The Dish: Gooseneck barnacles
Where to Get It: SER, 1110 N. Glebe Road, Arlington; (703) 746-9822; ser-restaurant.com
What It Is: Known as percebes, or gooseneck barnacles, these crustaceans look like little mutant fingers. While they may be hard to harvest, the cooking preparation is fairly simple. Chef Josu Zubikarai boils the barnacles in salt water for about a minute, then they’re dried and cooled. Each order of percebes is served in a napkin, which really is meant to be a splatter guard. First timers, ask for a quick demonstration on how to crack and peel the barnacles. It’s an easy process, but you have to remove the skin before eating.
What It Tastes Like: “It’s pure ocean,” Zubikarai says. “It’s my favorite snack with a beer.” Percebes are very much a Spanish delicacy, generally reserved for pre-dinner or bar snacking. They’re chewy in texture and extremely salty. The goal is to have a few before a meal in anticipation of other Spanish seafood dishes, like bacalao (salted cod) or txipirones (baby squid).
The Story: Most Spaniards seek out percebes from Galicia, the northwest region of the country, where the Atlantic crashes against massive cliffs. This makes Galicia one of the best breeding grounds for gooseneck barnacles in the world, but hunting them down can be risky business. Fishermen wait until low tide, then armed with buckets and hammers, they work feverishly to knock the barnacles from sea rocks. “You have to work very fast to try and fill up your bucket, and you have to watch the water because every year people die doing this,” Zubikarai says. “The surf can take you in.”
Handout photo by Kyle Schmitz