If you have ever been to Spain, or had a friend from Spain, you know that Spaniards have a love affair with seafood. The Spanish crave fresh fish and shellfish of all kinds, from cod to lobster. In fact, according to Seafood Business Magazine, Spanish per capita consumption of seafood was over 80 pounds per year in 2008. Compare that with the rest of the EU, which had an average of a little over 15 pounds of seafood per person per year (2001 data).
If you stop to think about it, the love of seafood is only natural, if you consider that Spain is surrounded on three sides by water – the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Cantabric Sea to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the east. As far back as the Romans, plants were built to preserve fish by salting and drying them.
- Grocery Shopping in Spain - Fresh Foods in the Markets of Spain Photo Gallery - including photographs of fresh seafood.
Below is a list of typical Spanish seafood you would find on a menu or eaten regularly in a Spanish household.
Lobster or Bogavante
The Bogavante is what we tend to think of lobster in the USA. It is a large crustacean with large claws that are full of tender meat. The Spiny Lobster which is a seabed crustacean without claws is called langosta in Spain and has very tasty meat, indeed. They are boiled and served with sauce, or mixed in a seafood rice dish,
Langostine or Cigala
The langostine or cigala is also called the Norway Lobster or Dublin Bay Prawn. It is a crustacean, but much smaller than its cousin the lobster and of the deep sea variety. Cigalas are slim and orange-pink in color, growing up to 9-10 inches (24 cm) in length. They are found in the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the North Sea, but are not common in the Mediterranean. They are very versatile and in Spain are often prepared by boiling, cooked on a flat grill or fried.
Snow Crab or Centollo
The centollo is a crab that is popular in the North of Spain and has long thin legs and two spines in the front for protection. These crabs can sometimes weigh in at over 8 lbs. These can be used in all sorts of Spanish dishes –soufflés, croquetas, crab cakes or empanada filling.
Blue Crab or Nécora
This little crab never gets much bigger than 4 inches long, is hard to crack open and has little meat, but is very tasty! It has a blue hue and it seems to be covered in velvet. It is a popular crab in Galicia and is often simply boiled in sea water with a bay leaf.
Crab or Buey de Mar
This type of crab is what we in the US think of as a crab – large with two large, meaty claws. It can range from about 4 inches to 10 inches in length and can weigh more than 6 pounds! It has a smooth, oval shell covering its body. It can be prepared by boiling it and serving with sauces, in salads or other dishes. The liver is considered especially tasty.
Shrimp or Gambas, Langostinos, Camarones
Shrimp has many names in Spanish and comes in many different sizes. Langostinos are probably the largest of the shrimp listed here. They are often times boiled and served cold with salsa rosa or in a vinaigrette sauce. Gambas are medium size shrimp that are served many different ways, the most common being quickly grilled very hot with salt and lemon juice, although gambas al ajillo is a very popular and tasty tapas dish where the shrimp are thrown into a hot frying pan of olive oil, tons of garlic and a dash of paprika and lemon juice and eaten with bread. The smaller camarones are not eaten as much in Spain, are harder to find and command a higher price.
Octopus or Pulpo
Octopus has eight tentacles and is very tough unless cooked properly. Prepared a feira, the octopus must be pounded well to make it tender. Then it is cooked whole and cut into pieces and seasoned with olive oil, paprika and salt.
Squid or Calamar
Calamar can be prepared several ways. The most popular way is probably to cut them into rings, bread and fry as a tapa and serve with lemon juice. Other ways to prepare calamar is to cook them in their own ink or stuff them with fillings.
Try Calamar a la Romana or Calamar Frito - Fried Squid Rings.
Goose Barnacle or Percebe
Yes, you read correctly - percebes are barnacles! They look like a gooseneck clam and Spaniards love to eat them. The most common way to prepare them is to boil them for 5 minutes in salted water and serve them hot and fresh.
Oyster or Ostra
Oysters are often eaten in Spain as they are in the USA and other places – raw! Squirt a bit of lemon juice or a touch of spicey sauce on one and pop it into your mouth for a pleasure. They are also prepared with wine and garlic or breaded and fried.
Razor Clam or Navaja
Razor clams look like long tubes with a shell on them. They are very tasty and usually broiled or steamed and served simply with lemon juice.
Clam or Almeja
In Spain you will find many varieties of clam, each with their own name. Clams are a very popular item on any menu by themselves or used as an ingredient in soups, stews or rice dishes.
Mussel or Mejillon
Mussel are also a popular seafood in Spain and you will find them prepared in a thousand different ways – boiled and sautéed with wine and garlic, cooked with tomato sauce, added to rice dishes, in a vinaigrette sauce or stuffed breaded and fried, like tigres.
Heart Clam or Berberecho
These tiny clams are delicious and the meat is often added to soups and rice dishes to give them more flavor, or chopped finely and used in fillings, however many people like to eat them raw with a bit of lemon juice. It is also common to see canned berberechos on a plate with oil and vinegar as an appetizer in Spanish homes.