14 November 2012
If you read my post on the strange sea creature that is percebes (or the goose barnacle), you'll know that Galicia has got incredible seafood. Here I try another incredibly popular seafood in Galicia: octopus (pulpo in Spanish).
Ask what you should eat in Galicia and the answer will always be seafood! My couch host suggested I go to a pulpeira (a casual type restaurant serving mainly pulpo) for lunch. There are lots in A Coruña (you may see it as La Coruña too so you may notice I've used both interchangeably... just to confuse you!) and many other restaurants and taverns will serve it too… So it's easy to find and I'm guessing that it would be difficult to find octopus that doesn't taste good here. It's also cheap to eat and quality food at an affordable price is always a plus for me.
My host enthusiastically recommended Pulpeira de Melide in Plaza de España. I spent the morning walking to Monte Pedro (well the panoramic lift to the top anyway) in the hopes of reaching the top for the views but sadly it wasn't working. But the walk was worth it because the views were beautiful - plus I worked up an appetite and well, seeing the above statue on my way, I was more determined to try octopus for lunch.
I walked to here from the old town which took about an hour including time to stop off at various points along the promenade and cliff areas to enjoy the views but you can also drive your La Coruña Airport car hire up here. There's parking available near the lift - and as you can see just from the top half of it in this picture, it's spherical shape is pretty cool! I got here before it opened so unfortunately didn't get to try it but it's worth doing (I think anyway!) and only costs €3. For opening hours and more information, visit: www.turismocoruna.com. And if you want a low-cost car hire whilst you're in Galicia, we've got great prices on Spain car hire at a range of locations including La Coruña Airport car hire, Santiago de Compostela Airport car hire and Vigo Airport car hire.
The distinctive feature of A Coruña's architecture has got to be the 'gallerias', these balconies closed of with windows enclosed with white wooden panelling. These are on Ruas das Panaderas on the way to Plaza de España.
Sadly, when I got to Plaza de España, Pulpeira de Melide was closed for the month so they could go on holiday. But happily, like I said, there are plenty of other places serving it and I didn't have to walk far to find one.
It was a man walking into the kitchen carrying a crate of shellfish that made me think this place has got to do it. The door to the kitchen was open and I could see one woman preparing a chicken. I didn't realise there was another door a few metres ahead which was actually the restaurant entrance so I popped my head into the kitchen to ask if they had pulpo. The woman smiled at me and nodded and gestured for me to head to the next door. Aha! Anyway, before I went in, someone else had come out to see me so I asked for pulpo and a caña (small - or normal sized in Spain - glass of beer) took a seat outside. It was a sunny day and it felt pretty warm for a November day.
I don't know what it was like inside El 10 Marisqueria t but I liked the casual atmosphere and warmth I experienced outside. Like pretty much any square in the world, Plaza de España was a good spot for people watching. And it was interesting to me too to see people wearing winter coats and others in vests and shorts! Can you tell which ones were the tourists?
The guy serving me soon came back out with a basket of bread and shortly after a beer (Estrella Galicia - it's the beer you'll generally find served everywhere and as standard in A Coruña). My plate of octopus came next and good heavens I thought it looked beautiful!
I realised I didn't have a fork so asked if I could have one but the guy smiled and said you eat them with a toothpick (and there was a pot-full on my table). He said he could still get me a fork if I wanted but no, I wanted to do it properly.
Pulpa a Galega (Galician style octopus - sometimes also called pulpo a feira but really, if you ask for 'pulpo', this is likely to be how you'll get it) is boiled whole in a large copper pot. Once 'al dente', it'll be cut into bite size pieces and served with freshly pressed olive oil, rock salt and lots of paprika.
The best octopus I've ever had was a cup of it served as ceviche at a fish market in Panama City. As soon as I'd polished it off, I was full but wanted another cup straight away. It was actually one of my best ever meals! This pulpo gave that a good run for its money… but as both treat it in a quite different way (ceviche uses lots of lime juice so is quite a bit tangier), I think both can have equal ranking.
Cooked just right so that it was super tender, the salt oil and paprika gave it all a kick and I thoroughly enjoyed dunking pieces of crusty bread into the pulpo/oil mixture. I could feel and taste the different textures, which helps you to savour octopus in all it's glory, tentacles and all!
I realise that octopus isn't very commonly eaten - particularly in the UK. But if you're coming to Galicia, it really is thoroughly worth branching out and trying some of the seafood on offer you've never tried before. With quality this good and diversity of produce this big, it would be a shame not to!
El 10 MarisqueriaPlaza de España, 815001 A Coruña Tel: +34 981 20 71 53www.marisqueriael10.com/restaurante