Galician cuisine is very unlike that of the rest of Spain. Rice and pasta dishes are not staples of a northern Spanish meal whereas the potato, in all its forms, certainly is. Naturally it is impossible to some up any regional cuisine over the course of a page, but below you will find a taster of what represents the gastronomy of Galicia.
Galician main courses include thick stew like broths which are popular during the cool winters, but the ever popular seafood makes up the majority of dishes. Popular in restaurants, a mixed shellfish platter is one of the most representative examples of Galician cuisine and this can include, lobster, crabs (of which the Galicians eat many varieties), prawns, shrimps, clams, barnacles, mussels and several other obscure shell adorned animals.
Tapas also has its place in Galicia, but again leans towards the sea with plates of calamares and octopus being particularly popular. Appetisers flavoured with chorizo (a spicy salami like sausage) appear on many menus and fish soups and dishes with potato, the regional vegetable, can be found across the region.
Galicia has a unique and highly regarded gastronomy that uses seafood of every type for its starters and main courses. The fishing heritage and ria harvested shellfish result in a great many dishes being themed around something nautical and the freshness of the local catches enable simple cooking to bring out the flavours with a minimum of sources and marinades.
Although Galicia has a reputation for seafood generally, it is the shellfish and crustaceans for which the area has the greatest fame. These creatures range from small clams to squid and are noted for their unique taste which is attributed to the waters of the rias where the fresh water mingles with the sea.
No single Galician dish is totally representative of the region, but small octopus known as pulpo are one of the favourites and can be seen being cooked at markets and festivals.
Another regional speciality, but this time “vegetarian” (an almost unknown expression in Galicia) are the “pimientos de Padron”. These are small green chilli peppers and they are fried, sprinkled with salt and eaten whilst hot. Their origin is the Galician town of Padron and their notoriety even extends to an annual festival in their name.
Galician desserts tend to take the form of cakes and tarts and a decorative appearance seems as important as the flavours of the ingredients. Chocolate is often the primary flavouring, but fruits and liqueurs are also used and the varieties available are almost limitless.
If you go into any bakers (cake shop) you will see that tiny mouth sized cakes are very popular and these are sold by weight. There are often two or three dozen different varieties and all are mouth wateringly tasty. You simply point out which ones you want and you are then charged based on their total weight.
Over recent years Galicia has started to develop a reputation as a wine producer. The region produces two well known wines, namely Ribera and Albarino with the latter gaining wide acclaim throughout the world. You can find out more about one of the best of the Albarino wines at bodegascastromartin.com. While in Galicia you will find wine cheap to buy and the selection of local varieties will be extensive. The provinces of Pontevedra and Ourense are where most of the bodegas are located.
There are also some more unusual beverages that are local to the area and used for special events. The most potent of these is cana de gindas, a high alcohol content concoction that is mixed with sherry, sugar and large quantities of cherries. It is then left to stand for months if not years and drunk only when the need to drive and use heavy machinery can be guaranteed unnecessary.