Galicia in northwest Spain is known for having incredible seafood. Ask what you should eat in Galicia and the answer will be seafood. And one of the region’s best-loved dishes is pulpo – or octopus to me and you. In fact, eating pulpo is so popular in Galicia that there are dedicated restaurants to it called pulperias. As I was in A Coruña on Galicia’s northern coast, I decided to try octopus, Galician-style.
The eight-armed cephalopod is a popular food to eat in a number of countries around the world. It’s also a pretty versatile dish which you can find roasted, steamed, stewed, barbecued or served raw as sushi or ceviche. In Japan, they have an octopus dish where it’s diced into small pieces and mixed with a batter to make octopus balls. But of all the various takes on octopus, Galicia’s might just be the most well known. I have no idea if that’s actually true but it’s the only take on octopus I’m aware of that has actually been named after the place it comes from. So in any Spanish restaurant, if octopus is on the menu, it’ll most likely be served as pulpo a la gallega, which means Galician-style octopus.
Pulpo a la Gallega in A Coruña
To make pulpo a la gallega, the octopus is boiled whole in a copper pot. Once it’s ‘al dente’, the octopus is cut into bite sized pieces and served with freshly pressed olive oil, rock salt and lots of paprika. On a visit to A Coruña in northern Galicia, my host suggested I go to a pulperia for lunch. Pulperias are casual restaurants where octopus is the specialty. Naturally, this makes them great places to eat octopus! My host enthusiastically recommended Pulpeira de Melide in the city centre. Sadly, on my visit in November, it was closed for the month for a holiday. Luckily, as I was in A Coruña, I didn’t have to go very far to find another place serving pulpo.
A Coruña is a modern port city located on a peninsula that juts out from Galicia’s northern coast. In addition to spectacular seafood, A Coruña boasts several lovely beaches as well as a beautiful big park featuring the only working Roman lighthouse in the world.
El 10 Marisqueria
El 10 Marisqueria is literally just a few doors down from Pulpeira de Melide on Plaza de España. This served me well because I’d spent the morning and early afternoon walking around the city enjoying the sights so I was hungry! And then I spotted a man walking into what was actually El 10’s kitchen carrying a crate of seafood so I figured this place was worth a try.
The sun was out and it felt pretty warm for a November day so I took a seat outside. Like most squares, Plaza de España is a good spot for people watching. And it was interesting to see people in winter coats whilst others were in vests and shorts. I’ll leave it to you to guess which were the locals and which were the tourists. A cruise ship had also pulled into the port that morning so there were plenty more tourists around. If this is how you end up in A Coruña, pulpo for lunch in the sun is a lovely way to get to know the city.
I ordered pulpo and a caña (a small beer) which came with a basket of bread. When my plate of octopus came out, I was struck by how beautiful it looked. The generous sprinkling of paprika made the dish even more colourful than it already was.
As they’re already cut into bite-size pieces, a toothpick is all you need to eat them. And these were delicious. The octopus was cooked just right so it was super tender. The white fleshy bit of it almost melted in your mouth and I liked the contrast in texture with the outer skin. On its own, I think octopus has a gentle flavour. But served in the Galician style, the salt, olive oil and paprika give it a tasty kick. And being able to mop up the octopus juices mixed in the oil and paprika with some crusty bread was an added bonus.
Seafood in Galicia
If you’re visiting A Coruña or elsewhere in Galicia, it’s definitely worth trying the pulpo. I’d actually recommend trying out other seafood available here too. With quality this good and diversity of produce so big, it would be a shame not to! Do also have a read of our post on percebes, which is another seafood dish that is not so common outside of Galicia…