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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Adventures in Galician seafood: Percebes goosefoot barnacles in A Coruña, Spain

Sun worshippers in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain

If you love seafood, and you love Spain, add Galicia to your bucket list. Its coastal location on the north west tip of Spain yields a gorge-fest of prawns, langoustines, razor clams, crabs, octopus, fish and one of the strangest creatures you're ever likely to encounter: the goose barnacle.

After a whirlwind weekend in Barcelona, I hopped on a cheap flight to A Coruña, a trip that only takes about 100 minutes. A Coruña is the second largest city in Galicia, Spain with a modest population of 250,000. I had accommodation for two days and I was keen to eat as much as possible.




Plaza de Lugo Fish Market

Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain

First port of call is the Plaza de Lugo Fish Market. They've been trading here since 1910 and even though fancy offices and retail stores have sprung up around it, locals still come here to pick up their fish for dinner.

Langoustines at Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Langoustines

The market is like a much bigger version of the seafood section in Sydney's Paddy's Markets in Chinatown. It's tiled, sparkling clean and filled with over two dozen vendors all selling the freshest seafood you could imagine. 40,000 tonnes of fish go through this market every year.

Fish on scales at Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Fish on scales

Fishmonger with a shopper at Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Fishmonger with shopper

Stingrays at Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Stingrays


Crabs at Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Crabs

Sharp-toothed fish at Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Scary sharp-toothed fish

Buying fish at Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Shopper at the fish market

Zamburinas or variegated scallops at Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Zamburinas or variegated scallops

Zamburinas are a small type of scallop found in the North Sea, English Channel, Atlantic Ocean and Red Sea. The shell is usually no bigger than 6cm in length. It's also known as a variegated scallop.

Langoustines at Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Langoustines

Percebes goose foot barnacles at Plaza de Lugo Fish Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Percebes also known as goose barnacles or goose foot barnacles

Percebes were definitely on my list of things to eat. Sometimes known as goose barnacles, these filter-feeding crustaceans are harvested along much of the Galician coast.

Rabbits and cornfed chicken Percebes goose foot barnacles at Plaza de Lugo Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Rabbits and corn fed chicken

Upstairs are more stalls: a mix of butchers, bakers, fruiterers and delicatessens. There's no fancy signage or packaging - freshness and quality are the only things that matter.

Jamon Iberico at Plaza de Lugo Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Jamon iberico €50 (AU$75) per kilo

Hello jamon... the price of Iberico jamon was enough to make me weep with joy. In Australia, Iberico will set you back about $300 per kilo but in Spain you can get it for about $75 a kilo.

Jamon Iberico from Plaza de Lugo Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Jamon iberico

Helloooooo snack time.

Breads from Panderia Laurita at Plaza de Lugo Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Breads at Panderia Laurita

Galician empanada at Plaza de Lugo Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Galician empanada at Panderia Laurita 
with scallops, sardines, cockles and octopus

The Galician empanada is worth hunting down. A specialty of the region, it's made into a giant pie that's carved up and served by the slice.

Galician empanada at Plaza de Lugo Market in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Inside the Galician empanada

It's heavy in weight and today's version is packed with a mix of scallops, sardines, cockles and octopus. Plump raisins add sweetness and the pastry is rich and buttery. This wedge easily fuelled me until dinner.


O Paladar

O Paladar seafood restaurant on Calle la Franca in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Outdoor dining tables at O Paladar

The town centre of A Coruña is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways you could happily wander around without getting too lost. My favourite street was Calle la Franca, closed to traffic and lined with a myriad of tapas bars and restaurants.

Estrella Galicia in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Estrella 

I deliberately picked O Paladar because it had such a simple frontage. The whiteboard menu was handwritten with textas and there were no cheesy "We speak English" signs in the window. Of course this meant that ordering required a little bit of Spanglish combined with miming, but hey presto! Cerveza!

Grilled shellfish and octopus platter from O Paladar seafood restaurant, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Parrillada de marrisco y pulpo €39.90 (about AU$60)
Grilled shellfish and octopus platter

So the seafood platter is usually designed for two, but hey, how often do you find yourself in Galicia? Other tables had nothing but smiles when the giant platter arrived on my table. I'd gone for the big kahuna, a seafood plunder that included:

  • Centolla o buey - ox crab
  • Pulpo - octopus
  • Cigalas - langoustine
  • Langostinos - prawns
  • Gambas - prawns
  • Navajas - razor clams
  • Percebes - goose barnacles
  • Almejas - clams
  • Berberchos - cockles
  • Mejillones - mussels
  • Minchas (bigaros) - periwinkles
  • Calamares - calamari
  • Chipirones - baby squid

and all this for about AU$60.

Langoustines, razor clams, mussels and prawns from O Paladar seafood restaurant, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Langoustines, razor clams, mussels and prawns

Beer in one hand, seafood in the other, I went to town on this bonanza. The langoustines were sweet but the prawns were even better, and the razor clams had been just cooked so they were still beautifully tender.

Octopus and crab from O Paladar seafood restaurant, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Octopus and crab

The octopus was a soft as a baby's cheek and I eagerly scooped up the crab mustard from its helmet.

Percebes goose barnacles from O Paladar seafood restaurant, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Percebes also known as goose barnacles, goosefoot barnacles or gooseneck barnacles

There was squid and mussels and cockles and clams but the main reason I'd ordered this platter is for its inclusion of percebes.

Percebes goose barnacles from O Paladar seafood restaurant, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Close-up on the percebes

Let's agree on one thing. Percebes look decidedly freaky. They look more like a dragon's claw, strange nails at the end of a rubbery neck that's strong yet bendy.

After a few perplexed attempts, my laughing waiter came over to show me the best way to peel them. I ended up peeling them open at the claw end, squeezing the neck section so the meat inside slid on down and through the gap at the bottom.

Percebes goose barnacles with and without shell from O Paladar seafood restaurant, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Percebes with and without its shell

Their taste is hard to describe. They're soft and briny but not as minerally as oysters or mussels. They taste a bit like a sweet octopus with a texture that's halfway between crab and a clam.

And the reason for their strange appearance makes much more sense when you look at where they grow. They're only found on rock faces with heavy surf, and harvesting them is more like a death-defying sport involving safety ropes and extreme nimbleness to race down the rocks in between each set of crashing waves. Watching the video below gave me a renewed appreciation of this delicacy, and also goes a long way to explaining why they cost so much. Percebes can sometimes cost as much as €200 / AU$300 per kilo.


The dangers of harvesting percebes - Human Planet episode one: Oceans - Into the Blue
View on YouTube

Cerveceria El Real

Cerveceria El Real in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Inside Cerveceria El Real

Dining alone isn't half as intimidating in Spain. It's all too easy to slip into a tapas bar unnoticed, pull up a stool at the counter, order a couple of snacks and then stay for as little or as long as you please.

I stop into Cerveceria El Real on my final evening, a tavern with sit-down tables along the left and casual diners propped up at the bar. Live soccer on the television is a given.

Zamburinas variegated scallops at Cerveceria El Real in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Zamburiñas €12 (AU$18.15) and Estrella Galicia €1.80 (AU$2.70)

Estrella Galicia is the local brew around here, a pale lager founded in 1906 and still completely family-owned.

Zamburinas variegated scallops at Cerveceria El Real in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Zamburiñas

It goes down a treat with a plate of local zamburiñas, a small type of scallop. They're cooked simply: flashed until the grill with a bit of garlic butter and finished with parsley, and pack plenty of punch despite their size.

Calamares fried calamar with Estrella Galicia at Cerveceria El Real in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Calamares or fried calamari €1.20 (AU$1.80)

I took a cue from the gentleman next to me and ordered the fried calamari. These were amazing: flash fried with the lightest dusting of flour, and the calamari was so fresh it was incredibly tender. Beer and fried calamari must be one of the world's greatest combo's.

Tarta de Santiago or cake of St James in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Tarta de Santiago or Cake of St James

While you're in Galicia. it's mandatory to have a slice of Tarta de Santiago too. I picked up a wedge from a local patisserie and revelled in this almond meal cake made zingy with lemon.

There was plenty more to see around A Coruña. It's a pretty town with impressive architecture, especially the glass-fronted buildings along the harbour front. I was sad to leave but next stop would be Galicia's capital, Santiago de Compostela.

Glass-fronted balconies or galerias in A Coruna, Spain
Glass fronted balconies, or galerias

Galician octopus in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Galician octopus

Jamon hanging from ceiling in a tapas bar in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Jamon ceiling in a tapas bar

Iglesia de San Jorge Church of St George in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Iglesia de San Jorge or the Church of St George built in the eighteenth century

Palacio Municipal City Hall in Maria Pita Square, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Palacio Municipal, the city hall

Maria Pita Square, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Maria Pita Square

Maria Pita statue in Maria Pita Square, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Maria Pita statue

Maria Pita Square, A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
The grand elegance of Maria Pita Square

Sunbakers on Orzan Beach in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Bronzed sun worshippers at Orzan Beach

Steep and narrow streets in the old section of A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
Steep streets of A Coruña

La Franja street in A Coruna, Galicia, Spain
La Franja street in A Coruña

<< Read the first Spain post: Where to eat in Barcelona, Spain
>> Read the next Spain post: Galician octopus in Santiago de Compostela



El Real Cerveceria
Olmos, 8, 15003 A Coruña, Spain
Tel: +34 981 213 666
Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11am-1am

O Paladar
Calle la Franca, 34, 15001, A Coruña, Spain
Tel: +34 981 202 574
Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11am-4pm and 8pm-11.30pm

Plaza de Lugo Fish Market
Plaza Lugo, 15004, A Coruña, Spain
Tel: +34 981 184 200
Opening hours:
7 days 9am-3pm and 4.30pm-8pm


Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Spain - A Coruna: goosefoot barnacles and Galician seafood adventures
Spain - Santiago de Compostela: Galician octopus and tetilla cheese

Bulgaria - Dairy farms and yoghurt factories across Sofia and Plovdiv
Malaysia - Food tour with Australian Masterchef winner Adam Liaw
Philippines - Ice cream with cheese, turtle stew and sizzling pigs head
Singapore - Marina Bay Sands to hawker markets in 140 photos
USA - The great donut, fried chicken and bbq tour

28 comments - Add some comment love

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/23/2014 12:26:00 am


28 Comments:

  • At 2/23/2014 1:05 am, Anonymous Padaek said…

    Your photos are so awesome! Seafood photos always look so beautiful and fascinating, and those percebes are hard to believe - wow! This post makes me feel quite envious and now I can't wait to visit Spain. :) The Orzan beach photos look oddly like Bondi in the future - lol. Thanks for sharing your trip. :)

     
  • At 2/23/2014 2:29 am, Blogger Sharon said…

    Ya know, I'm pretty adventurous and all for offal-ly and odd foods, but the look of that percebes has me totally freaked out lol.

     
  • At 2/23/2014 1:45 pm, Anonymous Eha said…

    Oh Helen ~ what a terrific post!! I keep all these photos of the Sydney Fish Market in my photo libaray to send to envious friends, but how exciting and CHEAP is this!! Absolutely adore the seafood platter . . . no time today but this, methinks, will be reposted to my lists tomorrow!! Thanks for the walk-thru'!!!!

     
  • At 2/23/2014 3:51 pm, Anonymous Gareth said…

    Ahhh I miss Spain, especially Galicia and the Basque region, such good seafood. Great pics but the video wasn't working for me (Safari). Was it this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCWrjt8hCZk

     
  • At 2/23/2014 5:47 pm, Anonymous Amanda @lambsearsandhoney said…

    Fabulous photos, Helen. there's no doubt about it - you are eating for Australia! Did you finish the seafood platter?

     
  • At 2/23/2014 7:21 pm, Blogger Ling Zou said…

    WOW SPAIN LOOKS AMAZING from these wonderful pictures! The percebes look very interesting.. not sure if I would try them though!

    Would definitely love to visit spain someday!

    Ling xx

     
  • At 2/23/2014 10:24 pm, Anonymous pigflyin' said…

    oh... goose neck barnacle. hard to describe is one thing, delicious is easy to say! And not all GNB is equal. I saw the same in japan and they where nothing liked it!

    Everything Galician seems to be better for all the right reason. just need a AirBNB with a kitchen, I am all set.

     
  • At 2/23/2014 10:29 pm, Anonymous Cindy (a foodie's joy) said…

    The seafood platter looked amazing! The seafood looks so fresh! And the Jamon..can't believe the price difference! :) great post!

     
  • At 2/24/2014 12:19 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Padaek Glad you enjoyed the post. Can definitely recommend Spain, and especially Galicia, as a great place to visit.

    Hi Sharon - They definitely look odd but I reckon you would have given them a go too!

    Hi Eha - Ha, not quite as scenic as Sydney Fish Market but their range of seafood was mesmerising for an Antipodean!

    Hi Gareth - I've changed the video link to a YouTube-hosted one. I've also given a direct link to the clip. It's a different clip to the one you mentioned. Quite amazing!

    Hi Amanda - Of course I did :)

    Hi Ling - Spain is a incredible country to visit (and eat!). Hope you get there soon :)

    Hi pigflyin' - Haha let me know when you're heading there and I'll stow myself into your luggage!

    Hi Cindy - I went super crazy over jamon in Spain. Just wait until I post about Madrid :)

     
  • At 2/24/2014 2:34 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    Terrific photos and wonderful info especially the goose barnacle, that video is amazing.

     
  • At 2/24/2014 8:36 am, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    I can't imagine anything better to do in Spain but to eat seafood and jamón Ibérico. I'm jealous!

     
  • At 2/24/2014 11:18 am, Blogger Jacq said…

    That seafood platter looks incredible!

     
  • At 2/24/2014 6:20 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Spain looks incredibly beautiful and the food looks to die for! Major travel envy right now :P

     
  • At 2/24/2014 9:08 pm, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    I thought those rabbits were skinned cats for a second. What a great little market. And a big YES PLEASE to the tarta de Santiago. I've made two of those within a week. So easy and so freaking delicious.

     
  • At 2/24/2014 10:37 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Those percebes look like mini dinosaur feet! And you could've had a Pretty Woman dining moment had you hit someone with onw while eating heh.

     
  • At 2/25/2014 12:20 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    i just want to lie at the beach with my body weight in jamon

     
  • At 2/25/2014 2:17 am, Blogger Sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    I adore how different fish markets can be around the world.

     
  • At 2/25/2014 9:32 am, Blogger Next Stop: Food said…

    Man, the streets look amazing! I want to go to Spain! :D

    but totally agree that the percebes look freaky and YES DRAGON'S FEET/TOES!!

    - Cassie

     
  • At 2/25/2014 8:39 pm, Anonymous The Food Sage said…

    Now i just want to go back to Spain. Great shots. Love the photos of the pile of fish draped over the scales and the female shopper scrunching her nose up at the fish stall! You haven't sold me on percebes, though. Strange looking things.

     
  • At 2/27/2014 11:13 am, Anonymous rizza @ Note of a Foodie said…

    $75 a kilo! I must fly to Spain today.

     
  • At 2/27/2014 10:10 pm, Blogger foodiezee said…

    Food looks awesome and beaches look amazing!

     
  • At 2/28/2014 2:14 am, Blogger Alice Lau said…

    Such a beautiful variety of incredible seafood. It's like the feast to end all feasts. I nearly wept with joy when you described that iberico for $75. Bonus your delicious seafood platter would easily fetch $160 upwards here...most likely $200 knowing Sydney prices!

     
  • At 2/28/2014 8:11 pm, Blogger CQUEK said…

    You are such a tease. I'm SO hungry for dinner right now!

     
  • At 3/01/2014 7:57 am, Anonymous GourmetGetaways said…

    Oh I am so jealous! Gorgeous white sand beaches, beautiful architecture and so much delicious seafood!!!

     
  • At 3/01/2014 9:59 pm, Anonymous Chris @ MAB vs Food said…

    I want the shellfish and octopus but I don't know about the goosefoot barnacles. The look freaky!

     
  • At 3/05/2014 10:18 pm, Anonymous Amanda@ChewTown said…

    Epic post Helen! I love the look of all that seafood we don't have access to here. What a fantastic couple of days you had.

     
  • At 3/06/2014 12:20 am, Blogger Annie said…

    so much yummy seafood! feel like i wanna go back now!

     
  • At 3/08/2014 12:14 pm, Blogger Neil Chung said…

    Great post. Can't wait til your Dubai one comes out (hopefully). From the looks of it, calamari is cheap as chips over there.

     

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