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13 Foods (and Drinks) You Have to Try in Galicia

Galicia Food + Drink
by Ana Bulnes May 15, 2015

1. Pulpo á feira.

Octopus can be prepared in many different ways, but it’s unlikely any of them will result in something as perfect as pulpo á feira. It follows the classic rules for Galician gastronomy: cook (with bay leaves!), and add olive oil and paprika. The authentic experience requires a wood plate, toothpicks (as forks), and lots of bread to dip in the oil.

2. Empanada.

We Galicians always feel a bit offended when we travel and discover how everyone calls empanada what for us are clearly empanadillas. Galician empanada is always big! It can be filled with chocos (cuttlefish), zamburiñas (variegated scallops), cod and raisins, octopus, tuna… anything! Mix it with onion and pepper, and fry it. And, of course, the dough will be better if you add some paprika to it.

3. Galician caldo.

Is there anything as restorative on a cold, rainy day? Galician caldo (clear soup) makes you feel warmer almost immediately, apart from giving you a glimpse of what infinite happiness can feel like. If you get it served in a cunca (a ceramic bowl), you can wrap your hands around it and feel how your frozen fingers slowly come back to life. Its composition depends mostly on the ingredients you have, but the basics are grelos (turnip tops), potatoes, and pork fat. From there, you can add almost anything, from beans to chorizo.

4. Lacón con grelos (shoulder of pork with turnip tops).

Another winter classic based on the same ingredients and the infallible Galician gastronomy formula (cook and add paprika!). Paprika is not strictly necessary on this dish, but why leave it aside if it makes everything better? Grelos, turnip tops, are probably our favorite vegetable.

5. Coffee liquor.

Forgetting to mention alcoholic drinks when talking about Galician gastronomy would be like forgetting tortilla when talking about what Spaniards eat. How could we possibly not mention an elixir like coffee liquor, sweet and dense, sliding down your throat and making you want to take your jacket off? How could we not speak about how fantastic it is to have these caffeine shots when you want a long party night? (no need to explain the part about the following morning and your exploding head). As in everything in Galician alcohol, if it’s da casa (homemade), much better.

6. Filloas.

French people might have their crepes, but Galicians have filloas, which are so versatile that they can be made out of either milk or blood. Is there really so much of a difference? We can have them sweet with sugar as a dessert or as a side dish for a stew, and to make them you need to have fireproof fingers that you can put into the pan to turn the filloa around. Put one filloa in your life and everything will be better.

7. Churrasco

It’s summer, the sun is out… perfect day for a churrasco! A few pork ribs, chorizo, our unbeatable marinade, a few beers, and… time to eat! Part of the pleasure lies on licking your fingers from time to time, so don’t even think about asking for cutlery!

8. Seafood!

Mussels, shrimps, clams, razor clams, goose barnacles, prawns, squids… this is what being a land of fishermen is for! You could have all of these things as tapas any day or, for a real feast, one to make you think you understand what the Romans did, attend a Galician wedding. Not even the Romans would be able to eat that much food.

9. Tarta de Santiago.

Simple and perfect, you could get a free sample of this cake if you visit Santiago de Compostela and walk by the souvenir and sweets stores in the old town: you’ll be attacked by small pieces of cake for you to try and buy! (unless you look like a student, try to avoid that look). Egg, almond, sugar, and the indispensable image of the Santiago cross to make it clear where the cake comes from.

10. Pementos de Padrón.

Padron’s peppers are small and should be eaten after being fried, still with lots of oil in the plate (to dip in!) and sea salt. Pementos de Padrón are our Russian roulette: some are hot, and some are not. Of course, you will only know which one you have chosen when you have it in your mouth. And beware, some of them look safe the first second, but will make you cry quickly afterwards!

11. Our wines.

Should you eat all these delicacies with a boring glass of water? Of course not! We pride ourselves on being wine experts and have 5 different certificates of origin! Order a Ribeiro, an Albariño, a Godello, a Mencía… don’t leave without having tasted them all! (and remember to order the “viño da casa”). If the wine is served on a cunca (ceramic bowl), look at the locals to hold it the right way and not like a simple tourist.

12. Merluza a la gallega.

This Galician-style hake is perfect to introduce another basic Galician cuisine element: ajada, the sauce you get when you fry garlic on a pan and mix that oil with… paprika! As for the hake, it should have been cooked with potatoes, onion, and bay leaves, and put on a plate. It looks sad until you pour the ajada all over it and everything changes.

13. Queimada.

An alcoholic drink whose preparation needs a ritual? A beverage that won’t work unless you utter a spell while you cook it? A mixture of moonshine, sugar, citrics and coffee beans that has to be set on fire to scare the meigas (Galician witches) away? That’s something you need to try at least once in your life. If you’re still breathing the following morning, you can try it again. 

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