The Gastronomy of Galicia
Galicia has a unique and highly regarded gastronomy that utilises 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 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 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.
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.
Although not reputed for its wine and alcohol, Galicia is a wine producer and has several white and red varieties that are popular throughout Spain. The long summer, wet climate and moderate humidity lend themselves to wine production and significant areas of the province are now committed to developing quality wines.
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.