Galicia is an autonomous community of Spain located in the northwest Iberian Peninsula, it includes the provinces of A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra.
It is well known all over Europe for its traditional cuisine, in particular octopus and seafood. See above the most popular dishes.
Pulpo a la Gallega or Pulpo a Feira
This is the most famous, iconic and delicious dish in the region. “Pulpo” is the Spanish for octopus, and you can find the best one in Galicia. It is served boiled (to perfection) and sliced over a layer of boiled potatoes and sprinkled with paprika (“pimentón”) and olive oil. The authentic experience also requires a wooden plate, toothpicks as forks, and lots of bread.
It is normally accompanied by white wine or young red wine, although some people prefer Estrella Galicia beer. One of the best places is in A Coruña and it is called A Pulpeira De Melide.
If you plan to make your own at home, you should find and follow a good recipe, as there are quite a few tricks to make it tender and tasty. One of them is called “frighten/scare the octopus”, and consists of dipping it into the boiling water three times to curl the tips of the tentacles.
Savoury pastries or large pies come in many shapes and with a variety of fillings. The most traditional filling is cod (“bacalao”) or mackerel (“caballa“) with tomato, pepper and onion. Other popular ones include tuna, cuttlefish (“chocos”), variegated scallops (“zamburiñas“), and even pork or a mix of vegetables. In some places, the dough comes with paprika as well.
You normally get empanadas in bakeries, but you can also find them in pubs, restaurants and even coffee shops.
The term empanada is used in many countries, especially Latin America, referring to different filled pastries. Normally these are smaller (like the ones in Argentina), and Spanish people would call them empanadillas.
Pimientos de Padrón
These are little green peppers which are fried and served with olive oil and sea salt. They are usually ordered as tapas plates, and you can find them all over Spain. Its name come from an area in Galicia where they originated, and where they hold a festival in their honour each year.
They can be hot (spicy) or not, and you will only know once you try them. There is a well-known expression for this in Galicia: “Pementos de Padrón; uns pican e outros non“ (Padrón Peppers; some of them are hot and some of them are not).
These are species of small scallops, commonly named variegated scallops. They are usually served on a big plate with olive oil, garlic, parsley and sea salt.
Galicia is recognised as an area with excellent shellfish in general. This is one of them and I can say it was my favourite. Other types of shellfish include Vieiras and Volandeiras. The former is bigger than the other two, and the latter has an orange colour as opposed to white. Zamburiñas are normally more expensive, as they are more difficult to catch.
Tarta de Santiago
Delicious almond cake. It is a perfect sweet treat to be accompanied by coffee or tea, and also as a dessert. You can find it all over Galicia, although the best is the one from Santiago de Compostela. It is topped with powdered sugar and has the indispensable image of Santiago on top.
You will find many of them in Santiago’s Old Town. You will probably be attacked by all the shops to try it and buy a cake or other souvenirs. The cake itself is a great souvenir from Santiago.
Lacón con Grelos
This is no more than a shoulder of pork with turnip tops, and to give it a Galician touch, some potatoes and paprika as well. It may also be served with chorizo or sausage, which are also good partners.
It is a winter classic in Galicia when the turnips are young and tender. The meat used is the lower portion of the front pork leg or hock. It is usually salt-cured, and it is left to soak for 24 hours before boiling, making it tender and tasty.
Another winter classic, Caldo Gallego (Galician broth) is a succulent stew with various ingredients such as cabbage, green leaves, white beans, turnip tops and potatoes. Additionally, it can contain pork, chorizo, ham, or bacon There is no strict recipe so it may vary from one place to another.
One special note for vegetarians: even if it does not come with a piece of meat, it is normally seasoned with pork lard.
This is not as popular as the others but is very traditional as well. It is made of minced pork or chunks, which are fried and mixed with a few ingredients such as garlic, oregano, parsley, white wine and paprika. It is usually served with french fries or chips.
Its origins are in the process of making chorizo. The meat and spice mixture used to be fried to check seasoning and taste before enclosing it in pig intestines. And that is how Zorza began.
Percebes de Roncudo
This is the strangest, less attractive (to the sight) and most difficult to eat. But if you really like to try new and uncommon food, having them would be a good idea. Originality would be completely covered.
Percebes is the Portuguese/Galician for “Do you understand?” or “Do you realise?”, and they are goose barnacles, which are crustaceans that live attached to rocks. They are normally boiled and seasoned with salt and olive oil, and you can also add lemon. They look like “bird legs attached to prehistoric mammal toes”, and taste “like…something between lobster and clams”. To eat them, you need to “pinch the foot between your thumb and finger, and pull the tasty inner tube out of its casing” [tasteporto.com].
Roncodu is an area close to A Coruña, there is a popular lighthouse and they are supposed to have the best Percebes. There is even a festival called “Festa do Percebe do Roncudo“, which takes place once a year in July to celebrate this culinary tradition. One good local restaurant is Restaurante Miramar de Corme.
Arzúa-Ulloa and Tetilla Cheese
This is a very traditional soft and creamy cheese, with a slightly sweet and grassy flavour. It is usually eaten with quince jelly as a dessert. It is similar in flavour to its cousin Queixo de Tetilla (Spanish for “little breast”), which has a unique looking with a pointy shape (as a nipple).
It is made from raw or pasteurized milk and has a minimum maturity period of six days. Unlike Tetilla Cheese, this one has a soft pliant rind and a disc shape. Its strange name has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.
Estrella de Galicia (beer)
This is not food, of course, but it is worth a short paragraph at least. Arguably the best beer in Spain, you will find it all over Galicia, as opposed to the rest of Spain, where it is not that easy to get. I completely agree with the previous statement, it is my favourite and it is the first beer I ask for when I go to Spain.
If you go to A Coruña you should visit Cerveceria Estrella De Galicia, where you can get beer straight from the tanks. I doubt there is a better place to drink it than this one. It is creamy and light, but with character and a solid taste.