thanks to Tom Marting for giving me the correct name of this particular delicacy.
Percebes are another shellfish, particular to Galicia, and are harvested from the rock faces along the "finis terrae" (coast of death). Many lives have been lost by the fishermen who pull these crustaceans from the jagged rock faces as the sea pounds against them. Hit this link for a description of how they are harvested: curtesy of Tom Marting.
Almejas a la marinera are small crustaceans cooked in wine and served in a similar way to "mussels" and again they are a speciality of Galician cuisine.
Langosta and Langostinos, respectively, are lobster and very large prawns and are as popular (and cheap) as veal, beef, pork and lamb.
Additionally the Galicians love all manor of crabs and lobsters. Some of the crabs in particular can be very small and are eaten almost whole. Anything in a shell is also considered a delicacy and every kind of clam and barnacle has a place in Galicia’s cuisine. Shrimps and prawns are also very popular, although you will notice that the locals think smaller is better and will normally select a small sweet shrimp in favour of a large less flavourful tiger prawn.
Meats based cuisine
Lacon con grelos (salted ham with turnip heads) is one of Galicia’s best known dishes and is comprised of pork (lacon), the leaves of turnip tops (grelos) and the traditional Galician sausage "chorizo" with which it is served. Potatoes, usually simmered in a paprika liquor, add the additional vegetable. The end result is not to every ones liking.Cured meats
Like the rest of Spain, the residents of this district like cured meats, especially hams. Lamb is not that popular and veal is favoured over beaf. The chorizo sausage, of which there are many different varieties, are also popular and are used both in cooking (for flavour) and as a filling in a sandwich or .Pies
The empanada is a crusty pie made with a pastry that has a taste and texture somewhere between a pizza base and short crust pastry (it is made using a yeast risen dough). The empanada is one of the symbols of Galicia and can have a multitude of different fillings. Typically, empanadas are made up with either, veal, pork, beef, tuna, cod or shellfish, all with the addition of onion and saffron (which give them their distinctive colour). Empanadas play a significant role in many festivals events and have been adopted throughout the rest of Spain.Stews
Caldon gallego is a hot stew which has its history in poverty. Today it is made using the ingredients of potatoes, cabbage and haricot beans with one or more meats, typically ham (jamon) chorizo or pork. Its origins however suggest that, like most stews, it was a way of using up “left overs”, poor cuts of meat and generally trying to make something out of nothing. A thinned down broth or soup like version of “caldon” is also made.
Torta de Santiago is the cake or desert of Galicia and is made of a pastry case containing a sponge filling that is dusted with icing sugar and has the emblem of Santiago at its center. It tastes pretty good.
Large sweet loafs of bread encrusted with sugar are also popular and although not really a desert, should suit anyone with a sweet tooth.Galician Cheeses
Spain has over 80 different cheeses and is one of the most varied producers of this dairy product in the world. Galicia has four cheeses of particular note and they are:
- Queso de Perilla, (also called Queso de Teta).
- La Coruña y Lugo (also known as ( Queso de Ulloa, or Queixo do País).
- Queso de San Simón de la Cuesta. This cheese is also made from cow´s milk, but is smoked and produced in small sizes called “Bufones”.
- Puertos del Cebreiro (also known as Queso Cebrero) is an aged cheese made predominantly from cows milk.
Both the above are aged from soft to semi-cured and made from cow´s milk.