04 Aug 20

Culture and gastronomy at the Santiago city market

Germán Limeres Camino

The Mercado de Abastos of Santiago (Santiago City Market) is a place that appeals to the five senses offering a wide range of fresh and traditional products.

It is the second most visited place in Santiago de Compostela thanks to its history, quality of architecture and tradition. Experience, culture and gastronomy all in one historical and architectural setting. Here you may walk around, taste the best food and meet the expert craftsmen. Through these talented individuals you gain a fresh perspective of this wonderful city.

“La Plaza,” as Compostela’s residents refer to it, stands out due to the striking colours of its fruits and vegetables that come from family farms, grown using artisanal methods and sold directly by the families producing them.

Many of the stalls are run by women, who are affectionately called “Paisanas”. You will see them occupy the area outside the buildings. They offer a range of produce for sale – fresh cheeses, rabbits, free-range chickens and eggs. These women also include “Pementeiras,” notably the ones selling Padrón peppers, a product that came to stay in the 16th century, when Franciscans brought the peppers across from Mexico.

Galicia also produces excellent potatoes, especially those of the Kennebec variety. These are best accompanied by two different parts of the turnip plant. A typical autumn and winter crop, “nabizas,” the first leaves (picked around October), is an essential ingredient of “caldo gallego” (Galician soup). In addition there are “grelos,” which are the thick stems with their flower buds and leaves, which are used in “cocido gallego” (Galician stew), along with pork, beef and chicken, chorizos, potatoes, chickpeas or beans. All of these are sold fresh in the market.

But, there is more still to be found! The crustaceans, molluscs and fish we find in Rúa do Franco offer a spectacle along counters of ice.

There is an entire building devoted to the region’s renowned meat, because Galicians eat a lot of beef and pork! Regarding the pig, in particular, as the saying goes, “nothing is wasted”.  The slaughter takes place around the Day of St. Martin and, after quartering, the pork is selected for fresh consumption or making different types of cold meats – “androllas”, “botelos”, chorizos. Salted and cured meat is used to make Galician soup, stews, “lacon” (cured ham foreleg) with turnip tops and other dishes. There is also “cachola” (entire head, very popular around Carnival time), “orella” (pig’s ears) and even “unllas” (pig’s trotters), which have their own gastronomy festival in Compostela’s San Lázaro neighbourhood.

In Compostela, fresh pork has two undisputed star varieties: roast ham and “raxo”, Garlic-flavoured loin cut up into small pieces. If anyone wants to taste in situ the quality and freshness of the Plaza’s delicacies, the market’s bar “cooks while you wait” the fine produce you have just bought – all for a small percentage of the total price. You can’t beat that!

The Mercado de Abastos of Santiago will leave your senses mesmerised. You will surely be anticipating your return visit.

All photos courtesy German LimeresLopez.

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