With 230 square kilometers of surface, Arousa bay is the largest of the Galician estuaries. It is also an important mussel producing center, being the place where, in 1945, the first punt was anchored. Several of its enclaves are especially known for the quality and tradition related to the exploitation of this bivalve, among them the port of Cabo de Cruz, at Boiro (A Coruña). In this place with a great fishing tradition we can discover the production process of this product and enjoy the immense gastronomic possibilities that it allows.
In this small coastal town we can soak up the seafaring culture of yesterday and today, as the seafood sector has been a very important engine for the local economy for a long time. It is likely that the origin of this nucleus is precisely the cultivation of mussels, a product tributed every month of August in a gastronomic festival where it can be tasted in different ways.
The breadth of the estuary and the important presence of nutrients in its waters are part of the secret of the good quality of the product, conditions that make the taste and some physical characteristics different from those of products from other places. “The taste of a mussel from the Pontevedra estuary, for example, is very different from that of Arousa”, explains the hotelier Juan Vila, from La Batea de Juan, in Boiro.
According to him, some of the features that best characterize the local mussel are its meat of an intense color, similar to red. Another peculiarity is that it tends to have embedded less arneirón (the small white crustaceans that adhere to the shell) than specimens from other places.
The ‘black gold’ of Arousa
Starting from a quality raw material, you also need expert hands who know the product well and know how to work it in the most appropriate way: from the point of salt to the selection of the best accompaniments or flavor combinations. Because this gastronomic jewel, known as the ‘black gold’ of Arousa, allows many alloys: alladas, rustridos, sauces, Modena vinegar, leek, bay leaf and egg are some possibilities that we can offer our palate.
This gastronomic jewel, known as the “black gold” of Arousa, allows many combinations
“The truth is that you can prepare as you want. Many people do not know it except steamed, but we have to propose other possibilities “, the boirense hotelier said. In caldeirada, tiger mussel, in tomato sauce, in salpicón, a la marinera, with frying and breadcrumbs (and baked gratin, like scallops), in omelette or scrambled with turnip greens or spinach are an example of possible alternatives.
Look at the details
Much of the secret of the gastronomic success of mussels has to do with experience and knowledge of some tips related to the best way to select them, preserve them and how to cook them. In this sense, Juan Vila gives a clear recommendation: “When it comes to steaming it is not necessary to add water, the mussel itself already has its water and with the heat it opens the ground,” he assures.
Another important tip to keep in mind when buying fresh mussels to take home is “only clean the mussel that is going to be eaten”, in order to keep the leftover fresh for longer and not spoil it.
By way of conclusion, he indicates that, starting from a good raw material, to obtain a tasty preparation the mussel base “experience is also important and, above all, paying attention to all the details”.
To continue savoring the Ría de Arousa Norte
The mussel from the port of Cabo de la Cruz is not the only gastronomic icon in the Arousa Norte area, a geographical area that includes the municipalities of Boiro, Dodro, A Pobra, Rianxo and Ribeira, in A Coruña (Galicia). In this geographical area, where important ports are located, we will find a wide variety of top quality fish and seafood.
Thus, along with the aforementioned ‘black gold’, the essentials of the gastronomy of this territory include products such as the Aguiño barnacle and the Palmeira empanada (both in Ribeira), as well as the Rianxo sardine. All these local delicacies are recognized each year in their own festivals and days of exaltation, where they can be tasted prepared in multiple ways.