A world of mouth-watering flavours and Omega-3, all in the same package!
The Cantabrian Sea, as the southern end of the Bay of Biscay is known, is a treasure trove of oily or “blue” fish. Anchovies, sardines, mackerel and albacore tuna all abound off the shores of Asturias and are a favourite fare of locals and visitors alike.
This time of year, the artisan fishing boats that stock the local fish market auctions in Gijón reach port replete with these species, a fantastic source not only of Omega-3 fatty acids, but also vitamins A and D. And what’s more, they are delish!
Fresh anchovies or “bocartes” are so different to the salted tinned variety called “anchoas”. Here in Gijón, they are typically fried in olive oil, often along with some slivers of cured ham. They are also served freshly pickled in vinegar, olive oil, garlic and parsley, in which case they are known as “boquerones” in Asturias, an out-and-out delicatessen for even the most demanding of palates.
Sardines come to the table in two basic sizes, young sardines called “parrochas” and the adult version, “sardinas”. Like fresh anchovies, young sardines are usually fried and are typically eaten as finger food as a tapa to be shared with family or friends. The adult sardine, however, is griddled whole without gutting. Some local sardine gourmets are experts at eating them with their hands without making a mess, but a knife and fork are recommendable for the non-initiated!
Two species of mackerel are common in Asturias, Atlantic mackerel known as “caballa” or “xarda” in Asturian, and Atlantic horse mackerel, called “chicharro”. Both sorts are usually baked in the oven, generally accompanied by onions, peppers and/or garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.
Finally, albacore tuna, known as “bonito del norte” or simply “bonito”, is a white tuna that is highly prized in these climes and is in season right now. Given its rank as the “King of Blue Fish”, this delicacy is worthy of a blog of its own!