Galegos boast that their seafood is the best in the world, and for quality and sheer diversity it’s certainly hard to match. Local wonders to look out for include vieiras (the scallops whose shells became the symbol of St James), mejillones (the rich orange mussels from the rías), cigallas (Dublin Bay prawns, though often inadequately translated as shrimp), anguilas (little eels from the Río Miño), zamburiñas (little scallops), xoubas (sardines), navajas (razor-shell clams), percebes (barnacles), nécoras (shore crabs) and centollas (spider crabs). Pulpo (octopus) is so much a part of Galego eating that there are special pulperías cooking it in the traditional copper pots, and it is a mainstay of local country fiestas. In the province of Pontevedra alone, Vilanova de Arousa has its own mussel festival (first Sun in Aug), Arcade has one devoted to oysters (first weekend in April), and O Grove goes all the way, with a generalized seafood fiesta. When eaten as tapas or raciones, seafood is not overly expensive, though you should always be wary of items like navajas and percebes that are sold by weight – a small plateful can cost as much as €50. Superb markets can be found everywhere; the coastal towns have their rows of seafront stalls with supremely fresh fish, while cities such as Santiago hold grand old arcaded market halls, piled high with farm produce from the surrounding countryside.
Another speciality, imported from the second Galego homeland of Argentina, is the churrasquería (grill house). Often unmarked and needing local assistance to find, these serve up immense churrascos – a term that in Galicia usually refers to huge portions of beef or pork ribs, cooked on a traditional open grill (parrilla). While Galegos don’t normally like their food highly spiced, churrascos are usually served with a devastating garlic-based salsa picante. Other common dishes are caldo galego, a thick stew of cabbage and potatoes in a meat-based broth; caldeirada, a filling fish soup; lacon con grelos, ham boiled with turnip greens; and the ubiquitous empanada, a flat light-crusted pie, often filled with tuna and tomato. Should you be around during the summer months, be sure to try pimientos de Padrón, sweet green peppers fried in oil, served as a kind of lucky dip with a few memorably spicy ones in each serving.