Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Percebes is translated into English as “gooseneck barnacles.”  The mythical-sounding “percebes” seems more apt.

Percebes Percebes

When I first saw percebes in the market at Santiago de Compostela, I was thoroughly fascinated and confused by them.  On a daytrip to A Coruna, as I ate them at Restaurante El 1o (Plaza de España 8), they reminded me of dragons and Harry Potter.

In fact, they attach themselves to rocks in very tumultuous waters.  They are only available in colder months; I was probably lucky to taste them.  It is dangerous to collect them so they are quite expensive.  I was able to order a quarter of a kilogram, the smallest possible portion, for a whopping 25 Euros.  Though the desensitized locals around me ate them as unthinkingly as peanuts, I took my time with each precious one.

Percebes (Gooseneck Barnacles) in A Coruna Percebes

They grow in little clusters like Shiva’s many arms.  The skin, which feels like synthetic leather, can be twisted and pulled off to reveal a firm, fleshy tube of meat.  Depending on the size, the meat might be coral or pink (the smaller ones) or deep purple and orange (the thicker ones).  An easy suck removes the meat from the claw.  Following the splash of stowaway seawater, the succulent meat tastes of minerals, rock, slate, and salt.  Upon closer inspection, the leftover little claw looks like it is made up of small green shells.  Inside it, there are crunchy, feathery fingers, with not much taste.

Percebes (Gooseneck Barnacles) in A Coruna

Percebes (Gooseneck Barnacles) in A Coruna


It was like eating something not of this earth, or exceptionally of this earth.

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