Have you ever drooled over a dish on your travels and just had to try to replicate it back home? Whether a resounding success or abject failure, bringing travel home to your kitchen can conjure up delicious memories of travel adventures.
One of my most memorable examples hails from Mallorca, a remarkable island off the coast of mainland Spain. Of all the culinary treasures experienced in Spain, a simple dish of pulpo á la Gallega (grilled octopus) was a hands-down favourite. In fact, within moments of those succulent first bites, it was unanimously voted as such by everyone at the table.
Pulpo á la Gallega (Galician octopus) is a signature dish from Galicia – a region in northwestern Spain. It’s typically garnished with rock salt, paprika and olive oil.
I can picture your skepticism. Perhaps you’re thinking, “She spends time exploring the culinary landscape of Spain and pronounces an octopus dish as the best of the best???” Trust me, it was that good!!
Did stumbling across the tiny restaurant by chance in Mallorca have anything to do with it? After all, many of the other memorable meals were the result of careful planning. In Barcelona, we’d grazed shamelessly on an amazing tapas tour. And thanks to the community-driven marketplace trip4real, we’d been introduced to pinchos and enjoyed delicious seafood paella from a grandmother’s kitchen.
In fact, we first tasted pulpo á la Gallega during the tapas tour. It was very good, but for some reason, this Mallorcan version enjoyed at Asador Es Teatre was different. And better. Asador Es Teatre is in the quiet unassuming town of Ses Salines. We passed through it on a visit to Cap Ses Salines, Mallorca’s most southerly point.
Despite being outside of meal hours, the cook obligingly fired up the grill.
Presentation and Galician tradition merged perfectly at Asador Es Teatre.
It was so good, emulating the dish at home became a goal of the next few months.
First step: find a recipe
Could this one called Galician octopus come close?
Yes, very close, and eminently doable.
Next step: find octopus
I live in a Nova Scotian coastal community renowned for its seafood – lobsters, clams, groundfish, oysters, mussels, smoked salmon, pickled herring, smoked kippers, and the list goes on. It’s a seafoodie’s paradise. But octopus? As luck would have it, our neighbourhood grocer had just ordered a box of frozen product to test the market. Each packet contained two or three long, thick, rubbery looking tentacles. They looked unappetizing to say the least. However, the memory of that amazing dish at Asador Es Teatre nibbled at my senses, urging me to give it a go.
Next: find some adventurous diners
No problem in an Acadian community where eels, porcupines and their aquatic and forest cousins have formed part of the diet for generations. But to be on the safe side, octopus was to be just the appetizer. No one would go hungry if my Nova Scotian attempt at pulpo á la Gallega was a bust.
W-E-L-L-L-L, it wasn’t half bad. I was expecting an abysmal failure. It bore a strong resemblance and taste to what I’d experienced in Spain, and the fond memories made up for my lack of prowess in the kitchen. Our company was generous in their praise while we demolished the plateful of pulpo in short order.
In this particular case, bringing travel home to my kitchen was a definite success, and worth repeating.
Have you ever had one of those come-by-chance memorable meals when it was least expected? Or, brought an unforgettable meal home from your travels? Do tell, in the comments.