Intrepid traveller Gayatri Iyer travelled to Spain recently on a quest to experience the essence of the country. Upon visiting Galicia, she discovered a cornucopia of delicious food and wine. Here, she shares her story:
I travelled this summer to the picturesque Spanish region of Galicia for getting in touch with my soul. I did touch my soul but through.…food and wine!
Galicia is not a separate country but a unique region nestled in the north-west corner of Spain, with a distinct geography and culture. It’s earned the title of ‘Top destination for seafood in Europe’ and for good reason. I can write pages on Galicia’s dishes, ingredients and local wines, etc, but let me just give you a glimpse to work up an appetite.
Any time is vino time
Local Galician wines – which pair perfectly with the local cuisine and ambience – are climbing way to the very top of the ‘must-try-wine’ list. The wine tours and tastings sessions are probably one of the most comprehensive ones in Europe.
Don’t miss the opportunity to try the fragrant, fruity and intriguingly spicy Albarino whites from the rugged Galician coastline of Rias Baixas DO (Denominación de Orígen); its quiet and attractive capital Cambados is the European City of Wine 2017 (woot!). This wine goes perfectly with griddled scallops or shellfish.
Further in the interior lies the Ribeira Sacra DO, an area of green vineyards that produces one of the famed Mencía Reds, which is pale yet light.
You could also try the full-bodied Reds from Ribeiro which have a strong red fruit flavor, but are not too acidic, thereby making it a perfect pair with the cured meats and cheese.
appetizers so good you can make a meal of them
Every Galician meal by default is accompanied with an aromatic bread basket. It typically consists of 2-3 varieties of breads, namely whole wheat, corn, rye or my favorite dark raisin bread which has a hint of sweetness.
The appetizers are typically finger foods such as clams, grilled scallops topped with fresh herbs like mint, mussel or oyster croquetas/croquettes . There’s vegetarian fare as well – a fresh juicy cherry tomato-walnut salad topped with a drizzle of olive oil and freshest of herbs, for instance.
This is followed by the famous Empanada Gallega which is a crusty savoury pie filled with fish or meat, onions or peppers.
The MAIN COURSE to Happiness
The main course typically consists of a chunk of fish like a grilled, steamed or lightly pan seared Monk Fish, Tuna or Ray fish alongside some potato fritters, rice or a broth.
But the star of the meal is the Pulpo á Feira which consists of chunks of octopus cooked in olive oil and paprika and sometimes served with potatoes as well. It is a bit spicy yet addictive.
If you journey to the interiors of Galicia, namely the valley regions of Ourense, you will find more dishes of pork, chicken, ham or beef due to the cattle rearing farms in the vicinity.
Vegetarians, don’t fret. You’re sure to enjoy ‘Peppers of Padron’ which is a signature dish of the region of Padron where the green peppers are grown. Sautéed in olive oil, served with a sprinkle of rock salt, and accompanied with a glass of chilled Estrella Galicia lager beer, it makes for a great conversation starter.
Sweet dreams are made of these
The deserts are nothing but classy and oh so yummy.
Masterchef-styled plates typically consist of 3-4 elements such as poached fruits like pears, apples, plums or cherries, simple pastry crumbs or vanilla sponge cake crumble served with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice-cream or cranberry sorbet and a dash of their homemade caramel or plum sauce.
If you’re in the mood for traditional pastry or cookies, try the Tarta de Santiago from Santiago de Compostela, made from flour, eggs, sugar, icing sugar and ground almonds, or the Bagoas de Compostela (Tears of Santiago) which are tear-shaped balls of almond and truffle chocolate, and Bombas de Crema (cream-filled pastry balls).
Ending on a high note
To end or rather digest this sumptuous meal, have the licor de café or as they call it ‘Aguardiente de Orujo’ which is a neutral grape brandy infused with roasted coffee beans, spices and sugar.
In addition to the coffee-flavored variety, a shot of just plain orujo, or the sweeter herbaceous orujo de hierbas is also quite popular.
A single trip is not enough to do justice to the ever-expanding food and wine scene in Galicia. One cannot help but enjoy and delve deep into the gastronomical, cultural and natural delights this region has to offer. Essentially it is a far cry from the stereotypical images of Spain doing the rounds on our social media feeds. Just like one’s soul, Galicia is a marvelous breathtaking secret waiting to be explored.