Eatymology & Spanish Culinary: Percebes

Percebes.  Son de puta madre.  (No, that’s not profanity, it’s slang for “they’re awesome.”) :)

I bought some at the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid.

I had no clue what these were until my trip to Galicia this past summer.  Now that you know what they’re called in Spanish, let me translate in English.  Goose barnacles.  Okay, so they’re not the prettiest things to look at, but they are sweeter than lobster and slightly briney.


Eating Percebes in Madrid

Percebes and a glass of Albarino will be my last meal on earth.

So, how do you eat these things?
1. A few helpful hints: don’t wear anything white or anything you don’t intend to send to the cleaners later, because consuming percebes can get quite messy.  Also, don’t even bother with a seafood fork.  When in Rome, do as the Romans and eat them with your hands.  Also, the percebes with the shorter stalks are a lot sweeter and juicier than those with the longer stalks.
2. Give the percebes a little twist and the barnacle will break.
3. It’s time to eat this sweet, pinkish-greyish flesh.  The best way to do so is to just slurp right from the “shell.”

Alas, percebes do not come cheap.  Even in Spain, you can expect to pay 40 euros for a kilo.  For this reason, they are traditionally eaten around the holidays, such as Noche Buena, because they are such a delicacy and treat.  Percebes are not naturally available in many parts of the world because these crustaceans only thrive in moderately exposed coasts, such as Spain and Portugual.

I’ve searched high and low for places in NYC to buy percebes.  I haven’t found a retailer in NY that sells them, but if you check out La Tienda, you can order them online.  It was my first experience with the canned variety, and although the consistency of the flesh is not as firm as the fresh percebes, they were enjoyable.
Has anyone else had percebes?  What do you think of them?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

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