By: Mary Luz Mejia
There’s a reason why the north of Spain is called “Green Spain,” or as our Trafalgar Travel Director Javier jokingly informed us, “The rain in Spain, in this region, does not fall mainly on the plane.” Much of the rolling green of northern Spain is also close to the coastline, from Santander on the Cantabrian coast to Galicia’s Atlantic shores, meaning that fresh seafood is as abundant as it is flavourful. If you happen to find yourself meandering in the north, here’s a crib sheet on some must-try northern Spanish seafood dishes you don’t want to miss!
Scallops (aka vieiras)
Visit any town or city along the Camino de Santiago (or St. James Way), and you’ll notice the scallop shell pointing the way from France and beyond through to northern Spain, ending at Santiago de Compostela. While the shell represents rebirth, reproduction and life, it’s also a delicious dish worth ordering at any bar or eatery. Steamed and served open on the half shell with a wedge of lemon, or with an onion, pepper and breadcrumb mixture (called vieiras gratinadas), either way, you can’t go wrong.
These long, or rod-like, bivalves have a fitting name, given that the shells look like straight razors from days past and are razor sharp (so be careful when handling!) They taste a lot like any other clam and are best served grilled with a drizzle of Spanish olive oil, parsley and garlic. We advise a good hunk of crusty pan (bread) on the side for mopping up any errant sauciness.
Pulpo a la Gallega (aka pulpo á feira)
This is adult octopus, including its tentacles, that gets slow boiled until tender. Once that stage is reached, Galicians like to use scissors to snip the tentacles into round medallions. Flavour is amped up with a generous anointing of good, Spanish olive oil and smoky pimenton (or Spanish paprika) and served over excellent potatoes from Ourense, also in the department (Province) of Galicia.
To Drink (aka para beber):
You can wash any of these dishes down with some local Ribeiro wines or enjoy the crisp, floral Albariño whites from neighbouring Cambados. And if it’s a night cap you’re after, a local Orujo, or pomace brandy (obtained from the distillation of marc, the solid remains left after pressing of grapes), is also a fine choice. Set it alight like you would a shot of Sambuca and olé! You’ve just enjoyed a queimada that’s likely to ensure a good night’s sleep.