Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the Galicia Region and located in the North-West of the Iberian Peninsula. Santiago’s historic centre has been designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
Santiago’s architectonic style is unique (Romanesque, Spanish Baroque and Gothic styles among others) and is considered one of Spain’s most monumental towns. Besides the architectural richness of its monuments and the beauty of its narrow medieval streets, Santiago is full of life not only with its natural inhabitants but also a with large number of universities students who guarantee youthful ambiance in between its historical walls, numerous pilgrims who have completed the ‘Camino de Santiago’ (St. James’s Way), and those who come to visit the city. Santiago was one of our destinations during a trip to the Iberian Peninsula a few years ago. This was an inspiring place to visit that brought special memories and a promise that we would get back.
The region’s cuisine is of great reputation and well-known for its quality seafood and meats among other specialties. We got totally hooked into several dishes from this region.
Food culture – freshness at its best:
If you enjoy good food like we do, you will not be bored in Santiago de Compostela. Gastronomy is an important part of this city’s identity and way of life. The restaurants, bars and taverns in Santiago offer excellent value for the money. Like other places in Spain, dishes are often made with fresh local produce and you can easily find quality cuisine to suit your pocket. For under € 10, you can enjoy a set menu or a few tapas accompanied by a local drink. For about € 30, delicacies of the region such as Galician beef or an endless list of fresh shellfish can be the stars on your plate.
In the heart of the old quarter, almost all the doorways lead to restaurants and bars with windows displaying an amazing variety of typical dishes and produce. Besides tapas, ‘raciones’ (portions) and ‘pinchos’ (tapas on bread), you can also find places offering more elaborate Galician specialities and of course a few international dishes to accommodate picky eaters.
If you are a meat lover you need to plan a meal at a ‘churrasquería’. Most of the ‘churrasquerías’ are located on the outskirts of the older quarter and they serve prime quality flame-grilled Galician meats, including a variety of cuts of meats and steaks and artisanal ‘chorizo’ sausages. These establishments are often busy during the weekends so plan ahead of time and check if reservations are accepted.
For seafood lovers, the ‘Pulpo Gallego’ (Galicia Style Octopus) is a must, but the wide variety of fish and other seafood deserve special mention due to Santiago’s proximity to this segment of cold waters in the Atlantic Ocean. Thus make sure you have a good ‘mariscada’ (seafood plate) before leaving Santiago. ‘Mariscadas’ are craftily piled with catches of the season such as mussels, scallops, clams, prawns/shrimps, a variety of crabs, oysters, and lobster… washed down with local white wines of Galicia such as ‘Albariño’ or ‘Ribeira’ (You can easily find these varietals at the LCBO). The variety presented on these bountiful plates varies from day to day as they will offer whatever is fresh at the market on that day. For a smaller bite, you can order ‘Mariscos a la Plancha’, in which shellfish is simply seared with a bit of olive oil and salt, and served with lemon wedges.
You can also taste other local specialties such as ‘pimientos de Padrón’ (shishito peppers fried in olive oil), ’empanadas’, special cheeses such as ‘Tetilla’, ‘tarta de Santiago’ (almond cake), ‘arroz con mariscos’ (a creamy dish of shellfish, rice and local spices) and so many others. Enjoy a visit to local markets to be overwhelmed with the richness of fresh foods… markets are an excellent place to eat the freshest traditional foods at a good price and to better understand the locals’ way of life. I often ask for advice on our gastronomic trips to local foodies who are savoring local dishes and they have a very positive attitude recommending their favorite dishes… this is a great opportunity to experiment new aromas, flavors, and textures… and who knows, making new friends.
And if you are planning a day trip outside of Santiago de Compostela, small towns all over the Galician region offer amazingly delicious street foods in their plazas on certain days of the week. You can find large copper pots bubbling with purple octopus tentacles. Once cooked the tentacles are cut with scissors into generous bite sized pieces and served onto a wooden plate layered over sliced boiled potatoes and drenched in olive oil and a touch of spicy smoked paprika.
If you are travelling to Santiago during cold months you must try ‘Queimada’, also known as the Galician Fire Drink, after your dinner. ‘Queimada’ is a hot drink made with a Spanish liquor named Orujo (made of fermented and distilled grapes) with lemon rind, cinnamon, coffee beans and sugar and shared by friends and families. The liquid is set in flames, and slowly burns as more Orujo is added. We enjoyed this drink on a Galician taverna in Madrid.
AM, food&foodies, 2017