Fishing Boats in Candás
Fishing Boats in Candás

An Insiders Guide to Seafood in Asturias

Photo by Mark Neal from Pexels

While the hearty mountain fare and the cheese gets most of the attention in Asturias, the real treasures of Asturias are found in the sea. The cold waters of the Bay of Biscay (mar Cantabrico or Cantabrian Sea) provide Asturians with a year-round bounty of seafood.

No food lover should come to Asturias and miss out on the ridiculously high quality seafood. Asturians on average consume a kilo of seafood a week per person. Even in a country as seafood obsessed as Spain, this is a high number.1Eurofish DK. “Spain Fish Production & Trade.” Eurofish, https://www.eurofish.dk/spain. Accessed 13 Sept. 2021. This is partially because Asturias is neighbors with Galicia, which by itself has the largest fishing fleet in Europe. Additionally, Asturias has its own fishing fleet, albeit a much smaller one. The Asturian fleet concentrates on fishing the Bay of Biscay, and sells the vast majority of it’s catch locally. That is usually very locally. It is not unusual for a fishing boat to supply a restaurant located mere meters from the dock. Indeed, so numerous are these seafront restaurants that much of the Asturian fleets catch never leaves the harbor.

Where to Eat Seafood in Asturias

There are no shortage of places to get good seafood in Asturias. However, I think there are a few superior ways to enjoy seafood in Asturias. Pick your favorite from the following:

Sidrerías

No self-respecting sidrería in Asturias is without a seafood offering. Given that the farthest you can possibly get from the coast, even if you drive to the top of the most remote mountain, is an hour by car, fresh local seafood is available everywhere. These are excellent choices for getting merluza a la sidra, caldereta asturiana, and everything else fried a la plancha.

Fishing Villages

The fishing villages of Asturias are essential to the self-image of Asturias, and an essential element of the entre mar y montaña character of the region. From international pleasure destinations like Llanes to tiny hamlets like Ortiguera with a single fishing boat that supplies only that town, seafood is ever-present in the fishing villages of the Asturian coast.

Whether you choose Luarca, Cudillero, Castropol, Lastres, Llanes, Ribadesella, or one of the tiny hamlets in between, you are almost certain to find a cluster of restaurants around (or sometimes on) the piers and jetties that make up the harbor. When you step inside any of them, you will be dazzled by the array of seafood plates available to you. (see further down for an index of the unfamiliar local names of things)

Menu del Día – Mar y Montaña

Asturias has it’s own version of surf and turf. More of an idea – enjoying the fruits of both in one day or one meal – than a dish. Asturians are very deeply connected to both the forested mountains and the cold Cantabrian Sea. It is not hard to find that connection in the food. Many a menú del dia features both seafood and pork or chicken in reflection of this. Particularly in the larger cities, this is an excellent way to slip a toe into the waters of Asturian seafood, so to speak.

What Seafood to Order / Asturian Seafood Names

Once you picked a place to go and get seafood, you have to decide on what you should eat. And pretty much everything that can possibly be hauled out of the sea is on the menu in Asturias. That means a there are lot of unfamiliar words. Unfortunately, even if your Spanish is great, your Asturian probably isn’t. So, I am compiling a list of Asturian names of seafood dishes commonly found on menus in the region. When you find yourself looking at a menu full of unfamiliar, words, refer back to this chart. (and send me any new ones you encounter that aren’t below!)

AsturianuCastellanoEnglishLatin
AguilloloNavajaPod Razor ClamEnsis siliqua
Alezna / OricioErizo de marSea UrchinParacentrotus lividus
Almexa / AmasuelaAlmejaClamSpisula solida
AndaricaNécoraVelvet CrabNecora puber
BonituBonito del norteAlbacore TunaThunnus alalunga
BugreBogavanteEuropean LobsterHomarus gammarus
CaíñaTintoreraBlue SharkPrionace glauca
DurdoMaragotaBallan WrasseLabrus bergylta
FuragañaLubinaEuropean BassDicentrarchus labrax
GolondruLucernaTub GurnardTrigla lucerna
HombrínoBoquerónEuropean AnchovyEngraulis encrasicolus
LlámparaLapa comúnLimpetPatella vulgata
ÑoclaBuey de marCommon (Brown) CrabCancer pagurus
PanchoBesugoRed SeabreamPagellus bogaraveo
PixínRapeAngler MonkfishLophius piscatorius
PotarruPotaEuropean flying squidTodarodes sagittatus (previously Ommastrephes sagittatus)
RubielPargoRed PorgyPagrus pagrus
TiñosuCabrachoRed ScorpionfishScorpaena ustulata
VieiraVieiraSea ScallopsPecten maximus
XardaCaballaAtlantic MackerelScomber scombrus
XargoSargo picudoSheephead BreamDiplodus puntazzo
XuellaPlatijaEuropean FlounderPlatichthys flesus

Please note that this is not a complete list of seafood dishes you will find in Asturias. Not by a long shot! This is an incomplete list of terms for fish and seafood you might not be familiar with. Specifically ones that will be unfamiliar even if you are a native Spanish speaker.

Must Try Seafood Dishes

These are, in my opinion, the best seafood dishes to try in Asturias. They will allow you to get a taste of the full range of delights awaiting in the coastal waters of the region:

Chipirones afogaos

Baby squid or cuttlefish (the word chipirones can mean either) are the ultimate snack food all over Spain. In the rest of Spain they are found battered and deep fried. However in Asturias they are usually cooked afogaos – pan fried with garlic and onion.

Pastel de Cabracho

A typical Asturian Christmas-time recipe, made famous by Basque chefs Karlos Arguiñano and Juan Mari Arzak. Now you can find this throughout the year in many Asturian restaurants. Red Scorpionfish is steamed and combined with cooked vegetables, tomato sauce and eggs. Baked into a paté – this is one of the most popular appetizers for group meals in Asturias.

Mejillones picantes

Known as mejillones a la asturiana elsewhere. Steamed Mussels smothered in a spicy red sauce made from garlic, spicy paprika,and olive oil.

Merluza a la sidra

Classic Asturian sidrería cooking right here, and also a huge favorite across the region. Hake slow cooked in Asturian cider with garlic, onion, and a guindilla pepper and served in small portions. Some variations add tomato sauce, saffron, or clams. Purportedly invented in the 1970’s by Esmeralda González at her restaurant El Nalón, in Oviedo.2Riestra, Eduardo Méndez. Cocinar en Asturias. pp 261, Ediciones Trea, S.L., 2001. Google Books, https://books.google.es/books/about/Cocinar_en_Asturias.html?id=IbwcAAAACAAJ&redir_esc=y.

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