Fresh seafood is the most traditional Galician food you’ll find on the Camino de Santiago.
With over 700 miles of coastline providing the best seafood, you are guaranteed to enjoy the freshest traditional Galician food when walking the Camino. Galicia’s traditional food is highly regarded across Spain and even Europe. In fact, it is the region of Spain with the most Michelin stars – solidifying its place as the epicenter of Spanish gastronomy. Bottom line, you won’t go hungry in Galicia!
A Bit of History
Ah, Galicia. Land of bountiful seafood and plenty of potatoes! You’ll find the classic spud in many main dishes, as well as served as a side dish. It is an easy crop and it grows so happily along the coast. Many Galician dishes also feature maize and wheat, since those crops similarly grow well in the climate and soil of the area.
While the majority of dishes feature seafood, there are many traditional Galician recipes that do use more common meats like cow, pig, or sheep, as well as a few delicious plant-based meals. However, since seafood is the most frequent and most uniquely Galician, below is a list of our top 6 seafood dishes that you must try when in the north-west corner of Spain.
If you aren’t a meat-eater, there are still plenty of options for you! Download our guide to being vegan and vegetarian on the Camino de Santiago.
How to order vegan food in Spanish
OCTOPUS (PULPO A FEIRA):
Adult octopus, including the tentacles, is possibly the most popular type of traditional Galician food. For many Galicians, the tentacles are the best part of the meal! Typically, the octopus is slow-boiled in a copper pot repeatedly to curl the tentacles. The tentacles are then snipped into little medallions, doused in olive oil, and sprinkled with some salt and paprika. They are served tapas style in a small dish or a larger wooden plate for sharing. Traditionally, this dish will be served with potatoes and bread on the side.
GOOSE-NECK BARNACLES (PERCEBES):
Percebes, which are barnacles, could certainly win an award for being the most unusual dish in Spain! Yet, they are a delicacy in Galicia. Dangerous to catch, percebes will not come cheap but they’ll be worth it. To catch them, a fisher must pull them off coastal cliffs or rocks in between crashing waves. Eating percebes can be tricky too. To enjoy the meat, you pull them apart, split open the shell, then suck out the flesh inside. They taste like a little bit of heaven – if heaven was in the sea! Percebes are a must-try when in Galicia to really experience the local culture and its flavors.
Mussels are a mainstay of the local economy along the Rías Baixas or western coast of the region. Usually served with fresh lemon wedges as Mejillones al Vapor, steamed mussels, or in a paprika-spiced marinade called Escabeche. These salmon-colored abalones can sometimes be rubbery and definitely taste like “ocean”. Yet, their salty flavor can be addictive – meaning you’ll have no problem enjoying an entire platter to yourself!
Scallops are the symbol of the Camino itself. The lines of the fanned out shell all coming to one point represent the many routes of pilgrimage to the same location, Santiago de Compostela. They are also a symbol of traditional Galician food, as you’ll find them in most restaurants along Galician parts of the Camino. They are served steamed and presented in their shell, either plain or with a mixture of onions, peppers, and breadcrumbs called vieiras gratinadas. Another must-try when visiting the north-west corner of Spain.
SHRIMP (CAMARÓN / GAMBA):
These small, striped shrimp, caught in the local rías or inlets of the Atlantic Ocean, are abundant along the north-west coast of Spain. They seem to taste extra delicious in Galicia, maybe due to their freshness or the fact that they are served drenched in chopped garlic. Even though they can be messy, and a lot of work to de-shell, they are always worth the effort!
CALDEIRADA (FISH STEW)
Caldeirada is more commonly known as Fisherman’s Stew because the recipe is entirely dependent on the fisherman making it! Containing a mixture of fish and vegetables, you will often see potatoes, onions, peppers, or tomatoes in the stew alongside any number of types of fish. The stew may also contain prawns, shrimp, or other shellfish to add variety to the taste. After a long walk, or a day swimming off the coast, you won’t regret trying this traditional dish with some local wine, especially if it has been a particularly cold day.
Regardless of which dish you try while in Galicia, the essential ingredient in traditional Galician food is freshness. With fishermen along the coast bringing the catch of the day directly to restaurant chefs who are placing it on your plate, you can rest assured that whatever seafood you are eating that day will be delicious.
As is true of any experience abroad, truly immersing yourself in local culture often begins with food! Hopefully, we’ve inspired your taste buds and provided some menu familiarity for your next trip to Galicia. The region is full of new and exciting foods to try!
Next, read our list of top 5 wines along the Camino to help you decide what to drink with your delicious, traditional Galician food.
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Originally published on 27th May 2017