Galician cuisine offers a mouth-watering selection of fresh fish and seafood specialties renowned in Spain and around the rest of the world. Percebes or goose barnacles are the hidden gem of Spanish seafood.
Percebes are highly coveted in Spain and regarded as a luxury due to the very real and significant risk faced by anyone attempting to gather them from the lower parts of the jagged, violently sea - battered cliff walls, and rocks, off the north Galician Costa da Morte (coast of death) and along certain rocky parts the coast of Asturias. The thumb-sized crustaceans live attached to these rocks spending much time submerged beneath the sea, tasting of the sea and undoubtedly even more sought after, luxurious and highly valued than oysters in Spain.
The name goose barnacle comes from the time before our much greater understanding and knowledge about bird migration, when it was believed that barnacle geese actually developed from the crustaceans as if they were eggs. Hence the English name of Goose barnacles.
Percebes collectors or Percebeiros, wait for the particularly low tides that come after a full or new moon during the winter months, which allows the collectors the opportunity to lower themselves down the sides of the cliffs with ropes, chopping the goose barnacles off the hazardous, treacherously slippery rocks whilst a trustworthy companion above,on the higher grounds, shouts the warning of any dangerous, incoming waves.
The best goose barnacles are the Galician ones. Those found on the southwestern coast of Portugal, Morocco and Canada (these specifically are particularly less palatable) are regarded as inferior in quality. The wilder and more ferocious the sea and the more exposed the rocks are to the heavy tides, the meatier, thicker, tastier and also more expensive the goose barnacles that live here are. The goose barnacles we stock at Spanish Pig, Cambados Percebes and Percebes Los Peperetes, are from Galicia and are widely considered to be the very best of seafood and shellfish, canned and preserved delicacies in the world.
In Spain percebes are lightly and briefly boiled in brine. The diamond-shaped foot is squeezed and the inner tube is pulled out of the scaly case, the claw is removed and the remaining flesh is eaten. Although not the most attractive food in the world nor the most easy to eat when absolutely fresh, they are certainly among the most prized and desired delicacies in the world. When canned, percebes are easier to eat because they are prepared and ready to eat.
We love them served directly from the can, with a glass of white wine.